Category: lift

Lift13 recap video

The Lift team has produced a short video summarizing Lift13. Check it out if you want to feel the vibe of the latest edition of Switzerland’s best innovation conference.

This post is also an excuse to test the newest release of SublimeVideo [disclaimer: I am an advisor to Jilion, Sublime’s parent company], the web’s best HTML5 video player now allowing for pixel perfect customized players across platforms, from IE6 to Android phones.

Video of the Lift evening Seoul

On April 18, Lift hosted a Swiss-Korean innovation night in Seoul, with your truly interviewing innovators from both side of the chinese desert. We brought several startups and artists together for a two hours show full of surprises and excitement. Here is the video, giving you a taste of the event’s atmosphere.

Get your Lift12 ticket!

As the Lift12 early bird sale comes to a close in the coming days, here come a few more information on Lift12 that I will curate with Nicolas Nova. This year, we decided to develop the formula that made Lift11 our most successful event ever, and propose a program divided into three distinct moments:

Day 1: The big picture

We will discuss big questions, and explore how technology is affecting our lives. What is the role of technologies in recent political movements? How is technology really reshaping the way we live? Is technology generating crises, or is it a way to respond to emergency situations?

Day 2: The actionable ideas

Day two is more concrete, exploring current technologies and their impact on our immediate environment. We will discuss mobile but with a fresh perspective, the recent changes forcing reinventions in the luxury industry, the next steps in finance, and explore the new face of gaming, a field that is moving out of screens and closer to our daily lives. Our partner AlpICT’s traditional Venture Night will close the day, with startups introducing their products and services to the audience.

Day 3: Foresight and inspiration

The final day of the conference is about discovering technologies that will be part of our lives in the next 3-5 years (“Near futures” session), hear the stories of pioneers who do extraordinary things (“Stories”) and, finally, meet the extreme amateurs, those people who are taking the concept to a whole new level, building rockets or making nuclear physics experiments in their garage.

We are in the process of confirming most speakers, but a few names have already been announced. We will have people developing the mobile phones of the future, a researcher who creates therapeutic robots, a hacker who builds a nuclear reactor in his basement, the inventor of the “web 2.0 suicide machine” that deletes your social media accounts, a designer of pervasive games, and many more. Check the first confirmed speakers below:

I hope to see you at Lift12, get your ticket before the price goes up!

Lift in thirteen pictures

My work for Lift conference is featured on, a new visual blog by Frank Boermeester. I really like the concept :)


Laurent Haug is the founder and CEO of the Lift Conference (three days events in Europe and Asia to discuss the social implications of technologies) and the co-founder and CEO of Lift Lab (a boutique consulting practice doing research projects). Laurent is passionate about understanding how technological innovation is reshaping society and culture. His work is about identifying and understanding upcoming shifts, spreading the word via conferences and social media, and ultimately helping turn changes into opportunities.


The ideas, hopes and challenges of today’s robots

Robolift was a superb conference. Nicolas did an amazing job of assembling a diverse and passionate group of  who discussed the current challenges, hopes and promises of robotics. For three full days, robots have taken the center stage and all those sessions ended up forming a coherent picture made of several key ideas and questions surrounding what will be major market in the future. Here is a quick recap of the key points that were made:

We can create emotional connections to robots
I’m human. Sometimes there are things that I believe against all logic. For me robots had to be objects we were keeping a certain distance with. Several speakers showed how that is not true: the Paro robot was one of the most striking example. Used with Alzheimer patients, this robotic seal creates authentic relationships with the people using it (see video, choose “PARO for patients in Italy”). Beyond these special usages, several talks showed how we engage with robots, whether it is kids helping a Roomba clean their bathroom’s floor, or people giving bots nicknames and treating them as members of the family.

As Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino pointed during her Q&A session, “Robots are objects, and we spend our life creating emotional attachment to objects. You feel sad when you break a vase your grandma offered you. It is the same with robots, we mourn them when they break down.” Robots are just regular objects, my intuitions and culture was creating an intriguing distance with that notion, but one can indeed be emotionally attached to them.

Robots really don’t have to look like robots

To make a long story short: movements and attitudes mean more than shape. That was clear after seeing tenth of videos, like those presented by Fumiya Iida. His robots mimic the movements of animals, and it is striking how this is enough to make you relate to and engage with the robot. You completely forget the fact it is a piece of metal you are watching, and start making a lot of parallels with creatures made of flesh and blood. You engage more than when looking at those humanoid robots that always fail at recreating the human touch effectively.

