Spent half a day today at legendary research hub SRI International, for Xconomy-organized robotics forum (see full agenda here), listening to an impressive lineup of industry pioneers of mass-market appealing robotics talk about their businesses. Some speakers were still physically on stage, others embodied inside telepresence robots, of course. And answering to a recurring moderator question if robots will take away human jobs with a recurring “no”.
As Steve Jurvetson (yes, we keep having these sweet Estonian reunions) put it well in the final venture capital panel: it would be absurd to think that “we should pull Excel out of organisations, because we would create more jobs when people tabulated numbers manually again.” The times they are a-changin’, and for sure not back towards a robot-less world.
See brief notes from all the sessions (and a bunch of videos of cool commercially available robots in action!) below the fold.
And for the ultrabrief context of what they are about:
The Singularity represents an “event horizon” in the predictability of human technological development past which present models of the future may cease to give reliable answers, following the creation of strong AI or the enhancement of human intelligence.
Since the flight back and on following business travel in Europe I’ve been taking 30 minutes here and an hour there with an intent to capture the thoughts the event sparked for me. Each time I’ve run into a writers block and failed to post.
The event featured an enlighting list of speakers and I truly enjoyed most of the day. However, instead of full-scale notetaking as I’ve sometimes done before, I decided to give live tweeting a try (as @seikatsu). From one end the 140 characters don’t leave much room for analysis and force you to cut even the original thoughts. But on the other hand these notes were available to anyone in real time and even sparked some discussions right away.
As the initially planned 100 seats filled up really quickly, the organizers increased it to 150. And at the time I’m writing this, there are some 28 still left. So sign up now, if you missed from the first batch.
I will be there sitting in a panel with Allan and Taneli Tikka from RunToShop. Looking forward to the pitches from two Estonian and two Finnish startups.
Found a video of my five minute speech in a panel at Restart 2008 conference in November. To disrupt the overall tone of the day a bit — focusing on tangible, measurable and often plain numeric aspects of a successful (liberal) macroeconomic environment — I decided on spot that I will instead talk about the softer side of life, namely the role values and tolerance in particular play for creating an environment where innovation strives in Estonia (or anywhere).
The clip below also has my fellow panelist Rein Raud, Rector of Tallinn University continuing on the same topic of innovation and openness.
For context, please also see the very entertaining and inspirational intro to our panel by Pekka Roine, entitled “The Only Obstacle to Innovation Is Wrong Policy Chosen by the State” (videos: part 1, part 2, part 3).
Last week’s [Baltic Dynamics 2008](http://www.teaduspark.ee/?q=/eng/BD) conference was opened by an address by the [President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves](http://president.ee/en/), speaking on Innovation. As the full text did not make it to the president.ee website’s [speeches section](http://president.ee/en/duties/speeches.php) yet, I pinged his office and they kindly provided me a full copy in a few hours. Transparent government in action, love it.
As I think this is one of the best condensed summaries of the major issues — such as investments, education, attracting labour — Estonia and Europe are facing developing as technology hotbeds, I am re-publishing the whole text for your reading pleasure. Really worth your time.
**Welcome address of the President of Estonia
at the opening of (innovation) conference ‘Baltic Dynamics’
Dorpat SPA Hotel, Tartu, 4 September 2008**
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
I am glad to speak here at the opening of the 13th ‘Baltic Dynamics’ conference, an increasingly international meeting, as it should be the case in the field of innovation.
This time the conference takes place at amidst a global economic slowdown, a situation that is frankly unfamiliar for many in Estonia. According to some (admittedly somewhat dire) predictions, this may become the most severe global downturn over the last decade. In terms of our domestic economies, all three Baltic countries stand on the threshold of a paradigm shift; the motor of rapid growth — a competitive advantage based on cheap labor seems to be over. As indeed we have all hoped it would be, for a rise in wages and quality of life is, after all what convergence is all about. But this also creates a new challenge: further development of our economies can come only from higher value added products and services. In this sense innovation is naturally the key to shifting from slowdown to growth.
We must ourselves – how did we reach the state of affairs where we are now? Our economic development has been very rapid, but not always enough forward-looking. The recent slowdown in our economy is – at least to a certain extent – caused by overinvestment in sectors that have provided high yields in the short term (such as real estate) and which are prone to move in correlation with fluctuations of domestic demand. That said, it does not mean that some investments are less necessary than the others, but in the longer term a very small economy cannot rely solely on the domestic market. Indeed, even the second and third largest economies in the world, Japan and Germany cannot rely solely on domestic demand either.
It is obviously the back-to-school-and-work season now.
First: I’m receiving complaints that this blog has seen just 2 posts in last 2 months… In July nor August nobody cared, including myself. If you were one of those worried about silence – I now know that you have not subscribed to the feed. My Flickr feed you receive as an automagically embedded freebie when subscribing to this blog, has actually had a full trail of mobile snapshots of what has happened over the summer. And I have twittered.
Secondly, the travel season has started. Looking at the calendar, in the month of September I will drop by Tartu (spoke at Baltic Dynamics there last week), Pärnu (attending From Visions to Solutions), London (a wedding + Seedcamp), Athens (Skype Beta Days), Luxembourg, San Francisco / San Jose.
Hope this is enough chances to see you in person. And if not – I’ll try to be a better boy when it comes to dropping a line here on the way. Thanks, your pings to see if I survived the slow season are heartwarming.
On Monday I was in Helsinki, speaking at a seminar organized by Tekes, Finnish funding agency for tech & innovation. They are launching a new generation of integrated startup financing schemes – which I do not know much about, as my Finnish is below par to fully understand their published materials. But it was a nice half-day event to provide context around their announcements.
The guest speakers included Dr Orna Berry who shared the Israeli innovation financing experiences, Quatar Capital’s Mikko Suonelahti’s talk on venture capital markets. In between them, I was asked to share the story of Skype as a recent startup.