Building a Better World in the 'Convergence Era'
By Young Sohn, Corporate President and Chief Strategy Officer for Samsung Electronics, and Chairman of the Board for HARMAN
Five years ago, we organized our first Samsung CEO Summit as a way to share our approach to innovation. Each year since, we’ve gathered leading innovators, investors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to explore how we can—and must—harness groundbreaking technologies to address the greatest challenges facing our planet.
Past Summits have focused on how advanced sensors and data are revolutionizing smart machines; how emerging technologies such as VR and AR can help improve our minds and bodies; how data-driven technologies are reshaping the global economy; and how AI has the potential to revolutionize entire industries around the world.
Looking back, it’s clear that although each Summit had its own distinct theme, they all pointed toward the concept of convergence: the merging of the physical and the abstract, matter and information, atoms and bits, in new and exciting ways.
Today, we find ourselves in the Convergence Era, facing a perfect storm of challenges and opportunities that I refer to as the 4 C’s: rising Consumer expectations, the disruptive impact of Cloud technologies, growing Cybersecurity threats, and existential global Challenges.
While these challenges are daunting, I believe that technology can help us find ways to overcome them.
The Promise of the Convergence Era
Already, we are finding new ways to bring together the physical and digital worlds.
Data and AI are transforming the way medical professionals deliver health care, powering autonomous mobility solutions that are redefining the ways we navigate our world, enlivening the personal assistants that live in our smartphones, bringing greater efficiency to factories and businesses, and improving smart energy systems that can significantly reduce energy consumption, costs, and harmful emissions.
But what is possible in the years ahead?
When it comes to our health, it will take more than computational power alone to make the discoveries we need. Instead, we can leverage the 3.5 billion years of investment that nature has sunk into developing human biological systems to create hybrid solutions—converging computing with biology—to drastically improve the way we develop drugs to fight disease.
Through the experience of ‘presence’—the illusion of non-mediation—VR makes technology disappear, enabling us to viscerally experience the virtual world as real. Whether it’s building empathy, training employees to handle difficult scenarios, or showing policymakers the dangers of climate change, VR can merge the physical and digital worlds into a force for good.
Unlocking the full potential of AI entails making its tools directly accessible to more people. Doing that requires a revolution to disrupt both AI hardware and software, with hardware evolving to support “Software 2.0” algorithms based on reconfigurable data flows rather than traditional software programming models.
Quantum computing might be the purest example of the convergence of atoms and bits, in that atoms themselves become quantum bits (qubits). This next leap in computing can tackle problems that are simply impossible for even the most powerful classical computers. Harnessing quantum computing promises to lead to better drugs, more efficient utility power grids, more scalable machine learning, and more.
In collaboration with partners worldwide, Samsung plans to play a leading role in helping to evolve the quantum computing market, along with supporting so much of the other emerging potential of data and AI in the Convergence Era.
Living Our Commitments
None of this potential, however, will be realized without firm commitments to two key ideals.
First, inclusiveness. To ensure that Convergence-era innovations benefit everyone and build stronger, more engaged societies, Megan Smith, CEO of shift7 and the third CTO of the United States, emphasized how we need to make inclusiveness and diversity a priority in how we invest, develop, and scale new technologies.
And second, collaboration. That’s why Samsung is a founding partner of the Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC), a global startup competition inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). XTC offers a compelling model that uses partnership and innovation to empower startups addressing the most extreme challenges facing humanity and our planet.
At the CEO Summit, we were proud to announce three XTC regional finalists: Advanced Animal Diagnostics, providing on-farm diagnostics to reduce antibiotic use and address antibiotic resistance; Green Dot Bioplastics, creating biodegradable plastics; and NovoNutrients, transforming industrial-waste CO2 into feed for sustainable aquaculture. We look forward to seeing the finalists present their innovations at the XTC global finals this spring in Paris.
Of course, every year Samsung’s commitment to collaboration is at the heart of the CEO Summit—a place for bold thinkers to come together, chart a new course for the future of technology, and begin the difficult but vital work of merging atoms and bits to build a better world.