Robots can do amazing things, and stupid things

We saw a ball throwing robot, and a robot helping alzheimer patients. We saw Aibo learning to recognize objects with more or less success, and robots fighting in Afghanistan. The universal laws of innovation apply to robotics: technology is neutral. You can not say they are either smart or stupid. They are what people do with them, with all the diversity that represents.

Robots make us more social, and they make us less social

Another area where robots are just like other technologies (= neutral). Cynthia Breazeal talked about how a robot could allow a grandma to read a story to her grandchildren, and therefore expand our social capacities, allowing interactions that used to be more complicated, less fun, or otherwise impossible.

But robots could also be interpreted in a negative way. We saw kids playing with their roomba, and not with other kids. So expect many people to say “robots make us lonelier, we will stop interacting with humans”. As usual the truth is in a balanced view: sometimes the robot will allow us to expand our social horizon, sometimes they will make us choose to communicate with a machine rather than with other humans physically close to us.

There are a lot of open questions with ethics and legal

Robotics is like the internet in 1995. A space for hackers and pioneers, starting to be recognized by businesses, with a couple of success stories under its belt. The problem (or is it the opportunity…?) is that the field is way too young to be legislated by governments that barely know this is happening. So it is up to those pioneers to self regulate. And now is a time of big questions. Do we want robots to kill? Drones are being used by politicians because they offer a “dream” equation: fight with no risk of human casualties, at least on the drone’s army side. The problem according to Noel Sharkey: the “buffer” created between the fighter and the field, materialized by a 2 second delay between a command and it’s concretization on the field.

The army is apparently recruiting the video games generation with ads like “you were a good fighter on your PS3? Come and join us, we have a job for you!” Civilized war has several principles, like applying a proportional response to a specific threat. Judgment capabilities that robots are not yet able to reach (will they ever be?), yet we have them fight our wars, more and more every day. Another question: who is responsible if your Google car crushes adog  on a pedestrian passage? Are you responsible because you signed a 500 pages user agreement approval you never read, or are the programmers responsible? Tons of open questions here, probably a few decades of legal debate and landmark cases before we have answers.

Cultures approach robots differently

One of the quote of the conference came from Fujiko Suda who answered my question on “why robots are coming from Asian countries like Japan or Korea?” by saying that Japanese “are not afraid to play god as they already have 8 millions of them”. There is an intriguing idea here, that our culture shapes how we perceive robots. Apparently in the West, we all consider that there is a superior being above us, the only entity allowed to create life-like creatures. Robots are, at least in our imagination, going to one day equal men in their appearance and intelligence. Maybe surpass us, and get out of control?

All this conditions our vision, and makes us more nervous than Japanese who see god in many aspects of their daily life. When they build a machine, they don’t cross as many lines as we do, hence their early adoption of these technology. It is not the only factor (an aging population in need of care is another one) but it is an important one.

Robots have something to do with god

As mentionned in my previous post, god came up quite a few times, and it seems there is definitely a relation between robots and religion. Dominique Sciamma claimed that “robots will finish the work Nietzche started, and kill god”. Maybe inventing and creating something as sophisticated and intelligent as humans will make Christians reconsider the genius of god? If a man can do it…

Overall, all the speakers gave very good talks. Congrats to Nicolas and the whole Lift team for doing such a great job. As Frédéric Kaplan told me in the train that was taking us back home, “it is rare to see a conference on Robotics able to make that topic as informative, thought provoking and entertaining”.

Hasan Elahi, living in public to reclaim your privacy

I have been fascinated by the story of Hasan Elahi ever since I read a Wired article about him. We will have the pleasure to hear his story at Lift11 where Hasan will be a speaker this February. Here is an interview I did last week, to be published on the Lift blog tomorrow. Discover how what was originally an art project became an identity management system.

Hasan Elahi is an interdisciplinary media artist with an emphasis on technology and media and their social implications. His research interests include issues of surveillance, sousveillance, simulated time, transport systems, and borders and frontiers.

At Lift11, Hasan will tell us his incredible story: he was taken into custody of the FBI as a terrorist suspect in the United States by mistake, and ended up living totally in public to protect himself from surveillance. His talk will show how forfeiting your privacy can in fact become a new form of protection of your identity.

Laurent Haug: Tell us your story, what happened?

