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Laurent Haug
Entrepreneur and investor
Entrepreneur and investor

Laurent Haug's posts

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Here is a talk I gave today on how the role of IT teams has evolved. I am sure this will trigger interesting comments my CTO/CIO friends.

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Disruption was not always synonymous with Silicon Valley. Between 1850 and 1914 Paris was the world capital of new technologies, business, but also arts, culture and... optimism! I take you back to the past in this week's Paleofutur with +Antoine Droux (audio in French).

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Saturday at 8:19 on RTS La Première, the second episode of Paleofuture will take you back to the time Silicon Valley was in Europe. If you missed the first episode find it below.

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Plusieurs guerres des taxis ont déjà eu lieu dans le passé, bien avant lʹarrivée dʹUber sur le marché de la mobilité. Dans le Londres du 17e siècle, lʹindustrie des voitures de louage se développe et provoque la colère des bateliers qui détenaient un monopole royal sur le transport des passagers entre la City et Westminster. Nouvelle crise au 20e siècle avec lʹapparition des voitures à moteur qui concurrencent les calèches. 

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+Sebastian Buckup is in charge of putting the +World Economic Forum's program in place, and in this article he takes a helicopter view to expose the correlation between concentration of corporate profits and inequalities. Artificial intelligence, although it will not put us out of work, will not really make this situation better. There are no easy solutions or quick fixes, we need to put this on top of our list of priorities alongside global warming.

"At the sectoral level, a couple of key industries – most notably, finance and information technology – secured a growing share of profits. In the United States, for example, the financial sector generates just 4% of employment, but accounts for more than 25% of corporate profits. [...]

Such concentration effects go a long way toward explaining rising economic inequality. Research by Cesar Hidalgo and his colleagues at MIT reveals that, in countries where sectoral concentration has declined in recent decades, such as South Korea, income inequality has fallen. In those where sectoral concentration has intensified, such as Norway, inequality has risen."

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Here is a project that is not going to help clarify the question I get all the time: "so what exactly is your job?!?" Well my job is to be curious and sometimes do unexpected projects like Paléofutur whose first episode was broadcasted this morning on +RTS - Radio Télévision Suisse. Paléofutur takes you back in time to show that our 21th century innovations often take root in old - even very old - ideas. I was blessed with having a great media professional take me by the hand through the show's production - the one and only +Antoine Droux - and the result is one of the projects I am the most proud ever. Please listen, like, share, comment, with a bit of luck this is going to become a recurring show beyond the summer.

See you every Saturday at 8:20am until the end of August. Next week: when the Silicon Valley was in Europe.

I had a breakthrough in my understanding of blockchain when I heard someone explain that conceptually it is NOT a network of computers. A blockchain IS a computer. Imagine that instead of millions of machines like yours connecting to each other, a blockchain is a super calculator of which your laptop is 0.01% of the CPU power and storage.

All resources are put together to form a sort of operating system to which users can ask things, like executing transactions or "smart" contracts. And that "super computer" happens to be the most secure machine possible (at least as long as current encryption systems hold) with several drawbacks, the most important being the relatively slow pace of execution and limited bandwidth for parallel demands.

It's the most secure form of computing because information is distributed to each participant that stores a copy of all transactions ever. So if someone wants to manipulate the truth they would have to concurrently hack as many computers as there are participants to the blockchain (or at least 51% of them) in less than a few minutes. The list of all transactions is a ledger (a sort of accounting book), with each new transactions added at the end of the ledger inside a "block". All blocks come together into a "chain of blocks".

The difference between bitcoin and ethereum? Both are super computers, both are powered by the blockchain, but bitcoin runs an operating system that only accepts financial commands (take money here, put it there) while Ethereum accepts more complicated commands (financial, but also logical so that one can program triggers and events resulting from those triggers).

Blockchain is a complicated subject. It is a truly revolutionary idea, and that's a first point. It's an idea more than a technology. Second, it's good at certain things, bad at others, so it will complement the existing tech rather than replace it. Third, whatever financial bubble is being built on top of it right now (bitcoin at $3000, Initial Coin Offerings) should not blind us into thinking that blockchain is irrelevant.

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A 1899 electric car: the "Helmann electric Boogie".
Via Wikipedia.

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That kind of news makes me think that countries should really reconsider how they handle data and critical IT infrastructure. Data sovereignty is a well known issue, not letting your "oil of the 21st century" feed another country. But a new factor to consider is cyber conflicts. What if Russia attacks the US and Europeans depend on search engines and satellites that suddenly stop working? My feeling is the future will be a blend of nationalistic countries (mostly those with a critical size: China, USA, Russia), countries with no strategies who will be increasingly vulnerable and subject to blackmailing, and countries who will try to spread their bets and depend on more than one technological partner. Bottom line: it might be a good idea to start learning how to use +Baidu, Yandex and Naver search. 

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A new era begins: from a religion, digital returns to what it should always have been: one of many tools available to 21st century businesses. A crucial, deep and new success factor, yes, but one that does not eclipse the immutable fundamentals that should guide any business now and forever: focus on customer needs, patience, common sense, operation around sane values. In this presentation (in French) given to the +Swisscom Dialogue Experience 2017 last week, I share this view and explain why I am convinced that in this new era Switzerland and Europe will have a major say in inventing the future that awaits us.
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