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10 Thought-Provoking Quotes from The Middle East's First Conscious Tech Summit in Gouna

As the Vested Summit took off last week in Egypt's El Gouna to define what it means to create "conscious tech," we take a look at 10 of the boldest, most inspiring, and thought-provoking statements heard at the event.

It was a sunny week in Egypt's seaside town of El Gouna, where techie entrepreneurs gathered under the dome of the TU Berlin campus between May 9th and 12th to network and gear up for their purposeful startups and projects. Inspired by the techie solutions she saw in California and the emerging problems she witnessed in emerging markets like Egypt, Salma El-Hariry and Sherine El-Wafaai have crafted the Vested Summit, setting off to to gather a community of conscious innovators. 

The Summit kicked off with a hackathon that comprised workshops and mentoring sessions, followed by the global exposure track, which saw technology leaders and purposeful entrepreneurs from all over the world, from Honk Kong, to Colombia, to Australia, take to the main stage. El Gouna's co-working hub, G-Space, was buzzing with blockchain developers, 3D-printing pioneers, drones, and VR startup founders, all connected by the same vision: the belief that the technologies of the future should be built with human problems in mind. Over on the TUB Berlin, in the meantime, bold founders and some of the world's most prominent companies in the impact investment scene, were discussing mind-blowing ideas. Hailing from blockchain mammoth companies like Consensys, to the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab, to Uncompromise Australia and the Happy Startup School, here's 10 speakers that picked our brains during the summit.

1. Cameron Burgess, Uncompromise Australia

Cameron Burgess, who "architects solutions to the world's wicked problems," as he describes it himself, took to the stage at the first day of the conference. Nine years ago he had established Uncompromise, a decentralised global consultancy devoted to increasing the revenue, reach and impact of World Positive Ventures. "Collaboration in the language of technologists is a functional requirement, if we as a species are going to face and defeat the greatest existential threats to survival."

2. Natalia Realpe Carrillo, Hedera

With expertise in Industrial, Business and Environmental Engineering, Natalia Realpe Carrillo established Hedera, a platform for Microfinance Institutions, basic needs services providers, microfinance investment vehicles, and other actors committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. "We have different business models, different revenue streams, according to different customer segments," Carrillo says at Vested Summit. "This is not for making everybody rich, but to reach sustainability."

3. Gino Yu, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

"For innovation to go higher, the roots have to go deeper, it's very much an inner process that allows us to climb," Gino Yu says in his poetic and spiritual presentation. Gino is an associate professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. 

4. Carlos Saba, the Happy Startup School

Quoting Howard Thurman, Carlos Saba says: "Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and do it, because the world needs more people to come alive." Five years ago, Saba established a school called the Happy Startup School. Using his knowledge in technology, his passion for happiness, his willingness for helping others and a curiosity for creating new things, Saba established Happy Startup School in Brighton to help people find happiness through entrepreneurship. 

5. Mohamed Shehab El-Din, Resolve

"What controls your decisions? Most of the time we are affected by things we don't give value to, like social norms. Sometimes the inner drive that is hidden is the trick. The problem is we are told we should think in a specific way. And when you follow the wrong interest you get the wrong results." Giving a talk on conflict resolution and negotiation skills, Mohamed Shehab El-Din - who has his own conflict management consultancy firm, Resolve - turned the auditorium into a courtyard for open discussion, questions, and even games. 

6. Mark Nelson, Stanford Peace Innovation Lab

"Most entrepreneurs don't realise this, but the moment you choose to be an entrepreneur, you are in the peace business. You are strengthening the bond of society - because the customer by definition is someone who doesn't have what you have," said Mark Nelson, the founder of Stanford's Peace Innovation Labs. "Innovation is not a value, it’s a cost. All new value is created by exchange. And who is the customer? There are always two customers in every transactions. You are a customer as well; you are buying their money. It’s only when they take care of each other that u get fair trade." 

7. Radwa Hamed Soliman, Affectiva

"To make AI conscious we need to make the data conscious. We have to make sure that our sources and the people we source the data from are all aware of the usage of this data and the channels that we're taking it to," With relevance to her work as a Data Processing Engineer at Affectiva, Radwa walks us through what she has in mind in order to make Artificial Intelligence (AI) conscious

8. De Kai Wu, HKUST

Haling from the AI spectrum, De Kai Wu is both a musician and computer engineer that worked on AI linguistics in projects such as Google Translate and Siri. “The Artificial Intelligence we have now is nowhere near what a three-year-old can do,” says the HKUST Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at his opening speech at Vested Summit. "Everyone of you is AI. Everyone of us was produced by humans, and have intelligence. I am appalled that the sort of AI we've been working on can turn into something non-conscious. When we were working to build Google Translate, for me, AI was something we could use to improve the world." 

9. Evan Yap, Tykn

All the way from the Netherlands to El Gouna, Evan Yap, Tykn's head of research gave workshops, presentations and participated in several panels at Vested Summit. To Yap, conscious technology is not a solution looking for a problem, but a solution for an existing problem."Who are we creating and generating this value for? Who are you trying to help? The problem is that if you're looking for funding you need to have quicker terms, thus for humanitarian solutions you can not implement as easily," he said. 

10. Liza Lichtinger, Future Design Station

With a background in psychology and neurobehaviour, Liza Lichtinger has crafted the personality and sequencing of robotics and behavioural software while running Future Design Station in San Francisco. Lichtinger believes that human beings really have much more power and understanding of what makes them more aware. "The more we can get people to come together creatively to understand these kinds of ideas, the more you can have this kind of people create technology that is going to mimic that and be a more meaningful tool is matched with the human awareness that’s building it." 

Photography by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions

Photographer: Ashraf Hamed.


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