Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Future Investment Initiative (Riyadh)

I'm making my way home from the FUTURE INVESTMENT INITIATIVE 2019 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia​​​. At the moment I am sitting in a Lufthansa lounge at Frankfurt.

The annual event is sponsored by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, or PIF (Public Investment Fund), which is one of the largest pools of capital in the world.

The meeting this year had an AI theme, and I spoke in the AI and Health (genomics) session. The mix of people was very interesting -- VC, hedge fund, and private equity investors (among other things, looking for allocations from PIF), tech entrepreneurs, policy and government people, etc. There was a large Chinese contingent at the meeting, and a strong Huawei presence. IIUC the telco infrastructure in the Kingdom uses a lot of Huawei gear.

I got a Star Wars cantina in business suits vibe from the thousands of attendees at the Ritz. The various global tribes were there in almost equal mixture -- Americans (Silicon Valley + NY money), Euro-grifters, money men, technologists, spooks, government suits, Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Russians (even Sputnik News). The Kingdom is really at the global crossroads.

Right away on the first day I "bumped into" someone from the US embassy. Her card says State, but I suspect another agency with three letters.

My hotel was in the DQ or Diplomatic Quarter, not far from the Ritz. The DQ is separated from the rest of the city by serious security checkpoints. The Saudi soldiers like to wear their pistols low on the thigh with cool looking black polymer "gunfighter" holsters.

See also The Geopolitics of US Global Decline: Beijing and Washington Struggle for Dominion over the World Island.

Kaifu Lee and Stephen Schwarzman dialog.

Our panel on AI and Health was held here:

The gala reception in the King Abdullah Financial District. An interesting little drone hovered above the crowd all evening.

My speaker pass. I had a driver and was able to get through the numerous security checkpoints quickly using this. MBS has his own elite Royal Guard, and they were in evidence at the event.

Over the summer I also spoke at the Tallinn Digital Summit and the World Congress of Information Technology in Yerevan Armenia -- lots of travel! I haven't even had time to blog about these events. There are videos of my talks and panels I will try to post at some point.

TDS 2019: Panel on AI social and political impacts

TDS 2019 Parallel Breakout Sessions I: AI in Healthcare

Tallinn Digital Summit YouTube Channel

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