World Summit Ai Amsterdam 2019
An article from Felix Jablonski and Thomas Schuering
TL;DR: WSAi (World Summit Ai) IS an interesting conference - for getting an overview on current trends, research and real world applications.
The conference focuses on real world usage and implications of ML/AI and strives to skip the usual buzzword bingo.
The pacing of presentations (20min) or workshops (60min) is more than fast with literally “no time” (0min ;-)) to switch between locations: Picking your
battlessessions is essential.
If “technology” (ML/AI) is a driving factor for attending WSAi, looking for “workshops” is the best option.
At 1500€ for two (not complete) days, WSAi
iswas not cheap (at the time of writing, ticket for 2020 seem less expensive) and there’s some headway for improving the conference (food is EXPENSIVE, small portions and not very good).
It seems a good first/second conference to visit, if the budget wouldn’t permit QCon AI or similar in the US …
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …
… ok, Amsterdam is NOT that far away and it wasn’t THAT long ago, but it was last year, more precisely on 2019, 9-10 October at Taets Art and Event Park in Amsterdam, NL.
With a group of people from different Haufe offices (Freiburg, St.Gallen, Timisoara, …), we (the authors :-)) had the opportunity to get acquainted with “The world’s leading and largest AI summit” (that’s the statement you find on their website).
WSAi strives to focus on the business side of things while not dropping the ball on technology or implications on society and environment. In 2019, the list of speakers included even Werner Vogels (Chief Technology Officer of Amazon) and Cassie Kozyrkov (Chief Decision Scientist at Google) and many more.
The sessions were grouped in tracks on both days (copied from the agenda):
- AI IN ACTION – USE CASES Going beyond the buzz and hype, real-life use cases from the top AI brains in enterprise and big tech, explaining how AI is redefining their business paradigms, why and how they are successfully implementing AI, the hurdles and challenges they face, and the resultant impact on their business.
- STARTUP, SCALEUPS AND UNICORNS Editorial picks of the agile technologists who are innovating at pace and creating entirely new models for AI application. Learn from the people who have done it before, the CEOs, founders and investors who can tell you how to navigate your startup.
- DEEP DIVE TECH TALKS Hear from the world’s leading tech innovators across industry and academia on fundamental breakthroughs in neural networks, evolutionary computation, vision, robotics, expert systems, speech processing, natural language processing, planning and machine learning. Genuinely ground-breaking new innovations in AI soon to go into full-scale application.
- TRANSPARENT, UNBIASED AND FAIR AI The latest guidance, developments and practical approaches to build frameworks for start-ups and experts creating AI solutions to integrate the ethical consideration of AI and machine learning. Whether you are encumbered with legacy infrastructure or at the beginning of your business growth, understand what responsible AI looks like in practice and build frameworks that are safe.
- AI FOR EARTH INNOVATION Tackling some of the World’s biggest problems facing land and sea, sustainability, climate investments and energy systems using AI. Exploring how to maximise the gains for society and our environment by putting AI to work for the planet.
Everyone in the visiting Haufe group found a bunch of interesting sessions and was eager to check out whatever would fit into their packed schedule.
Here’s a summary of the overall impressions after the conference:
- Wide range of talks
- Various interesting tracks
- An extra startup track that mainly deals with the scaling of companies
- Much about responsibility and AI
- Talks concerning the implications of AI beyond plain buzzwords
- The list of speakers featured quite a lot of experienced, qualified and high-level experts (even the CTO of Amazon or CDS of Google)
- The app allows you to create a timetable. That’s cool.
- High early bird, team discounts and even higher student discounts ;-)
- The venue is located in a industrial area with hotels in walk distance
Workshops were not really “hands-on” as one would usually expect, but focused on lively discussions on “real-world” experiences and problems.
- Very few talks went into depth (to be expected of a business event)
- Many talks were somewhat “philosophical” and less technical (Think “Yes! Someone should do something. Let’s wait and see …”)
- The timetable was too tight. Regular sessions were “squeezed” into 20 minutes and workshops didn’t have much more time with 30 or 60 minutes (one workshop had 3 hours, though).
- Apart from breakfast, lunch and “coffee”, no breaks were planned (aka “travel time” between rooms).
- Very few sessions have been recorded and only some presentations are available online.
- The food and drinks were small and overpriced
- Some rooms were just too small or didn’t have the necessary equipment; a “TV set sized monitor” just doesn’t work for larger crowds.
- The networking app was more annoying than helpful.
The conference shed a light on multiple aspects of AI/ML and also embraced important non-technical topics like politics, ethics or cultural responsibilities. In hindsight, we were glad to attend the conference as a group because it helped with the broad range of topics and the tight schedule.
The format “20min for a presentation” or “60min for a workshop” WAS very limiting and presented a challenge in itself. Some speakers struggled with the lack of time and resolved to skip over details in favour of giving only an overview to the selected topic and a list of “resources for self reference” (even in the “deep dive” track).
Especially the workshops had a lot of valuable (technical) information and would have earned a more prominent place and more time.
There are other interesting conferences “out there”, but WSAi and its “reality checked” approach is a good reason for picking it above some “marketing driven” venue.
With that being said, here’s some insightful quote, we heard once again (this time from Googles Cassie Kozyrkov)
If it is written in Python it is called machine learning. If it is written in Powerpoint it is most likely called AI.