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SXSW Moments: AI, With Feeling

The Forrest Four-Cast: July 11, 2019

Nearly every day, there’s a media story about robots moving into a hitherto human domain — from hotel lobbies to hospitals and even the soccer pitch. But for these robots to be successful, they need more than artificial intelligence, they need emotional intelligence. Several panels at SXSW19 focused on the challenges of building robots we can cheer for.

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How To Put Empathy Into Business and AI
Empathy is one of the most untapped levers of productivity in business. For companies undergoing digital transformation and becoming more customer-centric, it will be the new microprocessor for your organization’s operating system. This discussion covers the major challenges, including ethical issues, related to embedding and encoding empathy into your organization and Artificial Intelligence. The speaker is Minter Dial, author, filmmaker and consultant providing specialized services on brand and digital strategy. His last book, “Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence,” was shortlisted for the Business Book Awards 2019.

On Bots and Bias: When What Machines Learn is Wrong
How do humans build bots that don’t suck — especially when training data sources like Twitter or Reddit can corrupt them into Hitler-loving sex robots in 24 hours? And WTF is up with gendering AI assistants female? In this discussion, industry-leading women debate hot button issues like when to use AI and ML — and whether or not it really works. Should we design conversational software based on UX and consumer preferences — which many cite as why we’d rather boss around Alexa than Alex — or do we build for a better society even if it means censoring data? Hear diverse perspectives from experts on the enterprise, developer, data analytics, and brand experiences to learn critical bot building dos and donts in this rapidly evolving ecosystem. With Nicole Karlebach of Verizon Media, Peter Micek of Access Now, Michael Samway of the Business and Human Rights Group, and Alex Walden of Google.

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Empathetic Technology and the End of the Poker Face
AI, machine learning and radical sensor advancements move us beyond “one size fits most” technology to an era where devices interpret behavior and body signals (voice, gaze and more) to empathetically adapt, respond and enrich our lives. But what will the world look like when our tech knows more about us than we do, revealing our private, internal state? How will we cope with the loss of our “poker face”? Can we design in humanity’s best interest? Poppy Crum is Chief Scientist at Dolby Laboratories, responsible for integrating neuroscience and sensory data science into algorithm design, technological development, and technology strategy. She also holds an appointment as an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University in the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics and the Program in Symbolic Systems.

Chatbots in AI: Business, Legal and Ethical Concerns
More than 1.3 billion people use Facebook Messenger. Messenger, Alexa and other virtual assistants allow brands to communicate directly with consumers and deliver highly relevant content. But while virtual assistants offer many benefits, they also create business, legal and ethical challenges. Cambridge Analytica and the GDPR, in particular, added challenges to the landscape in 2018. Check out this fascinating discussion on virtual assistants, Big Data, and AI.

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Will Machines Be Able To Feel?
The Turing Test is over. It’s time for context-aware, “emotional” machines. Aleksandra Przegalinska, assistant professor at Kozminski University and Research Fellow at the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT, focuses on affective/emotional data. This is an emerging and very promising field in AI that quite often tells us more about consumers than what they declare. Using case studies of existing affective data applications coming both from startups and the academic world, she discusses how to design proper methodologies for collecting emotional data.

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Bias In, Bias Out: Building Better AI
Artificial Intelligence is increasingly ubiquitous. Algorithms make important decisions that affect our lives, from how we are policed to what ads we see online, and yet the datasets on which they’re built are inconsistent, unrepresentative, and not always appropriately vetted or used. In other words, the problem with bad outcomes isn’t always the machine or the algorithm — it is often the health of the data itself. In an effort to address this problem, there are several initiatives and methods currently being tested to address dataset health. This panel brings together experts across industry, academia, and government to discuss methods for identifying bad data, and ways to appropriately address problematic inputs.

A New Approach to Tech Algorithms from Africa
Algorithms have become a mainstay of modernity. But not all algorithms are created equal. Hidden biases may result in missed opportunities, failed companies and misinterpretation or a lack of recognition of local contexts. Panelists discuss the need for locally created algorithms and provide lessons for AI developers based on their experiences creating algorithms in Africa for Africa and competing with algorithms destined for use on the continent but created and deployed from outside.

More Memories from SXSW 2019
Future of AI
Why News Matters
Better Storytelling
Innovative Design
Addressing MeToo
AI for Business
Public Interest AI
Change is Coming
Urban Mobility
It’s Time for Sports!
Saving the Ocean
Military Matters
Women’s Health
Social Media Power
Telling New Media Stories
Motherhood
Marvel’s Magic
Future Health
May the Fourth
Women in Tech
Growing Unicorns
Thriving at Work
Making a Difference
Fighting Fake News
Disaster Response
Hacking Democracy
Pete Buttigieg
Kara Swisher
Arlan Hamilton

Do these audio recordings inspire you to get involved in a SXSW session next year? Enter your forward-thinking speaking proposal for March 2020 via the SXSW PanelPicker. Speaking proposals for next year’s event are accepted via this interface through July 19.

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.

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Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.

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