Four CES 2018 Thoughts From Afar
Billed as “the global stage for innovation,” the CES 2018 show in Las Vegas comes to a close today. Watching the show from afar and reading through the many press accounts of the event, four of my top observations from the annual geek jamboree are as follows:
- Gender Finally Matters. CES received significant blowback (and rightly so) for its lack of high-profile female keynotes. The call for more female speakers at tech industry conferences isn’t a particularly new one (witness, for instance, this Jason Kottke blog post from February 2007). But the power of the MeToo movement adds a much sharper urgency to this push than we have ever seen before.
- The Robot Revolution. The advance of humanoid machines provided some of the biggest stories at this year’s event. People are incredibly excited about the potential of robots to improve our lives. People are likewise incredibly apprehensive about the potential of robots to marginalize our value. And, like it or not, the very odd possibilities of sexualized robots adds even more fuel to this fire.
- Heavy Weather. Too much rain was apparently the culprit for the symbolically appropriate two-hour power outage on Wednesday afternoon at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The effects of this January 10 storm should help remind us that almost all of our buzz-worthy advances pale against the very real impact of global warming. As Bruce Sterling noted in an interview in this space in December, climate change is always the world’s most under-rated trend.
- Shaky Future for Big Events. In TechCrunch, John Biggs wonders if the event should abandon Las Vegas for a more tech-friendly city. Perhaps so — but the reality is that few cities in the world can accommodate the kind of massive scale that CES currently draws. The better question here is how long gigantic gatherings of this type will survive in the more virtual landscapes of tomorrow.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.