Hasan Elahi: I was coming back from an exhibition in Dakar. As I pass through the US customs in Detroit, I handed my passport to the agent who froze. Something was obviously wrong. I was taken to a large room that belonged to the INS – the now defunct organizations regulating immigration, which which no US citizen normally ever interacts. A guy in a dark suit walks to me and says “I expected you to be older”. I asked “please explain!” The guy starts questioning me, and out of nowhere he asks me “where were you on September 12?”. I could not remember. So I took my Palm out of my pocket, and we looked up together on my calendar for detailed records. He then started to question me on a storage unit I had in Tampa, Florida. “What do you have in it?” I had clothes, junk, he looked confused and asked “no explosives?”. The FBI had received a report about “an arab man hiding explosives in a storage unit in Tampa”.

The whole thing was very strange. I had no idea what was happening. More than a confusion, it was a paranoia. I think I convinced the agent I had in front of me I had done nothing wrong. But the machine was started, and there was no way to stop it. For six months I spent my time in meetings at the FBI office, calls with the FBI, etc. It only ended when, after 9 lie detector tests, I was finally cleared of any suspicion. During that time, I had a strange survival instinct that was telling me to cooperate. I knew what was happening to me was completely illegal, and I could have fought back. But I wanted to avoid the confrontation, so I told them every single detail. I was calling every time I was moving to make sure they knew where I was and not raise a red flag.

What was your reaction after the first 6 months?

I decided to disclose my whole life online to let the FBI know where I was. I programed a software that allowed me to share my location and what I was doing. We are talking 2003, way before Facebook places or Foursquare ;) What I wanted to do was create a file on myself, a file bigger than the FBI’s file. Then it hit me: why only the FBI should know that? If I started flooding the world with my information, I would devaluate their information on me and make it worthless. Their information would have no value as it would be less exhaustive than mine. It was a very symbolic action, but if you imagine 300 million people doing that then the whole intelligence system collapses.

At the beginning my system was only disclosing where I was with a photo. Then the project grew, I added my flight data, my bank records, my phone records.

Then I started to share every single detail. Food, beds I sleep in, toilets I used, etc. And the funny thing is that people started to get nervous, they were like “we don’t need to know all this!” :) That is where I realized I was living an amazingly anonymous life. That data overload was in fact recreating my privacy. As you can not detach from Google search results, the only option you have is to flood the system, take power. You can not delete stuff, so bury it! My project – which started as an art experiment – turned at that point into an identity management mechanism.

What was the reaction of your friends and family?

First people would ask me to not stop at their houses. But as I value other peoples’ privacy, I made sure nobody was recognizable on the pictures I was publishing. Today we are talking over the phone together. But I will only disclose I was on the phone, at that time, at this location. Not who I was talking to. What I do is store pointers to information, not necessarily the information itself.

What do you want to do with this project beyond protecting yourself?

I want to expose the weaknesses of current intelligence techniques. We are very good at gathering information, but very bad at analyzing it. This is a widespread problem for society and business in general – way beyond the borders of the intelligence community.

I also want to show that it is not about fearing big brother. You can turn back the lens. That is when things start to get really interesting.

Lift11, here comes the program

Lift11 will happen in less than three months, and we are building a great program with two goals in mind: bring concrete knowledge to the audience, ideas and projects that can directly be applied in day to day life. We will have sessions on online communities, social currencies, co-creation and crowdsourcing, the new models of organization, the big trends of the digital world.

On the other end, we programmed more prospective sessions, exploring challenges and opportunities that will present themselves in 3-5 years. We will discuss space tourism, transmedia, reinventing schools, the mechanisms of gaming invading our daily lives, robotics, and much more.

Key take away from the conference will be an overview of the moment’s most important changes & the potential they offer, and contacts with the people who drive these shifts with their ideas and projects.

Some of the talks you will hear at Lift11

Hasan ElahiHasan Elahi on “Giving away your privacy to escape the US terrorist watch list”
Hasan Elahi (Professor, University of Maryland) will tell us his incredible story: he was put on the terrorists list in the United States by mistake, and ended up living totally in public to protect himself from surveillance. His talk will show how forfeiting your privacy can in fact become a new form of protection of your identity.

Brian SolisBrian Solis on Social currencies
Social currencies – defined by Wikipedia as “the entirety of actual and potential resources which arise from the presence in social networks and communities” – are central to the success of online communities. Author Brian Solis will explain the mechanisms of this emerging phenomena, and discuss the opportunities and challenges it presents.


Tiffany St James on “How to encourage citizen involvement into communities”
Tiffany St James is the former head of citizen participation for the UK government. She is a digital strategists who gathered a strong experience on how you can motivate people to participate in online communities.


David Galbraith on “Four trends for the digital world”
David Galbraith (co-founder of Yelp and co-author of RSS) will talk about the big trends he sees developing in the digital world, a provocative talk that will trigger reactions among the audience when he says that the long tail is dead or that there is a huge fight brewing between telcos and internet services providers.


