The Imaginal Power of Movies & Visual Effects

This spring has been a prolific season for me to explore the imaginative power of movies and visual effects. I have been joining film festivals and (re)discovering acclaimed movies from the 95th ceremony of the Oscars to the upcoming 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. My mood for movies has inspired me to start reviewing a list of the top 250 films in a movement I call ‘The MooDvies IMAGINAList.’ This comes in addition to ‘The CREAtive TECHnologist,’ which focuses more on tech companies and tools, ranging from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Extended Reality (XR) to Visual Effects (VFX).

To start this journey, I couldn’t have found a better community than the Visual Effects Society, which organizes screenings for its members and networking events from Los Angeles to London. The society also publishes the magazine VFX Voice, its latest Spring 23 edition was particularly insightful in exploring the paradigm shift of Virtual Production (VP) described by major VFX studios. As generative AI is becoming trendy, the magazine couldn’t skip examining AI Art from the protests against this new set of CreaTech tools to understanding the limits of AI. I would also suggest reading another article published via Wired, which argues that AI will make human Art more valuable.

The VFX Voice magazine also highlighted the VES Awards winners, in particular, Avatar: The Way of the Water, which, as one may expect, won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects three weeks later. It is also worth mentioning The Art of Being Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, the sensational winner of 7 Oscars during the 95th ceremony, for its VFX with a budget 10 times lower than James Cameron’s production. These movies demonstrate how imagination, from the VFX of big productions to indie movies, can reveal simple facts about our human nature, family, friendship, and love through sci-fi while acknowledging the immense possibilities and absurdity of our condition in this world.


The Everything Bagel in Oscar-Winning Everything Everywhere All At Once directed by ‘The Daniel’s’ and produced by A24

Let’s start the ‘Voyage to the Edge of Imagination’ with the Science Museum and more specifically, the Science Fiction Film Festival, which was a great opportunity to join IMAX screenings and several talks. The panels included ‘Building Sci-Fi Worlds‘ with Paul Franklin — Academy award-winning VFX supervisor for Interstellar and Inception, as well as ‘How to Build an Android’ to discuss the imaginal power behind Blade Runner and Artificial Intelligence in general.

As we enter a new era of space exploration to the moon, Mars, and beyond, movies or even TV series, such as The Expanse with the Rocket Science VFX, are transforming our imagination in the same way as the seminal work of Stanley Kubrick, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ did five decades ago during the Apollo program. The visual effects, and practical effects in real environments cherished by Christopher Nolan, extend our imagination with a sense of accuracy and even discovery. A good example is VFX studio DNEG’s collaboration with Nobel Laureate Kip Thorne to create gravitational lensing by spinning black holes not only for the aesthetics of Interstellar but also for the publication of two scientific papers. Sci-Fi movies and VFX are a starting point for imagining the Design Futures of work, space, and species, or in short, ‘The WQrksPACE Futures’ that we can foresee as design futurists through architecture and (bio)engineering to develop autonomous machines and new construction in space without compromising the climate as well as biodiversity, thanks to the bioeconomy and hydrogen revolutions.

Blade Runner 2049 is another great artwork of a sci-fi world created by John Nelson — Overall VFX supervisor of the Academy Award-winning movie. He supervised a combined team from DNEG, Framestore, and six other VFX studios involved. Ridley Scott’s and Denis Villeneuve’s versions of Philip Dick’s novel explore, in their own ways, the status of being a person in the advent of artificial general intelligence (AGI). I would say that humanoid robots are more like a metaphor for understanding our cyber identity, personalized medicine, and personal assistants in the rise of chatbots (for now), and ultimately our desire for power and immortality. From another perspective, sci-fi movies and VFX are also sources of inspiration to imagine business solutions for digital wealth, health, and care, or in short, ‘The W3althCARE Solutions.’ As business solutionists, we can implement these solutions through product management and (bio-)marketing to improve ourselves using artificial intelligence and extended reality without compromising our well-being and, most importantly, our freedom.

