Think 2018

A look back at Think 2018

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At the end of March, IBM officially launched Think, the first-of-its-kind conference where thinkers from around the world gathered to put smart to work. Together, we took a closer look into the not-too-distant future to talk about the emerging technologies that will change the way we live and work.



Day 1: Kicking it off with the IBM 5 in 5

The highlights of the first day were the Science Slam, Think Academy, and the introduction of Think Campus. From IBMers to clients, social media fans to major media outlets, no one could get enough of IBM Research’s 5 in 5, the five innovations positioned to change our lives within the next five years. Talk of computers smaller than a grain of salt and “unhackable” data spread near and far, setting an inspiring tone as we kicked off the week.

In a new approach to professional development, Think Academy welcomed attendees early Monday to explore our innovations and engage with experts. In the evening, Think Campus was abuzz with thinkers from all over the world coming together to network, have some fun over refreshments and entertainment, and take their first look into the Campus structure with areas covering Business and AI, Cloud and Data, Modern Infrastructure, and Security and Resiliency.

Learn more about Day 1 at Think


Day 2: Let’s put smart to work

Day 2 was full of world-changing speakers and exciting announcements, beginning with the Chairman’s Address. Chairman, President, and CEO of IBM Ginni Rometty urged us all to put smart to work, an inspiring new mantra for IBM. She discussed how we are now at a pivotal moment — an inflection point for business, society, and all of IBM.

It’s a new battlefield, where we all must think about going on the offense, and many can win. “The answer is the data,” Ginni shared, advising attendees to learn exponentially, and make learning essential to every part of their business. “If you learn exponentially, you become the disruptor.” IBM believes that clients will seize this moment, be the incumbent disruptors, and benefit from the exponential rate of change.

She told clients that to win, you must:

  • Leverage digital platforms.
  • Embed learning in every process.
  • Empower people with all forms of digital intelligence.

IBM is focused on helping to augment the relationship between man and machine. She told us, “Our business model is not in conflict with your business model.” IBM is partnering with some of the most innovative global leaders to move us all forward into the new era of man + machine, an era of data and AI.

She then welcomed Lowell McAdam, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon, to the stage. “The plan for fifth generation technology will usher in the fourth industrial revolution,” Lowell predicted. The main topic of discussion was Verizon’s 5G and its potential to transform global business. “There’s not one industry that won’t be hugely disrupted.” Michael White, CEO-designate, IBM-Maersk Joint Venture, then joined Ginni in a conversation about their critical partnership and its efforts to transform industries with the help of blockchain technologies. “Blockchain will do for trust and transactions what the internet did for information,” Ginni said, as they discussed what’s next for the partnership, the industry, and the technology. She then greeted Dave McKay, President and CEO of the hugely successful Royal Bank of Canada, as they talked about how his organization is winning with data and putting Watson to work for exceptional client experiences.

“Our best bet is you,” she told the audience before she left to collect the Catalyst Award, a prestigious award for diversity that IBM has now received four times. “Make inclusion important,” she stressed, and clearly she’s following her own advice. Now it’s time for the rest of us to do the same. “Let’s put smart to work.”


The keynote immediately following the Chairman’s Address was the “The Journey to AI,” hosted by IBM’s Dr. John Kelly and David Kenny, featuring an impressive slate of guests: Gary M. Reedy from the American Cancer Society, Craig B. Thompson from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Jensen Huang from NVIDIA, Aaron Levie from Box, André Coisne from Orange Bank, and Barbry McGann from Workday.

Watson will change the world in ways we can only imagine. Dr. John Kelly talked about how we know that all data is doubling every 12 – 18 months, and that our challenge is to extract knowledge and insights from that data.

We continued the journey in the afternoon with IBM’s David Kenny, Arvind Krishna, and Martin Jetter, who were joined by three IBM clients whose stories demonstrated the flexibility and scalability of IBM Cloud. Maya Leibman of American Airlines, Walkiria Marchetti of Bradesco, and Alice Keung of Economical Insurance each touched on three key factors that made IBM Cloud the perfect fit for them:

  • It’s built for all applications.
  • It’s AI-ready.
  • It’s secure to the core.

