Björn Ulvaeus, Mike Shinoda and the EQC: Everything you need to know about me Convention 2018

07.
September 2018
Stockholm

Stockholm. Provocative thoughts, inspiring talks and engaging experiences on the future of humanity in the era of technology: the second me Convention – a collaboration by Mercedes-Benz and South by Southwest (SXSW) – was held this week in Stockholm. Around 2,000 participants descended on Nacka Strandsmässan to participate in me Convention and experienced a total of 105 speakers, over 25 hours of presentations and approximately 80 interactive sessions. 30 nationalities and 20 startup cities participated in the event. Among other things, the participants enjoyed almost 500 liters of coffee and around 600 packs of Smörrebröd.

“We need to understand where the future is going” said Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales, starting off the second edition on me Convention stage. And certainly, me Convention delivered.

ABBA Is Back, Just Not as Humans

“Can artificial intelligence create art? It’s in the ears of the beholder” said Björn Ulvaeus, co-founder of ABBA, one of the most successful groups in the history of popular music, in a remarkable discussion on the future of creativity. “If an A.I. can write something that makes me cry, then I have to accept that I have been manipulated”, he said, adding that “there is no higher principle that says a piece of music written by a human is better than a piece written by A.I.” The superstar concluded: “In the future, A.I. will write much better songs than the average songwriter, that’s for sure.”

His co-panelist, Frank Briegmann, President & CEO Central Europe Universal Music and Deutsche Grammophon, disagreed. “Music is a very, very deeply human form of expression. I’m not sure if the concept of love and sadness and making you cry, love or be happy can possibly be written and composed by A.I.” ABBA’s lead songwriter shot back: “If you were listening to something and it makes you cry and you thought it was a human and it’s not, then what?” To cheers from the audience, the music industry executive gave in: “Then yes. But working with so many artists, seeing the emotion that’s going into writing music, the intensity of it all, I wonder: will it really come to that point?”

It was the kind of conversation that lingered over the Nacka Strandsmässan, the me Convention venue in the east of Stockholm, for the entire 72 hours of the conference: How far will humans converge with our technologies?

ABBA seems to have found an answer: Despite being separated as a band since 1982, it still garners around 2 million streams a day – and will surprisingly create new experiences for fans in 2019. “We’l l start the night off by singing a new song – but it will be sung by digital copies of us from 1979,” Ulvaeus announced. “You won’t notice it’s not humans.” With complex virtual and human assistances, among them holograms and lookalikes, ABBA is creating a futuristic spectacle, propelling Sweden’s most famous musical export into a new era.

Mike Shinoda, Tom London and the Artist’s Phone as Platform

With a full schedule of live concerts and DJ sets around Stockholm, me Convention was a hotbed for world-famous artists, with some of them hosting mentor sessions and intimate conversations. Mike Shinoda, co-founder and frontman of Linkin Park, the multi-award-winning American rock band and social media powerhouse, held his phone speaker to his microphone to play a pattern of loops, bass and synth sounds from a sequencer app. “I made this on a flight to somewhere” he said. “It turned into a song called I.O.U.” Shinoda explained that he uses his phone constantly to create basic tracks he then emails to himself and continues working on them in the studio. ”At least two of the songs on my new album I made almost entirely on my phone.” The marriage of A.I. and human creativity, Shinoda pointed out, “ helps humans to have good ideas.”

Probably the most engaging phone experience was offered by Tom London (previously known as Tom Webb), a British tech magician and long-time hacker who asked the audience to pull out their own phones and take a picture of a barcode he displayed on the wall. By that, he had manipulated most of the phones in the room. He proceeded to do a mass hack by making all calculators returning the same results before turning the magic on it head and revealing his hack. “I think a hacker should always reveal his secrets because his secrets are the most interesting part” Webb said and encouraged the audience to master his craft: “I believe that anything is possible when you can code. Everybody needs to learn it.”

From Facial Recognition to Gender Bias: Keeping Humanity In The Lead

But how far are we already overtaken by technology? From drones to robots to facial recognition, me Convention offered various discussions on the many fields in which technology is seemingly outpacing humans – but not without offering solutions.

Christopher S. Lee, Privacy Officer at the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, offered, only half-jokingly, a picture of a man wearing LED-lit glasses.”If you don’t like facial recognition technology, you can buy these glasses that make it fail, it throws everything off”, Lee said. “Alternatively, when you’re outside, you can also stare at your feet. It’s very impractical, but one way to escape.”

