AUTO1 Group

My thoughts on websummit 2018 in Lisboa

By Paul Hofmann

Paul is Director of Engineering at AUTO1 Group.

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Social Dec 13 2018

My thoughts on websummit 2018 in Lisboa

“Wow, that’s a lot of people” - Exactly my thoughts.

The sheer amount of people interested in the next level of everything was simply overwhelming.

In this article I want to highlight my personal impressions and key takeaways from being at the web summit for the first time.

About open and closed Social Networks

I’m probably not alone as being a frequent user of hackernews on ycombinator as much as reddit and imgur. Thus I was intrigued by the appearance of the initialised() crew including reddit founder Alexis Ohanian and Garry Tan as much as the panel about the future of social networks that was held with the imgur founder Alan Schaaf. While Alexis and Garry from initialised() had more to say on an inspirational level of things and encouraged founders to step up by handing a set of values down to them, Allan Schaaf actually shed some light and what he thinks is the future of social networks. He mentioned snapchat, youtube and of course his own platform as open networks, that allow users to explore beyond their filter bubbles. He also pointed out that he believes that social networks should be entertaining as one of their adaption KPIs. I thought all his points were valid and since that day, I started dividing social networks in "closed/bubble" and "open" categories myself.

Biological Hacking

From my university days I have a (small but significant) background in microbiology and thus I was excited to see a panel about using DNA as storage and which progress has been made so far on that technology. I was satisfied to see that there are still founders ask the questions of tomorrow's tomorrow, as in "How can we store all of humanities data?" Hyunjun Park and his company CATALOG are one of the solving teams on this problem.

While I thought that the visionary part and the progress that has been made so far was pretty cool, I had a million of technical questions, which unfortunately weren't being read from the web summit in-app possibility to submit questions to the talk hosts.

The DNA that CATALOG is using is artificial, nevertheless my main burning question was "Would real life viruses be a threat to those DNA-'Disks'?" Are hackers of the future writing their own plasmid ring vectors with artificial virus DNA to destroy compromising data? That sounds like a cyberpunk short story waiting to be written.

Space Exploration and Tourism

Similarly visionary questions are being asked by companies and founders who want to commercially explore space. It never occured to me, that companies like SpaceX or the cubesat projects where just the tip of the iceberg on commercial space usage.

What I learned is that there are companies like Vector Launch, that sell launches of small scale rockets that can be chartered for surprisingly low prices (50kg payload for 1.5M$, which is around 35 cubesats!). Should I become rich one day and stop caring about money, I will launch a crate of Scottish whisky into space as a measure of refining, in hope that there is also a company that salvages that stuff from space.

Of course fun and leisure has to be there as well, so there was also Virgin Galactic, a company that is tightly working on making space tourism a reality. Their presentation was pretty convincing. Maybe I'll save the money for the whisky and launch myself - given I'd be rich. A ticket to space currently costs 250.000$.

And the best idea of them all

An idea that totally baffled me was the what3words project which I find personally absolutely amazing and which in my view is just one billion-people integration away from a breakthrough. These people divided earth into a set of 3x3m squares and addressed each of them with three simple words. My desk at work is //abfinden.hübsch.ansehen - there you go! Pay me a visit.

They recently integrated into the mercedes benz navigation systems and if you imagine one of the really heavy traffic websites and apps out there using what3words as a location service instead of GPS, just over night large portions of mankind would start using it. After coming home from the web summit, I found out what all kinds of w3w I have in my personal environment and I now have a w3w for my desk and my wife has one for her favourite spot on the couch. The fridge w3w is popular, the one for the dishwasher isn't. You gotta love the future!

Final Words

I truly enjoyed my time at the Altice arena, including the night-summits and the cheap cab rides. If time allows, I will definitely try to catch the 2019 web summit. While I sometimes missed the technical deep dives on topics, it was deeply satisfying for the curios me to explore, watch and meet the hundreds and thousands of booths, speakers and enthusiasts from all over the world.

And the really really final words

I’m so going to build my own cocktail robot!

Cocktail Robot

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