“In most of us, by the age of 30, the character has set, like plaster, and will never soften again.” So says William James in The Principles of Psychology. After 30 years of SXSW, the swarm of technophiles creating a buzz around the streets of Austin was hardly softened (although, a few were indeed a bit plastered).
From the outset, SXSW exhibited many of the traits that you would imagine any 20-something-year-old turning 30 would show: Excitement about the opportunities ahead, some fear about the future and desire to prove that their 30s would not slow them down.
This year, as in years past, there was no shortage of sessions to attend, new technologies to experience and new connections to be made – and as biased as I am, there is no doubt “You’ve Been Hacked: Now What?” was the best session of all.
While some may question whether the days of SXSW discovering the next Twitter are gone, some key trends emerged that will be flying into the public awareness shortly.
Six key trends
As Elyse Derian shares, authenticity is king. Engage your employees, consumers and other external stakeholders in an authentic way if you want their trust – and their dollars.
Whether we’re talking about autonomous cars or autonomous experiments, we have reached the period where our machines and data are being engineered to run completely without our intervention. Based on the discussions, this is either very exciting or very scary.
Oculus Rift’s Kickstarter campaign launched a technology that every gamer in your family will want to own. But, if you think that is the only purpose of VR, then SXSW dispelled those notions with every step one took past the exhibition stands. If you can’t get your kids’ eyes off their phones now, wait until your mom is meditating with a guided yogi in her VR goggles.
Calling all philosophers! Many of the topics discussed raised more questions than answers. And more often than not, those questions were ones of ethics: Should we collect and use data in “that way”? Is artificial intelligence playing God? How should autonomous cars be programmed if they have to swerve to hit one person in order to avoid an accident? Perhaps SXSW Interactive 2017 will have a few more PhDs from the philosophy department on their panels to help answer those dilemmas?
The message to the tech world was very clear: diversity is critical if the tech community is going to solve tomorrow’s problems. There was a lot of talk about what tech companies should be doing, but as one of the panelists said (to loud applause) at a closing panel, “I don’t think the tech community should be talking anymore and should just be doing.”
While there wasn’t much discussion about William James’ specific book, there was no escaping talk about the principles of psychology and behavioral economics. Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler may not have been in Austin, but their ideas were certainly present during the panels and discussions.
SXSW Interactive 2016 has come and gone. Now that its friends have left the 30th celebration, SXSW will no doubt prove that its 30s will be its best decade. We’ll see you again next year in Austin!
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