Recognizing that fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth, as in V for Vendetta, we should be aware that the imaginal power of movies and visual effects can also be a means of propaganda or, at the very least, uniformity. That’s why I embrace the diversity of films, which provide us with different images, stories, and even revolutions of our times. The recent Hong Kong Film Festival UK, for example, reflected on identity as a migrant and raised questions about artistic freedom. The second part of The MooDvies Imaginalist journey would be to explore different mediums for telling stories and showcasing moving images, especially in the face of deepfake technology and the convergence of moviemaking and gamemaking.


Mindful Technology Leadership for Tomorrow’s Moonshots

We may remember this decade as the turning point of a new technological paradigm shift, with DeepTech: the great wave of innovation encompassing artificial intelligence (AI), synthetic biology, nanotechnologies, and quantum computing, among other advanced technologies.
My first thought was about the transition to an AI-driven society for the next 10 years considering Designing a Mindful Tech Xperience. In this way, I’d like to think of a Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, referring to a book written by Max Tegmark.
My second thought was about the Quantum Future of Information Technology with quantum computers expected to reach a million qubits and connect through a fully deployed quantum internet based on satellite constellations by 2030. One may wonder if Europe will have an opportunity to regain its technology leadership supporting the greatest DeepTech Minds to become a Quantonation and be more ambitious with a New Space Alliance.

Photo of la Manche / the Channel between France and England taken by Thomas Pesquet during his last mission at the International Space Station sent by SpaceX’s Crew-2 for NASA, ESA & JAXA

Billionaires technology leaders are turning their attention to tomorrow’s moonshot, such as the widespread of self-driving, hyperloop transportation, a 6G satellite constellation or space tourism by 2030. Although walking to the moon once again is scheduled for 2025, Elon Musk has a much bigger moonshot; a human mission to Mars is the new moonshot that may accelerate tomorrow’s moonshots.
After joining the International Space Station last year with SpaceX’s crew-2, the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet is already heading towards the US NASA-led lunar exploration as the ESA is involved in the Artemis program. Still, Europe may be left behind with two leading lunar exploration projects being an example of US/China power competition as we may also ask ourselves, “can Europe compete in the quantum ‘space race’?”.

Among Europe, France is keeping pace with the traditional leaders and even pushing ahead in some areas thanks to the quantum research pioneered by 3 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Although Alain Aspect didn’t get the Nobel Prize (yet), his pioneering research on quantum entanglement and quantum simulators may generate the next French Tech champion as he advises the entrepreneurs running the quantum rising star Pasqal.
Their quantum computer and others will revolutionise life science and chemistry research. For now, the mRNA molecule discovered by 3 French Nobel Prize winners in 1965 has allowed the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines. With quantum computing and mRNA, the Crispr gene-editing pioneered by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna are tomorrow’s moonshot to treat cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and even more diseases by 2030.

The Future of Life in the Universe still has many secrets to reveal. We have big hopes for James Webb Telescope en route to discover the origins of the Universe and study exoplanets. We can also expect more significant discoveries in nuclear research at the CERN, where Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989. From Web 3.0 to Life 3.0, it is time to be mindful of future technologies to embrace tomorrow’s moonshots reducing existential risk.

This article is part of the Mindful Future Technology series with Designing a Mindful Tech Xperience and Quantum Future of Information Technology

The Quantum Future of Information Technology

Although they may not transform information technology as a whole, it seems that quantum computers are already detangling nature’s mysteries, according to Wired. The speakers of their ‘Quantum Pulse’ event explained simply the secret of quantum principles, namely superposition, entanglement and interference, notably Strangeworks, which aim at making this disruptive field accessible to everyone. Oxford Quantum Circuits, the European challenger to the most known superconducting qubits developed by Google and IBM, and Riverlane, its Operating System partner, have also introduced more ways to build those logical quantum bits (trapped ion, spin, cold atom or photon) among the UK quantum ecosystem.

A cryostat at Google’s quantum computing lab near Santa Barbara, California, designed to keep a quantum chip at temperatures close to absolute zero JASON KOXVOLD (source: Wired)

A decade ago, I was fascinated by the disruptive potential of the quantum cyber-communication solution developed by SeQureNet; it may have been too early since the startup failed. Recent online events dedicated to quantum were an excellent opportunity to catch up with the new European quantum Tech rising stars members of the DeepTech cluster Systematic Paris Region. I have also realised that UK companies are now partnering with French ICT leaders to develop quantum networks based on the quantum key distribution (QKD) for cryptography. Another promising application is the development of quantum sensors to improve measurements with a new European leader in photonics and quantum technologies.

