Breakthroughs in Computing Speaker Series: What Does the Future Hold? 

Protocol Labs
Protocol Labs
Breakthroughs in Computing Speaker Series: What Does the Future Hold?

How will technology shape the future in the next five to 25 years?

Hosted by Protocol Labs during LabWeek22 (opens new window) in Lisbon, Portugal, Breakthroughs in Computing was an exciting new series that offered a revealing glimpse into the future. Guest speakers discussed the ways computing has changed humanity, highlighting discoveries that will lead to major developments and trends in technology. From conceptual ideas on what the next century will hold to practical engineering applications, industry experts asked hard questions and shared innovative insights.

Here is a breakdown of the top six talks in the Breakthroughs in Computing series, thoughtfully moderated by Juan Benet (opens new window), Founder & CEO of Protocol Labs.

(The full Breakthroughs in Computing video playlist is available for viewing here. (opens new window))

# BioTech, NeuroTech and More: Allison Duetmann, President and CEO of Foresight Institute

Have you heard of self-healing robots? Foresight Institute's Allison Duetmann takes a theoretical look at the way technology can be used to ignite hope. In this talk, she discusses high level theories inspired by the way computing speeds up progress, including the ability to create new sovereignties, collective intelligence and cryptography best use-cases in medicine.

“We should think more broadly about computing; think of a programmable machine that can perform any task that is physically allowed, including creating a copy of itself” – Allison Duettman

In the Q&A with Juan Benet following her presentation, Allison shared details about the journey that led to her high accomplishments in the field and the importance of collaboration.

# Path To AGI, AI Alignment, Digital Minds | Nick Bostrom, University of Oxford Philosopher

University of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom covered all things AI in this impactful talk. Nick Bostrom is a Swedish-born philosopher with a background in theoretical physics, computational neuroscience, logic, and artificial intelligence, as well as philosophy. He is also one of the most-cited professional philosophers in the world today.

“Developments have been faster than expected, so timelines have contracted. It’s really quite impressive that you could take concepts that humans have tried to refine for thousands of years to come up with the best strategies that are now solved quickly with AI.” – Nick Bostrom

In an eye-opening conversation with Juan, the duo discuss how current developments in artificial intelligence and digital minds are leading society and how we can collectively step up to the challenges that will arise in this field.

# Cryptographic Privacy and Transparency | Ahmed Ghappour, General Counsel, Nym Technologies

Current structures allow for governments, large corporations, and other entities insight into parts of our lives that should remain private. Shedding light on pressing privacy concerns, Ahmed Ghappour is an Associate Professor of Law at Boston University and the General Counsel at Nym Technologies, a company building privacy infrastructure using blockchain technology. Ahmed discussed how blockchain technology allows for both individual privacy and broad transparency – and why those things are massively important to our civilization.

“Privacy and transparency seem to be at odds with each other. On the one hand, you have privacy, which is defined as the control of information to the exclusion of others. On the other hand, you have transparency, which is thought to include others, be open to public scrutiny. Transparency is an antidote to corruption, an important tool of accountability and currency of trust.” – Ahmed Ghappour

He deep-dived into the topic with Will Scott, a research engineer at Protocol Labs, who's been working with Nym on AnonDrop, a tool for allowing the anonymous documentation of war crimes.

# Combatting Orwellian Systems | Max Tegmark, M.I.T. professor & president of Future of Life Institute

Technological advances have enabled mass surveillance at a scale unimagined even by "1984," George Orwell's dystopian novel published in 1949. Max Erik Tegmark is a Swedish-American physicist, cosmologist and machine learning researcher. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the president of the Future of Life Institute.

“If you have a very Orwellian system, where free and healthy debate is impossible, it makes it much more likely that we as a species are just going to make really dumb decisions and we're going to squander our amazing potential. That's why I care so much about these issues. And if you look closely, it’s pretty obvious that most ways that we communicate with each other today are very Orwellian – even in the West.” – Max Tegmark

From AI algorithms that dictate what appears in news feeds in social media to nuclear war, Max tackled urgent privacy concerns in this impactful talk.

# The Advancement of Neurotechnology | Adam Marblestone, CEO of Convergent Research

How are direct communication pathways between humans and machines progressing? How will we continue augmenting our minds and bodies? And what lines, if any, will be drawn by humanity in this quest? These are the questions raised and analyzed by researchers at Convergent Research, a scientific non-profit that focuses on the future of brain-computer interfaces.

”New financial instruments and ways of coordinating public goods funding is a good economic driver to push forward gene delivery and into cells and and brains in 10, 20 or 30 years” – Adam Marblestone

From brain ultrasounds to innovative approaches to futuristic interfacing, Adam Marbleston and Juan Benet exchanged important insights on the impact of technology in the field of neuroscience in this talk.

# The Future Of Brain-Computer Interfaces | Milan Cvitkovic

In this exciting talk from Milan Cvitkovic, a scientist, software engineer, and the strategy lead at Convergent Research, covered the future of brain-computer interfaces. He explored the ways that technology can better our lives and productivity, including promoting longevity post-physical death and alleviating neurological issues such as depression and insomnia.

“When they hear the term ‘brain computer interface,’ people think of seamless communication with a computer's devices, tools, and digital content. In the future, hopefully this will include seamless communication between people – and maybe even someday with animals. This is a particular category of neurotechnology that's deeply important to me – giving ourselves the ability to behave like the sort of people we wish we were.” – Milan Cvitkovic

In a Q&A with Juan Benet following the talk, the pair discussed practical medical applications of neurotechnology to help improve — and even save — lives.