Robert Scoble on “Trends and projects from the Silicon Valley”
Über-blogger Robert Scoble will show us the latest projects and trends he found while roaming the Silicon Valley for new ideas. His presentation is sure to make you write down a couple of URLs from new and exciting companies you had never heard of.


Claude Nicollier on “The reality of space”
Why should we continue to explore space? What are the next frontiers to be crossed in the coming years? What is the democratization of space going to bring to the world? Astronaut Claude Nicollier – with four trips to space under his belt – will share his vision for the future of space exploration.


We offer multiple ways to participate in the event. Buy your ticket, ask for a student pass, become a volunteer, or propose a workshop and you might end up speaking! See you at Lift11 :)

Lift10 program in 140 chars

I hope to see you at Lift! We have an amazing program (20 keynotes, 30 workshops, 10 open stages), an amazing Lift experience (organized by the Geneva University of Art and Design) and a startups zone prepared with the cluster Alp ICT.

Here are the 20 keynotes, each presented in less than 140 chars:

  • Jamais Cascio, Ethical Futurist, why prospective matters and how to anticipate the future.
  • Rahaf Harfoush, New Media Strategist on the Obama Campaign: using Social Media for politics in the US, Iran and elsewhere
  • Yeon-ho Oh, Founder of OhmyNews: the story and future of citizen journalism.
  • Neil Rimer, Investor: Entrepreneurship and investment in today’s world.
  • Olivier Glassey, Social and Political Sciences researcher: myths and realities of online behaviors.
  • Catherine Lottier, TV program foresight specialist: how contents are influenced – or not – by technologies.
  • Amelia Andersdotter, Swedish Pirate Party Representative: how to leverage collective intelligence in politics
  • Mercedes Bunz, New media strategist: what opportunities for media in new technologies?
  • Christian Heller, Post-privacy optimist: the upcoming social norms, and how to navigate them
  • Virginia Mouseler, TV program foresight specialist: future of TV content
  • Felipe Fonseca, Brasilian media activist: hacking to climb the social ladder in Brazil
  • Antonio Casilli, Critical thinker: debunking the myths of the forever young users of digital technologies
  • Julian Zbar, Third culture student: how twenty years old use technologies
  • Richard Murton, Social Media Expert: social media for businesses
  • Russell Davies, Really Interesting Group: printing the internet out and into things
  • Basile Zimmermann, Chinese studies researcher: how china adapts and reinvents western web services
  • Aubrey de Grey, Eternal life advocate: aging as a disease, and how to curate it
  • Katrin Verclas, Mobile services activist: what does and does not work in mobile participation
  • Alice Taylor, Playful experiences builder: using games beyond gaming
  • Jean Burgess, Media studies researcher: the evolution of YouTube usage

Michel Bauwens at Lift Austria | Enable

I am in Vienna attending a Lift@home event organized by a local team of entrepreneurs and academics. Second talk of the day is Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives founder Michel Bauwens. John Thakara pointed in advance to this talk, he was right. Michel put some words on things “you don’t need a PHD to notice” but that, brought together in such a comprehensive way, connect into something powerful: a name for this movement most early adopters are feeling without being able to explain it further.

2 fundamentally wrong assumptions in our society:

– We think earth resources are infinite. But an infinite thinking within a finite system is wrong.
– We think we have to make cooperation difficult to make collaboration happen.

There is now a conscience that these assumptions need to change, and collaboration and openness are a key answer. Steps to make this happen:

1. identifying key aspects of openess (participation, transparency, “shareability”, access)

2. finding enablers of openness (a common language, assets, etc): definitions, code, licences, standards

3. infrastructures of openness: open meeting spaces, open territories (Regiowiki), open hardware (Arduino), open objects (eCars – Now), etc.

4. Practices of openness: open software (Linux), open designs (Honeybee Network), open knowledge

5. Domains of openness: education, science, business, government, spirituality (interesting to imaginea user generated religion…)

6. Products of openness: Open course ware, open books, open journals

7. Open movements: OpenMaterials, OpenCoalition

8. Open consciousness…

You can see Michel’s talk as a mind map here.

Lift10’s startup operation

We are getting better each year at bringing startups to Lift. In 2010 we are creating an integrated offer, with tickets + space to demo products and services to the audience + a chance to hit the big stage alongside Neil Rimer of Index Ventures fame, all this for 1’250chf.


I hope those of you who have startups in the region will enjoy this offer. For international entrepreneurs, get in touch with the team we will try to find a solution to give you some advantages too.