During this new decade, the tech giants have to compete with startups that are building quantum computing solutions to solve complex simulation and optimisation problems applied to pharmaceuticals, finance or energy. In this way, Pasqal is deploying quantum processors on-demand above 100 qubits and towards the 1000 qubits threshold, which allows testing concrete use cases in partnership with quantum companies and multinational end-users. The European information technology industry is also preparing for a quantum future, building the next generation of cryptography and electronics thanks to collaborative projects and leveraging ESA’s agenda 2025 to deploy quantum communication in space.

In addition to Wired’s content, French speakers can listen to the podcast Decode quantum to learn more about the discoveries of the 3 quantum scientists who understood the power of entanglement almost 40 years ago. Since their initial experiments, 3 French Nobel laureates have accelerated the second quantum revolution, which may one day create bio-inspired artificial intelligence based on quantum cognition and neuromorphic computing.

This article is part of the Mindful Future Technology series.

Designing a Mindful Tech Xperience

Events switched to a virtual experience during this global crisis triggered by the Covid-19, CogX organised in June 2020 from London was no exception. CreaTech Festival gathered forces to bring Creative Industries together with CogX Festival of AI and Emerging Technology that covered 17 other topics from HealthTech to Smart Cities, FinTech to Blockchain, EdTech to Industries 4.0.
CogX Festival supplements CreaTech Festival among the London Tech scene but competes with the Paris-based VivaTech cancelled this year. I mentioned both events at their inception in previous articles about the emergence of CreaTech Hubs and the move from French Tech to Crea Tech. In my view, CogX brought Tech event organisation to another level aiming at designing a Mindful Tech Xperience for a better future society.

In line with my previous articles, I envision CreaTech as a starting point for creativity & innovation to connect different fields instead of predefined creative sectors such as FashionTech or Digital Media. Furthermore, the CogX Festival also raised long-view issues related to ethics & society highlighting current trends in AI from fundamental research to cutting-edge technologies, or the so-called DeepTech, to foresee different applications for our future of work and education. CognitionX is building a knowledge-sharing platform and has launched a series of virtual weekly events CogXtra, to ensure a responsible transition to an AI-driven society for the next 10 years.

The 2nd CogXtra event addressed the question of The Tech We Want that sounds even more important in a world in crisis. The main challenge is to empower citizens, as explained in a fireside chat with Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang, who showcased how CivicTech could help to beat the pandemic and fight against misinformation.
Ultimately, we should ensure AI & data works for people and society thanks to independent organisations like Ada Lovelace Institute, the co-curator of this CogXtra. We must deal with several issues behind the design of global AI superpowers racing to create an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI); Ben Goertzel believes such a global intelligence will be decentralised.

I recommend watching the panel “How Autonomy Fosters General Intelligence in Robots” from CogX 2020 to understand the ethical issues raised by Sam Williams, who challenged Ben Goertzel about the risk of losing control in a decentralised network. In contrast, Ben reminds us of the risk of global powers led by totalitarian regimes controlling an AGI that may happen sooner than we think in his point of view.

This article is part of the Mindful Future Technology series

The (Ethical) Paradigm shift of Fintech and Blockchain

Finance and Technology are interlinked and evolve together in the perspective of the Evolution of Fintech. The last paradigm emerged in 2008 following the financial crisis based on the widespread use of information technology and the need for regulatory innovation. The same year, a paper titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was published by the unknown Satoshi Nakamoto, who created the well-known cryptocurrency, one of the first use cases of blockchain technology. One may wonder if this paradigm shift is an incremental evolution of Fintech or a more disruptive revolution similar to nuclear power or electricity.

If we look at some ethical considerations, blockchain gives rise to several issues in terms of security, privacy, efficiency and the integrity of the system itself, and the risk of crime and oppressive conduct that a mediating institution would otherwise offset. Those issues are only the emerged part of the iceberg of blockchain ethics which is a broader quest to redefine the value of our society since blockchain technology is changing the nature of money and organisations. In this way, we shouldn’t only consider the risks brought by the technology and the opportunity of blockchain for good based on evolved moral principles.

