SXSW Moments: Future of AI

The Forrest Four-Cast: July 2, 2019

Did you miss something at SXSW 2019? Want to relive the magic? Look to this space over the coming weeks for links to video and audio replays of some of the most incredible experiences from this year’s event.

There’s widespread agreement that Artificial Intelligence holds unprecedented opportunity for change. There’s less agreement about whether or not that’s a good thing. Several years ago, the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said, “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.” Panelists at SXSW 2019 examined the promise of AI from a wide range of angles and viewpoints.

How AI Will Design the Human Future
Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics enable us to replace limbs, translate dreams into pictures, interpret neural signals, and gain insights into our genetic makeup. Countries like China are investing in programs to raise IQ scores by up to 15 points every successive generation. Capabilities like these, unthinkable for most of history, raise existential questions: What, if anything, is the essence of what makes us human? How can AI augment our intelligence? Should we use it for that purpose? Do we have a choice? This panel draws on the knowledge of a diverse group of science and technology experts to explore the economic, ethical, and existential implications of using AI and robotics to enhance humans of the future.

Ethics and AI: How to Plan for the Inevitable
AI is influencing our lives in powerful ways, but are we prepared to handle the unpredictability of tomorrow? This panel covers how the intersection of AI and ethics can help plan for the unknown. Speakers highlight how a leader’s background in ethics can help AI stay beneficial to humanity, rather than be a threat. Panelists bring unique perspectives from industry to academia that will empower participants to proactively build more transparent, explainable, and accountable AI systems.

Beyond Reality: The Convergence of AI and Immersive Tech
We’re currently witnessing the coming of age of both AI and Immersive technology. The potential for both technologies is incredible, but pales in comparison to the convergence of the two through Cross Reality (XR). This session discusses the intersections and applications of XR. For instance, how AI smart agents improve training and simulation and how immersive technology can be used to train AI. Speakers also dig into the role of location in this convergence, touching on the concept of spatial computing, AR Cloud, and pervasive Augmented Reality.

The Age of Smart Information
M. Pell talks about how AI and Spatial Computing will fundamentally transform the way we communicate. This monumental leap forward in conveying information has always been there in front of us, waiting to be unlocked. All it took was the convergence of human ingenuity, AI, and the rise of a medium capable of magic. Bold, insightful, and uncompromising, Pell leads design for The Microsoft Garage, the company’s outlet for experimental projects and curiosity-fueled explorations worldwide. He is recognized as a thought leader in the fields of Holographic Envisioning and Smart Information. The newly released edition of Pell’s latest book, “The Age of Smart Information,” details how the fundamental nature of information is transforming due to AI + XR.

Learnability: Keeping Your Edge in the Age of AI
The world is changing at a pace faster than humans are wired to comprehend — too much, too fast, too complex. The more disruptive the change, the more foundational skills matter. This session, featuring Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Executive Editor for the Infosys Knowledge Institute, provides a practical, executive perspective on how to excel in any field through traditional consulting skills like critical thinking, communication, and analytical reasoning.

Behind the Intelligence: Active and Passive AI
While the industry is abuzz talking about the rise of artificial intelligence, the technology itself is not new — AI has been all around us for a number of years now, but was called different things. From automating analytics to shortening the process of online discovery, we’ve been interacting with AI without even knowing it. As such, the labeling of AI is simply not accurate enough. In this conversation, experts in AI dive one layer deeper into the technology in order to differentiate between the two primary types in our lives — Passive AI and Active AI. They discuss the increased role of both in our everyday lives, and explore the opportunities AI can create and the possible outcomes that will radically change the ways we interact with technology.

Data Science Unicorns and Silver-Bullet AI
Forewarning: they won’t call AI a “silver bullet,” unless your problem is a werewolf. Mythology around data science and AI is building quickly, but buzzwords have led to buzz kill when it comes to implementation. This panel of experienced data scientists discusses the who, the what, and the how of data science. Is a PhD in data science and 20 years of experience necessary to be useful? What about visualization, TensorFlow, and the cloud? Can we slay dragons without neural nets? Are we missing that extra ‘Spark’? What’s the best way to hire data scientists, and where do you set the bar? How can diversity drive your data efforts further?

VCs Reality Check for AI Hype
AI has become hyped in the media with futuristic stories, but in reality, AI adoption is relatively low. This panel discusses the types of AI startups VCs look to fund, showing investment dollars are shifting away from unproven futuristic ideas and toward more pragmatic, foundational AI infrastructure. These are the underlying tech companies that survive long-term and provide real returns. Panelists also discuss the specifics they look for when assessing an AI company in the pitch room.

New Tech, New Peril, New Answers: it’s a BHR World
Developments in artificial intelligence and new tech are paving the way for dramatic and positive … with peril if we aren’t innovating responsibly. Learn what it means to design technology with human rights from speakers including Michael Samway, President of the Business and Human Rights Group and adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University in the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program where he leads an initiative on business, human rights and technology. Alexandria Walden, a public policy and government relations counsel on Google’s international relations team, focused on free expression, also speaks.

AI and Social Media: How to Take Control
Four million hours of video uploaded to YouTube. 67 million Instagram posts. 650 million tweets. Welcome to just one day on social media. There are more ways than ever to integrate AI into marketing and social media campaigns as a means to bridge the gap between science and execution. This session discusses the vital role AI is playing in the future of marketing, helping marketers understand how to maneuver AI to their advantage. In a world where strategies are content led, Steven Bartlett, the 25-year-old CEO of The Social Chain Group, shares how to optimize the production of content to incorporate the consistent, pioneering changes within the digital world.

AI Creates Cashless Cities and a Borderless World
Ant Financial is using AII (Artificial Intelligence Integration) to provide equal opportunities to hundreds of millions of users in China. This AII is not only helping to build cashless cities but also to create a borderless world in which more users can easily leverage services that are previously exclusive and unimaginable. Shanying Leung, Design Director of Alipay, the world’s largest mobile payment platform, will discuss how this cashless system has changed day-to-day life in the Far East and how these advances in AII technology will eventually transform payment ecosystems in other parts of the globe and make for a more connected human race.

More Memories from SXSW 2019
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
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.




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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Hugh Forrest

Hugh Forrest

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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