“As A Society We Should Make Useful Things In These Virtual Spaces”

Greg Williams, pictured, is editor-in-chief of Wired UK. He is pictured at the Arch Summit in Luxembourg on 26 October 2022. (Photo © Stephanie Jabardo/Silicon Luxembourg)

In his keynote, he said that humankind’s greatest battle in facing conflicts, supply chain issues or energy crises, for instance, will be scaling up sustainable technology. 

The more we make something, the better and more efficient its design, showing that it is possible to scale up solutions and make them more affordable. One recent example he cited was the sequencing of the human genome. 30 years ago, it cost $2.7b to sequence a single human genome but, in September, Illumina, An American biotech company, delivered a new machine that brings costs down to $200.

“Being able to see what human genomes offer gives researchers insights into fundamental aspects of biology that drive breakthroughs in healthcare such as cancer, inherited diseases and pathogens,” Williams said. 

Looking to the future

Looking at the tech trends and the challenges we face to scale them in future, Williams talked briefly about automation, additive manufacturing, immersive technologies and AI. He said: “Robots will become most useful to us when we don’t even know they’re there, when automation is happening in the background.” 

Machine learning will be critical for this level of automation in robots and machines. But, one challenge will be providing the low-level data needed to process into high-level information so that machines can make good decisions. The editor-in-chief said that researchers and innovators must continue mapping our world and developing mainly imaging technology for these machines to interact seamlessly with the worlds they are part of and be truly transformational.

A robot dog is caught on camera at the Arch Summit in Luxembourg on 26 October 2022. (Photo © Stephanie Jabardo/Silicon Luxembourg)

Additive manufacturing

Williams was excited about the way that 3D printing and additive manufacturing is entering an exciting phase of adoption by industries like defence and automotive. Boeing 777s are now equipped with 3D printed sensors, among other parts, which the Federation Aviation Administration approved. The implications of this adoption will be massive for solving supply chain problems and creating products that were never considered, particularly at nanoscale. 

Metaverse & Generative AI

Williams sounded less thrilled about the metaverse, the full potential of which he suggested is being missed. He said that virtual worlds should not just be a place for entertainment, they should be a better version of the real world and the next step. “As a society, we should make useful things in these virtual spaces,” he said.

He speculated that once interoperability and exchange have been integrated into these fragmented worlds, we will start to see a virtual goods revolution, with ordinary people able to make money inside a virtual experience. While cutting-edge innovators lament the slow adoption of virtual reality goggles, Williams sees a shift in that direction, as touchscreen technology is replaced by voice assistants like Siri or Alexa. And when VR goggles do gain enough traction, he expects AR and VR to become a fixed part of medicine, education and navigation, for instance. 

Generative AI, meanwhile, is expected to disrupt a number of activities. There are already a number of AI image generation applications and more are emerging for code creation, for instance. “We’re already seeing developers use this AI. GitHub Copilot is an autocomplete for developers. It means you can all code. You put something in a text box and the AI will code for you,” Williams said.

Williams finished with a tribute to Massimo Banzi, creator of the open-source electronic prototyping platform Arduino, an innovation that has empowered makers the world over. “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great. It’s not about the technology but about all of us in the room and the decisions we make,” he concluded.

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