Fintech and blockchain are paradigm shifts in our society, with other technologies that include artificial intelligence and big data. Alone this paradigm is an evolution of Fintech. But combined with AI and cybernetics, this paradigm shift is a cognitive revolution that may either decentralise monopolies’ power or control the decentralised people’s power. That’s why blockchain ethics should examine what the technology can do and ponder the potential consequences, like the control of nuclear power that led to the atomic bomb or the electricity that led to the electric chair for the death penalty.

This article is part of the Ethics of Fintech & Blockchain series with the 5 key principles of digital currencies and cryptocurrencies and Are Digital Currencies the new Technological Power?

Are Digital Currencies the new Technological Power?

Money is increasingly digital with the emergence of virtual banking, online payment and cryptocurrencies based on blockchain technology. Although Bitcoin may not become a global reserve currency, it has opened the box for digital currencies created by private organisations and central banks that will compete with the Dollar. History has shown that the US Dollar will eventually stop being the world’s reserve currency. More importantly, cryptocurrencies raise ethical questions about the control of the technology behind which will impact the worldwide economy as never before compared to the traditional fiat currencies.

The emergence of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, and more recently, the launch of the project Libra proposed by Facebook, highlight the fact that technology is not neutral—it’s political and even geopolitical. For example, Zuckerberg faces US Congress on Libra, privacy and more. As an argument, Facebook warns Washington that Beijing wins if Libra plan fails. Indeed, the People’s Bank of China is racing to launch its digital currency to accelerate the yuan’s use internationally. Moreover, the Chinese Communist Party is adopting a proactive approach since President Xi Jinping calls for blockchain development to gain technological power.

The challenges of digital currencies are related to payment before the replacement of the U.S dollar as the world’s reserve currency. It starts with the rise of stablecoins such as USDC or Libra, central bank digital currencies (CBDC) and a combination of both through the synthetic CBDC model, which is a public-private partnership, with the rise of digital money. For example, AliPay and WeChat Pay are already required to back the money with the reserves of the People’s Bank of China. The Chinese central bank is about to increase its technological power with the launch of its digital currency in addition to the social credit system developed by the Chinese Communist Party.

This article is part of the Ethics of Fintech & Blockchain series

The 5 key ethics principles of digital currencies & cryptocurrencies

Blockchain technology is one of the elements of the current Fintech paradigm that is changing how our society defines money and organisations. Blockchain applications may not often be a revolution. Nevertheless, digital currencies have a disruptive potential as technology power based on the decentralization of trust. Taking into consideration the ethics of fintech and blockchain, we will look at trust as one of the key ethics principles, together with proximity, accountability, privacy and cultural lag. Then, we will introduce the ethical paradigm shift of fintech & blockchain and discuss the technological power of digital currencies.

Trust: Because of the decentralized characteristic of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, it’s difficult for the general public to trust their use since there is no central authority. Blockchain stakeholders are working with financial regulators to create a trustful framework to avoid money laundering, fraud and other associated risks.
Proximity: The rise of stablecoins fosters the adoption of cryptocurrencies because they are pegged to fiat currencies. People feel more comfortable using digital money that they are familiar with since they already transfer it online, although it’s not based on blockchain.
Accountability: The launch of cryptocurrencies by large TechFins companies raise the issue of their responsibility since it may affect traditional currencies and the whole economy.
Cultural lag: Blockchain has revolutionary potential to change world trade and monetary organisations, but it will take more time for companies and people to adopt the new system.
Privacy: Privacy may be the central issue in the long term since the blockchain is immutable. The risk is that everyone can access your information, or at least your pseudonym, in the public blockchain, in other words, a decentralised power. On the contrary central organisation may monitor all your information in a private blockchain that allows controlling of the decentralised power of people.

I recommend you join the online course FinTech Ethics and Risks from HKU FinTech to learn more about those 5 Key Ethics Principles with concrete examples in Fintech, including Blockchain, Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence as well as technological decentralization.

This article is part of the Ethics of Fintech & Blockchain series

The emergence of CreaTech Hubs

There is an increasing number of workshops and online courses dedicated to creativity, new technologies, innovation and design thinking which are crucial knowledge for sustaining the competitive advantages of firms. People who learn those soft skills and new competencies, combined with creative and knowledge-based workers (artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs), represent the creative class, which Richard Florida describes as the leading force of growth in the economy. Those creative professionals are essential for the attractiveness of cities that we can call “Creative Technology Cities” or “CreaTech Hubs”.

