Web Summit: A catalyst for change

Web Summit: A catalyst for change

Attending this year’s Web Summit in Lisbon inspired us to imagine what we will be talking to each other about in 14 years. Take a ride with us in Doc Brown’s DeLorean into the future, when we’ll “reminisce” about our contemporary perspectives on technological innovation…

When STRG’s co-owners Jürgen Schmidt (CEO) and Michael Dosser (COO) logged onto their daily metaverse mind meld in November 2035, they looked back at the technological developments over the previous 14 years and discovered what might have been the big tipping point back in November 2021.

Jürgen Schmidt [JS]:  Mic, I love our new 3D virtual-office space! I feel like I’m sitting right next to you in a Schönbrunn palace salon! 

Michael Dosser [MD]: Not too shabby, eh? I’m quite enjoying my home-office “desk” on this beach in the Seychelles, too. My solar-powered RayBan VR sunglasses are the bomb!

JS: A bit warmer there than here at my alpine ski lodge, but here it’s all fresh powder and blue skies. Anyway, thanks to the metaverse and today’s 10G cellular broadband, we can do everything we once did face-to-face back in Vienna, and a lot more. 

MD: Yes, it’s amazing how much we’ve progressed in the last 14 years!  Remember back in 2021, when we traveled together to the Web Summit in Lisbon?

JS: Seems like lifetimes ago, but that was such an inspiring event – the first big international tech conference we were able to attend after the COVID-19 pandemic forced us all into wave after wave of lockdowns! All 45,000 attendees there were so hungry to get out and meet people face-to-face. The energy was amazing!

MD: Those were definitely challenging times. Yet as depressing as that pandemic was, it was a real catalyst for change!  It forced us all to reexamine society’s norms and our inefficient ways of living and working. We all had to adapt quickly and agilely, and the business world realized that such quantum change is not so scary or impossible. 

JS: True, and the feeling at that Web Summit was fun and light – a breakthrough feeling, not just because the pandemic would soon be history, but also that the time had come to make even more progress on societal change, ethics, and workplace diversity. The Web Summit inspired us technologists to wake up and really address the world’s biggest problems, instead of just focusing on our own bottom lines.

MD: And look what happened, our profits have never been better, thanks in large part to our investments in green-tech R&D! 

JS: For sure, and not only have we been able to help deal with climate change, we’ve also freed the financial markets from traditional institutional control, gave voice to disadvantaged people around the world, promoted democratic civil society even in the poorest countries, gave creators control over their content, convinced corporations to take ethical responsibility for their activities

MD: I’m just happy that all our research efforts into machine learning that started 15 years ago played such a big role in making this all possible! Back then we didn’t really know what such blue-sky research would enable. And that Web Summit confirmed to me that we were on the right track by diversifying, becoming an Agile service organization, getting rid of hierarchical top-down management styles and relying on our multi-talented staff to innovate.

JS: That 2021 Web Summit really demonstrated that women and minorities were finally gaining a foothold in the white-male dominated tech sector. Women representing the world’s biggest tech companies were on stage for almost every podium discussion and were such inspiring speakers. It motivated many younger women and minorities to enter the tech field and since then we’ve been hiring more women than men!

MD: Not just in the tech sector. Think about how lucky we were to witness the rise of Ayọ Tometi’s political career.

JS: I already knew back then that she would become President of the USA when I heard her talk in Lisbon about how she helped organize the Black Lives Matter movement. She was convinced that technology would be best used to promote human rights. She not only swayed the American voters, but she inspired many tech entrepreneurs and investors to jump on the social-responsibility bandwagon.

MD: 2021 was a real breakthrough year for technology. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, things like virtual office, mRNA vaccine development, e-mobility, … were just distant dreams. The lockdowns forced the world to adopt them quickly – those of us who were positioned to adapt have done really well, while the luddites were left in our dust. 

JS: Those lockdown mandates might have been the only significant contribution made by the world’s politicians. All their summits and accords for reducing global warming were just hot air and empty promises. But once we convinced the venture capitalists that investment in green tech would become more profitable than propping up a fossil-fuel dependent economy, we were able to get climate change under control

MD: By using predictive AI computing algorithms, mathematicians and data scientists could help investors better understand what the impacts of climate change would be and where profits could be obtained, and in turn they finally filled their portfolios with socially responsible tech investments.

JS:  Mathematics and AI supercomputing power finally became used for something more important than the zero-sum casino game of stock-market predicitions. For years now, predictive AI algorithms have been used for ecological purposes, like mapping ocean currents in order to aid clean-up of the huge floating garbage patches, automatic sorting of recyclable waste or making long-term weather predictions to maximize investment in solar and wind energy, or choosing the best locations for building high-tech carbon sinks.

MD: The best part of the Web Summit is that it’s not a conference for selling products or services to the market. We’ve never even really attended it for networking purposes. But what makes it my favorite conference is its combination of inspiration with serious dives into some really deep-tech stuff. 

JS: Most conferences have only one or the other. That’s why we’ve been taking more of our staff to Web Summits ever since, so they can’t really understand the big picture of why we do what we do.

MD: By the way, did you get your invitation today to Stephen Hawking’s party on June 29, 2009? Only us time travelers have been invited. Are you going?

JS: I’d like to go, just to prove he was wrong about time travel being impossible, but my granddaughter asked if she could borrow my time machine that day. She’s planning to go to Falco’s last concert.

Let STRG inspire your plans for the future! Drop us a line today.

Just call me or write an email to juergen.schmidt@strg.at Mobile: +43 699 1 7777 165