What's the Upcoming World AI Conference Looking Like?

What's the Upcoming World AI Conference Looking Like?

Co-organizer provides overview

Philippe Belien expects the fast-approaching World Appreciative Inquiry Conference (WAIC) to be a provocative and energizing experience that also yields an abundance of useful take-aways.

The substance of the keynotes is robust, and includes David Cooperrider on large-scale social innovation through generative and connecting Appreciative Inquiry (AI) practices, Ron Fry and Gervase Bushe on generative inquiry and Ken Gergen and Danielle Zandee on social constructionism, meaning making and world making.

Philippe Belien

Diana Whitney will also speak on cross-cultural and cross-religious meaning of connectedness, Klaas Van Egmond on the next step for society and how AI fits in, Anastasia Bukashe on making a new South Africa and Ilma Barros on regional development in Brazil driven by AI.

In addition to other keynotes, there is a roster of workshops, with presenters coming from more than 20 countries and all continents.

The conference also includes a couple of unique performances, including a live act by the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project and a presentation from Playing for Change, an initiative seeking to build global unity by inviting people worldwide to co-create musical numbers.

Philippe expects the conference to spark hope and renewed energy through the connections delegates make and hundreds of ideas for practical applications they take home.

He also speaks to the energy people can expect to find in the room.

“It’s not just positivity. It’s collaborative research; it’s really investigation into what you are doing, what I’m doing and how we can learn from one another.”

Asked what the conference offers to advance global change, Philippe says he’s grappling with whether that’s the best way to present and consider this gathering.

He recalls AI thought leader Gervase Bushe making a comment in a recent meeting of the WAIC international advisory board to the effect of “a good challenge, a good question, finds it own reason.”

Philippe adds he has to remind himself that considering one’s work as “doing good on a local scale” might make more sense than trying to lift to a global level. There’s danger in putting too much stock in the justification of the work you do in “the unknown, in the uncontrollable,” which could yield a feeling of disconnect and hopelessness.

"I think that the reason why we got stuck in so many words and sometimes too little action, is the concept of globalization, at least the way globalization is manifested nowadays. It is just too far away to (feel) connected with," says Philippe.

"The way out is to expand our relational network.

"Not just our knowledge, but also our hearts have to be connected in order to be able to act 'glocally,' that is, local action for global good. The good news is that we have the technologies to do so," he notes, adding the expectation is that WAIC will give an extra boost to these connections. 

To date, more than a couple hundred people are signed up for the conference, including those from the current AI community of practitioners and researchers. The challenge is to further extend exposure to the business community, says Philippe, which he feels is critical to involve.

He adds he sees this conference as very timely for all.

“We are close to the limit of globalization and internationalization as we experience it today, that is, economic globalisation, without true social globalisation.

"We need to shift to an other aspect of globalization — connectedness.

"Connecting across differences and (across) deviation, or unexpected disturbances, is the normal, natural way forward for any system that encounters a crisis. So will our system do. That's why we think bringing these people together on this topic is so worthwhile.”

For a related story, click below:

World Conference Seeks to Expand Appreciative Inquiry Conversation

For more on the World AI Conference 2012 to be held April 25-28 in Ghent, Belgium, click here.

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Michelle Strutzenberger

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