Future Computing – Magic Wand for Innovation or Threat to Humanity?

Falling Walls Circle Tables are lending the spotlight to world-leading scientists, science strategists and policy-makers from academia, business and politics discuss how we can apply science, research and innovation to get the world moving again.

From the rise of artificial intelligence to the dawn of quantum computing, technology will reshape our future. In this Falling Walls Circle Table, the panel asks how we can ensure that these new tools tackle the world’s problems, without posing a fundamental threat to our societies and democracies.

As technology becomes a bigger part of our lives, its environmental footprint also grows, raising the need for improved efficiency and a circular design approach. Future computing could also allow for a concentration of power, whether that’s for companies, countries or governments. There is an increasing threat that this power could be misused, for political gain or personal profit.

It is crucial that future computing technologies are democratised, so that they are as widely available – and accessible – as possible. Tech companies must embrace diversity, so that solutions are found for the full range of humanity’s problems. Given that the future of humanity is at stake, regulation and laws must be put in place as safeguards.

Collaboration must be at the heart of innovation. After all, today’s problems are truly global, so require truly global solutions.

Jan-Martin Wiarda is an independent journalist, political scientist and economist.

Studied in Munich, Chapel Hill (USA) and German School of Journalism. Has been an author at the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Brand Eins, the Financial Times Deutschland, Tagesspiegel and others. For 8 years has worked as an editor in Hamburg at ZEIT in the education department “Chancen” and for 3 years as Head of Communications at the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft . Since 2015 has worked as  freelance journalist, author and moderator. In 2016 defended his dissertation at the HU Berlin.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Wolfgang Marquardt is a Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, Vice-President of the Helmholtz Association, and Coordinator of the Research Field Key Technologies.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Marquardt studied process engineering at the University of Stuttgart, where he has also completed his habilitation in 1992 and PhD in 1988 on non-linear waves in distillation processes. Later he was appointed as a Chair of Process Systems Engineering at Forschungszentrum Jülich. Additionally, he lectured as a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (USA), Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) and RWTH Aachen University (Germany). In 2002, Wolfgang Marquardt co-founded AixCAPE e.V. in Aachen, Germany.

Alison Kennedy has recently been appointed as Strategic Advisor for eInfrastructure (High Performance Computing (HPC) and AI) to the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in the UK. Until the end of March 2022, she was Director of the Hartree Centre whose mission is to accelerate the adoption of technologies such as HPC, HPDA, AI and quantum computing by UK industry, leading to economic and productivity gains for the UK. Backed by £172m of government money to launch the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation, the centre has recently extended its collaboration with IBM Research in this 5 year programme. Prior to joining the Hartree Centre in 2016, Alison held dual roles as an Executive Director of EPCC, the national HPC Centre based at the University of Edinburgh and as Managing Director of the PRACE aisbl (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe).

She has undergraduate degrees in History and in Mathematics and Technology and a post-graduate degree in Business Administration. Alison began her working life as a real-time systems programmer in industry, progressing to roles in project management, software product management and in sales. She has now worked in HPC for almost 30 years, managing large organisations, projects and collaborations in HPC, Data and AI. Alison is a co-founder of the Women in HPC organisation, served as the organisation’s first Chair and currently sits on WHPC’s Advisory Board.

Agnes Boudot is the Senior Vice President for HPC, AI and Quantum Business Line within Big Data & Security Division at Atos since January 2017. She is in charge of HPC and Quantum Business for Atos Group, owning the portfolio definition and managing the HPC & Quantum sales and support operations worldwide. Parallel to her HPC, AI and Quantum leadership role, she is also CTO for the Public Sector & Defense Industry since February 2020.

Before taking this position, Agnes Boudot has led the HPC Sales for France, working on developing the HPC business on major accounts, such as CEA, GENCI, Météo France. Before joining Bull (now part of the Atos Group) in 2010, she has worked for Cray and SGI (now part of HPE) for 20 years and gained experience in HPC in different technical and sales support positions, from Software System Engineer to Presales Manager for Europe. She started my career at CEA as a System Software Engineer in 1990.

Dr. Alessandro Curioni is an IBM Fellow, Vice President of IBM Europe and director of the IBM Research Lab in Zurich, Switzerland.

Dr. Curioni received his undergraduate degree in Theoretical Chemistry and his PhD from Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy. He started at IBM Research – Zurich as a PhD student in 1993 before officially joining as a research staff member in 1998. His most recent position was Head of the Cognitive Computing and Computational Sciences department.

Dr. Curioni is an internationally recognized leader in the area of high-performance computing and computational science, where his innovative thinking and seminal contributions have helped solve some of the most complex scientific and technological problems in healthcare, aerospace, consumer goods and electronics. He was a member of the winning team recognized with the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize in 2013 and 2015.

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