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EmTech Digital 2024: A thoughtful look at AI’s pros and cons with minimal hype

Enlarge / Nathan Benaich of Air Street Capital delivers the opening presentation on the state of AI at EmTech Digital 2024 on May 22, 2024. (credit: Benj Edwards)

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts—On Wednesday, AI enthusiasts and experts gathered to hear a series of presentations about the state of AI at EmTech Digital 2024 on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus. The event was hosted by the publication MIT Technology Review. The overall consensus is that generative AI is still in its very early stages—with policy, regulations, and social norms still being established—and its growth is likely to continue into the future.

I was there to check the event out. MIT is the birthplace of many tech innovations—including the first action-oriented computer video game—among others, so it felt fitting to hear talks about the latest tech craze in the same building that hosts MIT’s Media Lab on its sprawling and lush campus.

EmTech’s speakers included AI researchers, policy experts, critics, and company spokespeople. A corporate feel pervaded the event due to strategic sponsorships, but it was handled in a low-key way that matches the level-headed tech coverage coming out of MIT Technology Review. After each presentation, MIT Technology Review staff—such as Editor-in-Chief Mat Honan and Senior Reporter Melissa Heikkilä—did a brief sit-down interview with the speaker, pushing back on some points and emphasizing others. Then the speaker took a few audience questions if time allowed.

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