Major Tech Hubs from all around the world cover almost any tech vertical based on digital and key enabling technologies. San Francisco, well known for web technologies, has moved towards BioTech and CleanTech. Moving over FinTech, CreaTech and DeepTech are tech trends taking off in London. CreaTech is a new core vertical promoted by the British Creative Industries Council, which hosted the festival Createch 2017 to highlight sectors like fashion, games, design or media. Keeping in mind the wider range of the creative class, we should define CreaTech as a broader spectrum of Creative and Tech sectors.

CreaTech Hubs are cities at the core of the creative economy, a concept defined by John Howkins to bring together ideas about the creative industries, the cultural industries, creative cities, clusters and the creative class. In this way, CreaTech is a new paradigm that involves creativity, innovation and design at the intersection of technology to transform traditional sectors from RetailTech to Fintech. Digital transformation and smart cities are the factors of this incremental innovation process which, altogether with DeepTech (disruptive innovation based on substantial scientific advances), create innovation spaces.

Hong Kong – Shenzhen Innovation Hub

When I arrived in Hong Kong almost two years ago, the local startup community was booming with the first edition of the RISE Conf 2015. The number of startups has increased by 24% between 2015 and 2016, according to a Hong Kong startup ecosystem survey led by StartMeUp, and has doubled from 1,000 in 2014 to 2,000 in 2016. Many founders from overseas choose the city as a hub to start or expand their business in Asia with communities such as French Tech Hong Kong. There are also more and more locals among the founders, 63% in 2016 compared to 50% in 2015.

To gather the StartupsHK community, InvestHK organises an annual, one-week startup event StartMeUpHK Festival. The aim is to promote and encourage Hong Kong’s startups to showcase the city’s vibrancy, lifestyle and business scene. Among other startup events, another highlight is Startup Weekend Hong Kong. I organised the last Startup Weekend dedicated to healthcare and biotechnologies in partnership with HKUST students. Still, I think the lack of a culture of innovation is an issue, although universities are trying to foster more entrepreneurship and technology transfer.

The Greater Bay Area (Guangdong – Macau – Hong Kong) is an excellent opportunity for the Hong Kong tech hub to tap into one of the largest markets in the world, similar to Tokyo or San Francisco, and to benefit from the complementarity with Shenzhen. The government plans to develop the Lok Ma Chau Loop at the border of both cities into a Hong Kong – Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park. I recommend reading Benjamin Joffe’s point of view about this “ShenKong metropolis” that blends electronics, finance, and healthcare.

I share my overview of the Hong Kong – Shenzhen Innovation Hub as follows:

Hong Kong: an Asia-Pacific Fintech Hub
The complementarity between Hong Kong and Shenzhen for DeepTech
Wearables from FashionTech to BioTech

From French Tech to Crea Tech

After launching the French Tech Hub in Hong Kong with French entrepreneurs in 2016, I have come to find a new angle to talk about technology and startups, which prompted this new website Crea Tech came to my mind because it represents the entrepreneurial and creative sides of technology that should be seen at the intersection of business and design. The event VivaTech, which aimed to become the leading event in Europe dedicated to startups and technology, hence particularly interesting because it seemed to encompass the concept of creative technology.

Viva Technology Paris was organised from 30th June – 2nd July 2016 by Publicis and Les Echos for the first edition. The event gathered 2 500 startups to have a booth and join different challenges. At the event, I discovered promising startups through the spaces organised around several thematic labs (Automotive Tech, Fintech, Insurtech, Retail Tech…). Other areas were dedicated to Venture Capitalists, individual French Tech champions such as Devialet, global international leaders, local innovation centers and, of course La French Tech.

VivaTech was a really good opportunity for me to catch up with the Parisian and French Tech scene by meeting the startups and innovation centers. I spent a few more days in Paris before the event to feel the vibrant Tech ecosystem visiting NUMALa Paillasse and Usine IO. At the moment, they are quite representative of the Creative Technology scene in Paris, but the grand opening of Station F, which will operate as a huge campus housing 1000 startups, will certainly contribute a greater boost.