Tech entrepreneur, futurist and founder & CEO of FYI, will.i.am, has laid out his vision for a connected, creative future in front of a packed audience at LEAP23.
Speaking on the opening day of the world’s most visionary tech event, the technology entrepreneur, musician, and philanthropist’s Magnifying Creative Minds With AI session saw him describe the present as “the most exciting time to be creative” and paint a future in which “you can converse, collaborate, and communicate contextually with a machine”.
“Here we are in a brand-new realm that is about to kick off, and it is exciting,” said will.i.am at LEAP23, which runs until February 9 at the Riyadh Front Exhibition & Conference Centre. “This is the age of the idea person because now you can materialise an idea instantly. You don’t have to wait for someone to open a door to see your script; you don’t have to have the background knowledge about how to create a screenplay. You can do it immediately, instantly. You can speak to a machine, and the machine is able to execute and banter about what is inside your mind. So this is a pretty magnificent time to be in.”
will.i.am is one of more than 700 speakers at LEAP23, ranging from billionaire entrepreneurs and business magnates to sporting heroes and musical icons turned futurists and financiers. He was a founding equity stakeholder in Beats Electronics which ultimately was purchased by Apple in 2014 for US$3 billion. will.i.am’s next contribution to the tech space is FYI, a single platform Web3.0 messenger for creative enterprise, productivity, and collaboration for both the B2B and B2C markets.
“That’s what’s next up and it will really shape culture and show folks how AI can transform the work and creativity of individuals, small teams, and big teams,” he said of FYI, which will launch next month after three years in development. “It’s filling a gap, it’s a Web3.0 messenger with generative AI in the loop to help you and your team to strategise, organise, plan, and stay on top of the things you are passionate about. Focus your ideas with AI.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Borje Ekholm, CEO of Ericsson, discussed the importance of 5G technology, digital infrastructure, and the development of Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s leading tech-driven nations – one in which his company has operated in for more than 40 years.
“A prerequisite of digitalisation is a digital infrastructure – a country without roads is terribly unlikely to have an automotive industry,” said Ekholm. “Roads you can see, whereas digital highways you cannot. As a person, you cannot see when it is congested in the digital world. When your phone doesn’t connect, it’s typically congestion.
“The Kingdom has recognised that digital transformation is going to be important for the country, but more than just saying that, it has taken action to establish a digital infrastructure. It was interesting to see female participation in the tech sector is actually higher here than in Silicon Valley or in Europe, so that brings new talent into the market. The Kingdom is not only talking the talk, it’s walking the walk.”
In an on-stage conversation with British journalist Adam Boulton entitled Tech Powering A Bright Future, Ekholm – who also attended the inaugural LEAP conference last year – referenced the great changes he’s seen in the Kingdom during his most recent visits.
“It is a dramatic change,” he said. “I come here several times a year and normally when you come that often you don’t see changes because they are gradual, but in this country, the changes have come so fast it is visible.”
More than 100,000 tech innovators and disruptors are at LEAP23 to help fast-track Saudi’s economic and societal transformation. The enduring legacy of this year’s event, which is powered by the Ministry of Communications, and Information Technology (MCIT) in conjunction with Tahaluf – a strategic joint venture co-owned by Informa PLC and SAFCSP – is expected to be a huge catalogue of breakthrough products, ideas, and partnerships.
Michael Champion, Regional EVP of MEA at LEAP23 organisers Informa Markets, said the huge swathes of attendees on opening day prove once again the growing role of Saudi Arabia and LEAP in the development of the regional and global technology industry.
“Saudi’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology announced US$9 billion worth of investments on the first morning of LEAP23, which is a 50 per cent increase on the total investments the show generated over its entirety last year,” said Champion. “With three more days to go, LEAP23 is undoubtedly showing itself to be the tech exhibition where business gets done and the industry takes giant strides forwards. In just two years, LEAP has generated the type of traction, footfall, and participation that usually takes decades to build – this event is reshaping the rulebook on industry platforms.”
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