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Innovation

SXSW 2019: First Impressions

March 09, 2019
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Jesse Darley and I arrived Friday evening and walked the streets of Austin. We were immediately immersed in all things SXSW. There were music, crowds, exhibits, lines, homeless, clubbers, diners, all of it.

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Plausible Futures

While excitement for the future was palpable it was tinged with generalized foreboding. The responsibility we have for what we’ve created is starting to dawn on us. Amy Webb, in her “2019 Emerging Tech Trends Report,” introduced some trends and plausible futures ranging from optimistic to neutral to catastrophic. For each scenario, she estimated the likelihood, based on her data, of these becoming a reality. In all cases, the catastrophic scenarios were rated most likely to occur. We think this because the more optimistic futures would require behavior change, cooperation, and well…optimism. Oh, and AI is no longer a major focus. It is assumed and it impacts everything tech touches. 

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Howard Schultz, in his keynote, expressed fears that the two-party system is fighting extremism with extremism and in the process leaving most voters behind. He imagines a different future and uses the language of startups, hoping to “disrupt the system.” 

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Cross-cultural food brings international conversations ... with mouths full, of course.
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We got hungry

On a brighter note, kimchi fries brought together a couple Midwesterners, a couple Brazilians, some Swedes, and a German around the delight of Korean kimchi and American french fries. Proving that cooperation and cross-cultural exchange don’t need AI… just a food truck and a picnic table.

Future to the back

As we made our way back from the convention center to the Airbnb, we felt like we were traveling from the future to the past as we traveled from slick installations over heaps of garbage, and then under an overpass serving as a homeless encampment. Much like the World’s Fair, which resulted in some amazing, long lasting artifacts, inspired thinkers, inventors and artists, it also left in its wake some turbulence.

While this all might seem a bit heavy, we were also inspired to get to work designing a future that we want, not the future that just happens.

View all SXSW 2019 articles here

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