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Pattie Maes is coming to Shift

Thomas Smolders
Resident Writer

On November 6, more than 300 digital deciders will gather in Ghent for the newest edition of Shift. The annual boutique conference by In The Pocket will be closed by one of Belgium’s hidden gems: Pattie Maes.

Maes has been appearing in the international press and rankings for years. Time placed her in the "Cyber Elite", a list of 50 high-tech pioneers, while De Tijd did the same when they chose their “50 Belgian Tech Pioneers”. According to FastCompany, she is one of the 50 most influential designers in the world.

Human-computer interaction and AI

In 1989, Maes moved to the United States, where she started working at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There she became a leading authority on human-computer interaction and AI. Maes and her MIT team have developed new devices that help us perform better – from learning a second language and making smarter decisions, to everyday repairs and manual chores.

Pattie Maes was also the key architect behind what was once called "collaborative filtering" and has become a key to Web 2.0: recommendation engines. It’s the software that allows Netflix, Amazon and Spotify to recommend you new movies, items and songs based on what your friends like and it’s mostly based on Firefly, a technology created by Pattie Maes’ Software Agents program at MIT.

As seen in her highly viewed 2009 TED Talk, Maes focuses on the disconnect between our devices and the context of our physical surroundings and our individual interests and goals. The result: Maes contends that we cannot reject our “cyborg selves,” as the technology is here to stay. We must instead center on integrating these revolutionary accessories with our own physical bodies and mental states, so that we can act as whole beings rather than as distracted smartphone addicts.

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