IBM’s prime directive for more than a century has been to help their clients innovate as they move from one era to another. And that’s precisely what they’re doing now with the IBM Cloud.

Innovation Talks for the day included several speakers, including Lisa Ling, Executive Producer & Host of CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling, as she shared a mix of engaging stories that reflected the humanity and empathy that have made her a resounding success in her 25-year career in investigative journalism. There was a full house in the Modern Infrastructure Campus for beloved scientist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History and Host of COSMOS: A Space Time Odyssey. And from digitizing the human body to the colonization of Mars, Dr. Michio Kaku explored the technologies that he believes will have profound effects on human life in the next century: artificial intelligence, neural networks, brain-computer interfaces, and quantum computing.

Learn more about Day 2 at Think


Day 3: Quantum, blockchain & a better future for everyone

Day 3 of Think 2018 explored how blockchain, cloud, and quantum computing are accelerating the power of computing and progressing the way we do business. Inspiring speakers — including astronaut, engineer, and physician Dr. Mae Jemison, Sal Khan of Khan Academy, equality advocate and former NFL player Wade Davis, and algorithmist and neural network architect Tanmay Bakshi — discussed how emerging technologies today are quickly redefining the world of tomorrow.

In the quantum computing keynote at Think, SVP of IBM Cloud and Director of IBM Research Arvind Krishna was joined by fellow IBMers Jerry Chow and Dr. Talia Gershon for an exploration of how quantum computers have become a reality at IBM. Innovators like Kohei Itoh of Keio University and Seongjun Park of the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology also shared what they’re doing to better understand and explore this new era of computing. With IBM, they’re developing both guidance for quantum computing as well as working applications. Partnerships like these are what makes the IBM Q Network, the first commercially available quantum computing program, possible.


Blockchain was another hot topic as audiences discovered the possibilities of what a secure and unchangeable ledger could do for their enterprise, industry, and profession. Thanks to blockchain technology, our world is becoming more transparent, honest, secure, and connected in ways we’ve never experienced before. In Think’s blockchain keynote, three speakers with different missions all shared the unifying values of security and transparency. David Katz, Founder and CEO of The Plastic Bank; Frank Yiannas of Walmart; Wesam Lootah, CEO of Smart Dubai Government Establishment; and Marie Wieck, General Manager of IBM Blockchain, all discussed how blockchain technology has made exciting new projects possible.

“While cloud is the destination, hybrid is the path,” announced Faiyaz Shahpurwala, GM of IBM Cloud Platform, introducing the central theme to the comprehensive infrastructure keynote. He was then joined by Bryson Koehler, GM and CTO of the IBM Watson and Cloud Platform, and Distinguished Engineer for IBM. Bryson explained how a scalable, consistent full stack platform can do much more than address clients’ data and AI challenges — it can also attract the best developers by giving them the best tools to do their best work. Clients and partners, including TD Bank, VMware, and Hertz, then took the stage to share their stories of success.

Learn more about Day 3 at Think


Day 4: Data Science and Security

On Day 4, we wrapped up the conference with stories from revolutionary data scientists in the morning and an update on the state of security in the afternoon. Dr. DJ Patil, one of the most influential data scientists in the world, was tasked with making the largest organization in history — the U.S. Federal Government — a data-driven enterprise. Patil shared his revolutionary vision, drawing from his involvement with transformative programs like the Precision Medicine Initiative, Cancer Moonshot, and Data-Driven Justice Initiative. CTO of Cloudflare Dr. John Graham-Cumming took the stage in the afternoon to explore how the practical realities of the modern internet have forced malicious users to shift their strategy in performing online attacks. Dr. Graham-Cumming shared his views and discussed the latest efforts to protect web traffic from increasingly sophisticated attacks.


Now we’re bringing Think to you

Think 2018 was just the beginning. Throughout the year, we’ll be taking Think on the road and hosting dozens of regional events all around the world. From Beijing to Buenos Aires, Think is coming to a city near you. Think regional events are where thinkers like you will gather to make the world of business work smarter. It’s where the journey to business reinvention takes center stage, and where you can find the expertise to modernize and secure your enterprise.

Learn more about Think regional events

Senior Copywriter

Zach Brink

Audience Engagement Writer and Editor

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