SXSW interactive festival day 1: Staying Weird, Robots and Google's Eric Schmidt

Friday saw Day 1 of SXSW Interactive kick off for 2014 in Austin with a whole load going on. Chief Creative Officer Europe for SapientNitro, Malcolm Poynton, was in attendance and summarises some of what he saw and heard on the day.

Austin residents say they want Austin to stay weird. With streets numbered in halves and taxis that apparently drop you at the door, 'literally' (see pics attached) I'm not sure they need any help. But just in case, SXSW brings topics that everyday folk would definitely find weird on many levels:

The "embrace robots" theme keeps popping up. We hear people argue that life would be better if we let bots do the boring stuff, and that it won't create unemployment, instead it'll create more up skilled opportunities. (US stats say there's already a lack of workers skilled with modern technology so there's an opportunity gap to close already. The world definitely needs to learn the languages of modern technology, be that code or human machine interaction.)

On the theme of Data Permanency, Google’s Eric Schmidt says: “Tell your kids about data permanency before you tell 'em about the birds and the bees. “ It's going to matter more than ever.

The data is theme is maturing to be less about gathering data and more about what we do with it. The Quantified Self theme makes you realise we've started to gather the data, but in reality are doing bugger all with it. Of course that raises the question about who owns the data - nation states? corporate enterprise, individuals? And of enterprises, are we ready for enterprise to own our personal data? Do we understand how empowered that makes them? Will we end up with internet visas as we move from nation state to nation state? And when they start to encrypt that data in their own unique way, how does that limit its use beyond their own ecosystem?

The Mobile theme continues to morph and the data that it surfaces has pros and cons. A mobile in Somalia may be liberating; equally it could get you killed. What you 'say' and where you go have consequences.

The one thing I haven't seen is the swarm of drones I expected to see. Squawking grackles by the hundreds of thousands, yes; humming drones, none. Perhaps next year we'll see grackles vs drones.

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Malcolm Poynton

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