BLOG: KIN Experiencing the Future @ TNW2018

If you are, just like us, interested in digital innovations, such as blockchain or AI, chances are that you were in Amsterdam last week. On May 24 and 25, Amsterdam was the stage for “The Next Web” (TNW) conference, where business, innovators and academics came together to discuss the latest trends. We witnessed some of the latest innovations in the field of the future of work, developments with artificial intelligence, and great ideas on how to use blockchain in practice. Particularly energizing was the talk by Jason Silva, who talked about the future of biotechnology, the entanglement of humans and technology, and how rapid developments will change how we think about our health and lives. Beside Jason Silva’s talk, many others presented their ideas on what our future will look like, how new technologies will change how we live, think, interact, and work. Read about how other visitors experience TNW2018 here.

KIN Present at TNW2018 as Visitors & Speakers
As researchers, we at KIN are of course interested to find out if all these expectations will become true, and what they mean for how we live, work, and organize. We visited many of the inspiring keynotes and pitches, and two of our PhDs hosted round table sessions: Jovana Karanovic and Julia Schlegelmilch.

Jovana – Disrupting the giants: The birth of decentralised platforms
Jovana’s session focused on the sharing economy: she went beyond Uber and Airbnb to explore how new technologies such as blockchain can allow peer-to-peer platforms to prosper. While platforms like Uber, Amazon Mechanical Turk, and UpWork have leveraged digital technologies to arrive at completely new solutions for matching two parties (e.g. Uber drivers to passengers), they have also been heavily criticized for capturing a bulk of the created value. These companies have been accused of unfair work practices and for possessing an enormous power over workers’ identity through the data they collect. One can even argue that these companies essentially “own” labor as they can decide to open or close the platform at any time, as well as increase their commissions. But blockchain is offering a revolutionary solution – a possibility to create a digital marketplace that can be run by the crowds – no hierarchy and fair distribution of profits. How would these decentralized platform organizations look like? How would they be managed? And can they compete with the industry giants? These are the questions that were discussed during Jovana’s “Engage” session at TNW.

Julia – Working anywhere, anytime: Beyond the corporate office
Julia took a deep dive into the topic of the future of work. For this session, she built on her research about digital nomads as these individuals use digital technology to achieve location-independence and, to varying extents, combine working and traveling. As digital technologies enable many knowledge workers to flexibly choose and change workplaces, they are also faced with additional organization before actually getting to work. Questions, such ‘Where can I do focused work?’ or ‘Where do I find stable and fast internet?’ are practical challenges amongst mobile workers without a designated workspace. During the session, Julia examined the tools to solve these issues with the participants and reflect on their space requirements for different types of work, such as calls or focused work.The discussion also covered how remote work policies in bigger companies potentially create an information-inequality between the workers taking part in them and the workers remaining in the office.

All in all, the diverse talks, summer weather and festival-inspired setup of the conference at the Westergasfabriek area created an inspiring atmosphere that already made us curious to see see what next year’s conference is going to be like.