28 June 2022
CogX - Getting up to speed on new technology
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Cog X festival. This festival has been on my radar for some time, however, there has always been a cost barrier. This year BCS-The Chartered Institute for IT were festival partners, and I was able to gain a standard entry pass. So I made the trip to London, for one day of the three day festival.
What is It?
“Cog X was founded in 2015 and brings together the world’s largest gathering of CEOs, Entrepreneurs, Academics, Artists, Activists & Policy Makers working to realise the biggest transformational opportunities of our time”. - https://www.cogxfestival.com/
Where is It?
Set across multiple venues on the Kings Cross Estate, I started the day with a couple of silent conferences, essentially, you pop on a pair of headphones and listen to the speakers.
My takeaways were around Big issues in tech – such as protecting users against themselves and their own mistakes in terms of security. The general consensus was that the technology we have is working, but we need more user education.
For me as an educator – this is s a big theme. What more can we do within the education system and also as a society to educate and protect users? Maybe the answers lies somewhere in the design of products? If products are designed in a particular way and users are using them in another way, then maybe there is a mismatch? A thought provoking moment already! What do you think?
I then listened to another talk on the decentralised society and Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs). In all honesty, I had been trying to get my head around Blockchain and NFTs for a while now, so this was the perfect day to totally focus on both. I consider myself a beginner in understanding this new world! Especially, since over the lockdowns, I dabbled in Crypto currency and both investments are now 95% less than what was invested! I live in hope that they recover!
Here are my best definitions of the two terms:
- Blockchain – a system of recording information (best described as similar to a shared database). The system is so secure it makes it impossible to change. Data is stored in blocks. Whereas in a traditional database data is stored in tables.
- NFTs – a digital certificate of authenticity that proves your digital collectable is the original. NFTs are recorded and held in a blockchain.
For anyone wishing a simple guide to Digital Currency, I highly recommend reading this “children’s magazine” Factology – Crypto
I reflected upon what is being taught in schools, and are we preparing our young people for this future. My opinion is essentially yes, since topics such as databases, cryptography, pixel art and more are all taught and all have links to block chain and NFT. Good to know, we are preparing our young people for the future. However, what I would say, I feel is missing are stronger links with industry, showing and sharing with young people and schools, that what they are learning has real world relevance. If you have experience of this happening please do share!
The discussion developed and another take away for me was a consideration that most of this was only happening in certain parts of the world. How do we get the whole world to participate in this new decentralised currency future. Who benefits? This is a good discussion point. There is no clear answer.
In the afternoon, I popped across to another building and visited the Aga Khan Centre. The centre is a place for education, knowledge, cultural exchange and insight into Muslim civilisations. Well worth reading up for general knowledge.
Here I listened intently to talks from the energy sector about making real world data available and the gains that can be made in innovation and for society through having real data. For example, algorithms can be tested against real world data and this can be used for climate modelling, such as sea level rises. This is a big deal, because, having real world and real time data is not generally freely available. It was good to hear the energy sector talking about their initiatives and why they have made data freely available even to competitors. Read more about this at the Open AI Energy Initiative.
There was also discussion in understanding human reaction to “digital” and taking a workforce along with digital changes. These are big issues and ones that need to be debated especially as Web 3.0 and the Metaverse start to become embedded in society.
My next session was a whole group meditation led by Gelong Thubten I must admit I just had to attend this one, as it is the first event in the tech world that I have attended where there has been meditation on the agenda. The session started with a talk by Gelong and his life experiences before the group meditation session. There were a few interesting questions during the Q&A session, such as should we be using tech solutions for meditation. The general thought here was that this was tying individuals to devices, when meditation is quite an opposite experience that one should be able to do anywhere, anytime, without need for a device or devices. There has been a recent boom in online meditation solutions, some using head sensors to support the meditation process. I think this is one to be debated for and against. For me, I will continue with device free meditation! What are your thoughts? When the day started, I hadn’t envisaged that later on I would be sat in a room full of strangers, meditating. It was a powerful experience and I learnt a few tips which I have put into practice.
My first CogX definitely, got me thinking. It definitely delivers on its headline statements of being thought provoking, immersive, engaging and inspiring. To keep up to date with CogX - I also recommend downloading the CogX app and following them on social media.
Please do share your thoughts on the questions asked in this blog.