Future Human kicks off with honest discussions about the future

12 May 2022

Image: Conor McCabe

Audiences both in person and online got to hear from a wide variety of experts on Web3, the future of work and the metaverse.

After two years at the hands of the Covid-19 pandemic, Future Human came back with a bang for its hybrid event, with attendees both in person at the state-of-the-art Trinity Business School and joining online from around the world.

The energy from the audience was palpable in the morning as long-time fans and first-time attendees were eager to participate in the conversation.

Future Human curator and Silicon Republic CEO Ann O’Dea opened the event with a whistle-stop tour of how the event came to be and the journey that brought it to 2022.

This was follwed by a quiet few moments of mindfulness with a gorgeous musical performance from Ukrainian pianist Yaroslav Bilous. Bilous then spoke to O’Dea briefly about his experience coming to Ireland given the current crisis.

Next, Aon’s chief innovation officer Jillian Slyfield came to the stage to discuss how businesses need to come up with new solutions to the challenges that are coming down the line. In particular, she said we should be reframing the great resignation as the great reassessment.

She kicked off her talk with some important advice for students. “You don’t need to know what you want to be when you grow up,” she said. “Think about who you are.”

She also brought the in-person audience into the conversation, fielding questions about the metaverse and allowing them to share their experiences.

Her talk was followed by a no-holds-barred fireside chat between O’Dea and Intercom co-founder Des Traynor.

His brutal honesty around what he really thinks about Web3 and the metaverse drew several chuckles from the audience, while his straight-talking nuggets of advice for start-ups and entrepreneurs were treated like gold dust.

Ann O’Dea and Des Traynor. Image: Conor McCabe

One great analogy Traynor highlighted was how solutions are a lot like Velcro in that they’re often seen as useless until a problem is there to make it stick.

“People won’t buy a solution until they’ve bought a problem,” he said.

Next, the first of several hybrid panels took place to discuss the future of Ukraine with Neill Dunwoody, co-founder of Tech Link Ukraine; Konstantin Vasyuk of the IT Ukraine Association; Yuliya Garycha, digital adviser to the Ukrainian Government; and Ukrainian-born Trinity College Dublin student Yura Kovalchuk.

The discussion highlighted a lot of important work being done in Ireland to help recently arrived Ukrainians. Dunwoody pointed to the Tech Link Ukraine website for any employers who might have roles available to offer.

Right before lunch, Future Human continued its tradition of including the arts in the discussions around science and tech by introducing the audience to writer Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan, who shared her experience as an immigrant along with some gorgeous poetry and a premiere of her poetic installation about space weather research.

After lunch, the future of the climate was the main topic as anthropologist Prof Alice Roberts took us through the history of our relationship with the natural world, farming and the domestication of crops. This was followed by a fascinating fireside chat between SiliconRepublic.com editor Elaine Burke and Trinity Centre for Social Innovation’s Siobhan McQuaid.

“We need to bring economic policymakers together with environmental policymakers,” said McQuaid.

Silicon Republic editor Elaine Burke sitting with Siobhan McQuaid, principal investigator of the Connecting Nature project. Both are on stage at Future Human 2022.

From left: Elaine Burke and Siobhan McQuaid. Image: Conor McCabe

We then moved into a new realm – figuratively speaking – with a host of expert speakers to breakdown the world of Web3, NFTs and crypto art. To begin, Time Digital president and TimePieces co-founder Bharat Krish dialled in to give an insight into his NFT art initiative. Concluding his talk, Krish shared a unique collection of artistic video NFTs – a collaboration between TimePieces, Timberland and 14 other artists.

Krish then joine an in-depth panel discussion chaired by Pete Townsend, who leads the Launchpool Web3 Techstars Accelerator. They were joined online by GamiFi CEO Laura Walsh and crypto artist Kevin Abosch for an upfront and honest discussion about the Web3 world.

Abosch’s sentiment that Web3 isn’t going to fix the systemic problems from the Web2 world was met with nods from the rest of the panel. He summed up the topic incredibly succinctly, saying: “The future can be bright, we just have to be vigilant.”

This was followed by a mainstay of Silicon Republic events: a panel on the future of work. This has never been timelier than in the last few years, when the pandemic led to remote working en masse.

O’Dea returned to chair the panel, which included Boundless co-founder Dee Coakley, Aon chief people officer Lisa Stevens and Hatch Analytics founder Monica Parker.

They talked about the ongoing battle for talent, the need to create a positive work culture instead of focusing on the box-ticking side of wellbeing, and the ongoing challenges around remote working.

As the day drew to a close, the conversation around the future of work continued with the final speaker of the day, Rand Fishkin, co-founder and CEO of audience research software start-up SparkToro.

His short but engaging talk examined the concept of ‘chill work’ and how it compares to the much more common hustle culture of doing as much work as possible and giving it your all.

He began by saying: “Life is about more than just work.” And after a brief explanation of how the chill work concept is applied in SparkToro, he closed the session by showing a wholesome collage of family and friends having fun and living their best lives.

“We have very full lives,” which, he said, is achieved by creating a work culture that allows for that. A strong sentiment with which to leave a buzzing audience – and it’s only day one.

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic