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Wavelength – Global Perspectives on Innovation and Business

Mar 20th 2024

A summary of the Wavelength - Global Perspectives on Innovation and Business event, in collaboration with Mullwood Associates.

Executive Summary

March 14th, 2024, London Bridge

During an evening focused on trends, Silicon Valley and China, we heard from three speakers each with deep expertise in their field.

Below are some of the facts, themes, examples and ideas put into the room by trend spotter David Mattin, Silicon Valley watcher Danny Fortson and China authority Christina Boutrup.

 

David Mattin: Founder, New World Same Humans

#1 Virtual Companions

This trend focused on how large language model AI will change our relationship with knowledge within organisations and in customer-organisation interactions. As increasing affordability democratises generative AI, the competitive advantage will shift to what’s done with them to animate proprietary data and knowledge.

• McKinsey have created a bespoke AI knowledge partner for their consultants built from its unique bank of knowledge, describing Lilli as a researcher, time saver and inspiration.

• Dutch start up bank bunq has created Finn, ‘your personal AI money assistant’. Simply open the bunq app and ask Finn anything in ways more akin to asking a friend than a bank.

#2 Simulated Everything

The tsunami of data collected about us, our interactions and about the world, by devices around us, is enabling simulation of virtually everything – people, societies, places, ecosystems.

In ground-breaking research, Google and Stanford created a simulated human society inside large language model AI within which unscripted human behaviours emerged. Could this revolutionise how we research and understand ourselves and the world?

• Pioneer of accelerated computing, NVIDIA , have teamed up with BMW to simulate factories inside Omniverse to pre-optimise design of its vehicle production facilities.

#3 Public Goods

This trend evolves around the nature of stakeholder capitalism, meaning organisations need to give something good to the world not just talk about it. Here’s two tech-enabled examples to make this real.

“New trends emerge when change unlocks new ways to serve basic human needs”.

• Bumble Inc. developed AI to detect and blur unsolicited nude pictures on its apps, then open sourced a version of Private Detector AI to help clean up the dating industry.

• Tech giant Slack has open sourced its playbook for hiring formerly incarcerated workers, working alongside international non-profit the Aspen Institute.

Sign up for David’s weekly newsletter, New World Same Humans.

 

Danny Fortson: Silicon Valley correspondent for The Sunday Times, Podcaster and award-winning technology correspondent.

Danny described the 50-mile-long stretch of the San Francisco Bay area as a $10 trillion-dollar corporate neighbourhood that acts as a magnet for entrepreneurs, ideas and investors. He also described it as a ‘machine to build machines’, adept at producing the next tech thing. And to give some context as to how much $10 trillion really is – currently the market cap of Meta & Apple alone is greater than the current collective value of the 1,843 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange…

So, what is going on in Silicon Valley currently that we need to know about?

• AI is ‘taking up all the oxygen’ which is perhaps not surprising given the extraordinary rise of ChatGPT which reached 100 million monthly active users in just two months.

• Danny cited the rise of organisations that use AI to create studio quality AI avatars and voices such as HeyGen. These platforms also give rise to concerns around fraud and deep fakes.

• A socially good use of AI that is being tested and honed for broader roll out right now is Khanmigo, which combines the Khan Academy’s experience and content with ChatGPT’s generative power to deliver supercharged teaching and learning.

• There was discussion of how AI might affect humans in the workplace. Danny talked about the potential ‘death of computer science’, with AI able to code at rates no human can compete with, ultimately leading to seismic economies in multiple operational efficiencies.

An example of this is Klarna’s AI assistant speeding up customer enquiry resolution times from 11 to two minutes and an estimated $40m profit rise.

• Two non-AI technology trends mentioned were the re-emergence of more viable Climate Tech focused solutions and businesses, and the opportunities that might be unlocked when internet dark areas of the world come on-line through space-based internet.

Listen to Danny’s Times’ podcast Danny in the Valley.

 

Christina Boutrup: China Analyst and Thought Leader

The focus of Christina’s talk was clear. How with 1.2 billion consumers, the world’s largest, most competitive and disruptive digital economy should not be ignored or underestimated. The facts she offered and examples she gave underlined the importance to us all of what China is up to.

• China currently produces one third of all products made in the world.

• China now leads in 37 out of 44 top industries including manufacturing, bio tech, and robotics.

• China installed more robots in its factories in 2023 than the rest of the world combined.

• BYD has surpassed Tesla as the world’s No.1 manufacturer of electric vehicles. The rate at which this and other green technology solutions are being produced in China means they could end up being dumped at low cost on other markets, with negative implications for Western producers.

• BYD is not the only brand scaling to global heights. Shein is now the world’s No.1 fast fashion brand and Temu has just become the most downloaded app in the USA, surpassing Amazon and recently sponsored the Super Bowl.

• TenCent has just launched a pay by palm function which is 10x more secure than payment by facial recognition.

• Digital humans are already at work for Alibaba.

Finally, for those wondering what our future holds, Christina made the point that in tech-terms, China is typically 6-7 years ahead of the West; so if you want to know where we’ll be tomorrow, look at what China is doing today. Whether this extends to tech regulation – China is tough on social media and children and is already attempting to regulate AI – is harder to answer as the political system and China’s regulatory zeal are harder to match in democracies.

Find out more about Christina Boutrup.