Of course, there were more serious approaches as well. Ruth Morgan, Professor of Crime and Forensic Science at the University College London, described how scientists and prosecutors are enhancing their human interaction with crime scenes, reducing mistakes and finding the right evidence. Canadian entrepreneur Shaun Frankson showcased his project “ The Plastic Bank,” a social enterprise that turns plastic waste into a currency, incentivizing people to remove plastic from the ocean while reducing poverty – all built on blockchain technology. Stephanie Lampkin, an engineer and entrepreneur, explained her hiring app Blendoor, which hides a candidate’s name, age and picture and only shows the applicant’s skills, work experience and education to break down bias in hiring.

The strongest argument for more diversity in tech was made by singer and author Claire L. Evans who offered a fascinating view into the understated contributions of female technology pioneers, collected in her book “Broadband.” Evans’ research shows that women were actually the very first programmers, from the Second World War to the 1960s, when women made up almost half the workforce in coding. “The internet would fall over and die without women’s contributions”, Evans said, especially in hypertext, which eventually lead to the HTTP protocol.

However, through marketing in the 1980s, the image of the boy’s club in tech was created and lasts to this day. Evans called on the tech community to return to their inclusive roots. “Nothing happens in a vacuum. Tech is a collective effort.” The diversity of minds and values, she argued, will be crucial for solving tech’s biggest challenges. ”I only know one thing about the future: we are going to need as much help as we can to survive it.”

Let’s Lagom!

The me Convention attendees also witnessed the dawn of a new era Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG & Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Dieter Zetsche said when he revealed the EQC, the first fully electric Mercedes SUV, to an enthusiastic crowd at Stockholm’s lakeside Artipelag art museum. Zetsche cited the word “lagom,” a Swedish term for ideal balance, as the philosophy behind it. With features such as gesture recognition and continuous adaption the user’s habits, the car helps balancing out work and life.

Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, explained on the me Convention stage that cities are the company’s latest customers, with a joint effort in helping humans to choose seamlessly between mobility services such as flexible leasing, bike and bus sharing and ride-hailing.

Don’t Blame Your Grandparents – Live Healthy!

Finally, me Convention offered multiple opportunities to find new balances between work and life, and the so-called “third place” in between.

Alexandra Weyrich from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research emphasized the importance of a healthy lifestyle based on the newly developed science of epigenetics, “the long-missing bridge between the environment and DNA.” Weyrich’s work shows that – from the unborn in the womb to the grown-up being – human gene cells react and change according to nutrition, temperature, stress and physical exercise. “It took a long time to prove this,” she said. “It’s just much easier to blame your grandparents than to think ‘I can actually change my life and my genes and have responsibility for the next generation.’” Weyrich has since changed her own nutrition and started meditating. “I’m trying to reduce my stress levels and live an easier life.”

Many attendees at me Convention felt the same – and flocked to the yoga classes offered by Adriene Mishler, who usually teaches to an audience of 3.9 million subscribers on her YouTube channel “Yoga with Adriene”. “I thought it would be fun to go back to the roots of yoga at this convention on multidisciplinary digital paradigms,” Mishler said during her slow and flowing poses. “I want to go back to uniting breath and body, mind and heart. A handstand? Come on, that’s boring. It’s about the process of feeling good about yourself.”

Vice’s Mark Adams: “Don’t Chase Trends – Activate Your Tribes”

In his closing remarks, Vice Media’s Head of Innovation Mark Adams, delivered a strong argument for a different, more balanced approach to work, especially in the field of innovation. “We are too exhausted. We can’t keep up with the speed any more.” He recommended to get away from emails and create space for focused work on strategy. Innovation, he argued, is not about running after the latest tech trends. “Innovation isn’t technological. It’s cultural. It’s social.” After explaining Vice’s model of “ activating tribes based on the passions they have” and creating “ the definite pieces of content in their conversation,” Adams concluded: “When you commit to innovation, you can’t live the life you’ve lived before.”

About me Convention

me Convention lives by the slogan #createthenew. It offers an open and inspiring platform for creative people from different areas and has a clear focus on dialogue, interaction, networking and entertainment.

About South by Southwest

SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, TX, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries. The event, an essential destination for global professionals, features conference programming, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking opportunities. SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together.

Current press material for the me Convention can be found at: media.mercedes-benz.com/stockholm2018

For more information about the me Convention, the events and speakers, please visit: http://www.me-convention.com/.

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