This year’s SXSW was characterized by an ambiguous approach to the future. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robots that will either spur development and lower our impact on the planet, or drive protectionism, poverty and anti-globalization. Here are our biggest insights from SXSW1).
When machine learning starts to have a real impact on the global workforce there is no telling how fast the development will be or how many jobs will be affected. The discussion at SXSW was not weather it will disrupt our current labor market but how to legislate and regulate this development to serve humanity rather than enrichen few and enslave many. If most of us are no longer required to work, or choose to do so for self-fulfillment while earning a base income, the role of corporations will most certainly have to be more purpose-driven. The discussion of robot work taxation, a global legislation and for Silicon Valley to do no evil needs to be held globally. Especially in America with its ageing Congress who lack in both interest and understanding of developing technologies.
The steep rise in disregard for journalists and publishing houses was the focal point of many seminars and panels. A lot of interesting initiatives to combat fake news was presented; for example, AP’s collaboration with Facebook to flag fake news stories and Cross Check, a global initiative to fact check stories in the run up to the French election. This is an important issue since everything from global warming to environmental hazards are now under debate. How will we solve the world’s biggest problems if nobody believes they are real?
One of the speakers this year was Kimbal Musk who elaborated on his ambition to transform the American food industry into a sustainable, transparent and holistic movement. He claimed that the food industry has fooled people over for so long that trust must be rebuilt at all parts of the chain, from serving healthy food at his restaurants at reasonable prices to buying land and setting up farms where good locally produced food is scarce. “You either build trust or you go away” was his firm belief on how to cater to the Millennials.
Terra farming and aquaponics is on the rise and may lower both transportation emissions, water use and require significantly less land to support cities with fresh greens. And once those greens enter the grocery store they may talk instead of being labelled and wrapped in plastic. By touch-activating vegetables they can tell you with their farmers’ voices where and when they are grown which will evidently help build trust and lower food waste.
We are rapidly forming and altering our world: from genetically modifying our crops to creating augmented and virtual realities and artificial intelligence. For the first time in history these changes might globally and permanently alter the way we exist – and, if most jobs disappear, so will our livelihood. Developed by a fraction of humanity – mostly white, male and middle class - these systems may affect everyone and it is therefore important to discuss what these systems will contain, how to legislate and regulate and make sure that they really serve the greater good. In short: the don’t be evil-discussion needs to get back up on the agenda again.
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1) South by Southwest (abbreviated as SXSW) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas, United States. It began in 1987, and has continued to grow in both scope and size every year. (Source: Wikipedia)