Iris has been attending – and speaking at – SXSW for most of the last decade (pandemics notwithstanding). We have always felt that it is one of – if not the – premier festivals of ideas and innovation. Not least, this is because of its interdisciplinary nature – bringing together creativity (film, TV & music) with technology and business. It creates a unique set of collisions and connections from which to divine the tidal forces shaping our collective futures.
As part of this annual pilgrimage, we like to bring back the best that South-by served up and provide a digest for our people, our clients and our partners. What follows in this post is a quick summary of some of the key themes from the festival this year. If you’re interested in going deeper – then get in touch to book in a private presentation.
South by Southwest 2023 took place this year amidst the backdrop of both the launch of ChatGPT-4 and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Whlist not causally connected, with some hindsight one can certainly see how those two things reflect where we find ourselves in H1 2023.
As I’ve tried to connect the dots, or find some way to summarise what SXSW 2023 was all about, I landed on one word that came up again and again in the talks I attended: ‘responsibility’. Or more accurately, ‘taking responsibility’. The imperative that I saw, heard and felt throughout the festival was the idea that we are at crucial inflection point – one that compels us to take greater responsibility for our lives.
Be it taking responsibility for our work, ideas and knowledge in the face of exponentially powerful new AIs; be it taking responsibility for our relationships in the face of digital technologies that seek to isolate or divide us; be it taking responsibility for our choices in the face of climate catastrophe; be it taking responsibility for our health and wellbeing in a world with rising levels of mental illness and novel viruses; be it taking responsibility for what we create and what we do in the face of generative AIs and deepfakes; or be it taking responsibility for our very humanity, and not having some silicon valley billionaire steal it and sell it back to us.
If that all sounds a little dystopian, then, well, I guess maybe it is! But then again, it would only be dystopia if we failed to take responsibility for the big challenges facing us.
The good news is that a week spent at South-by certainly left me brimming with ideas and optimism for how we might individually and collectively take greater responsibility. Whether it was Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert talking about how he is responding to the climate crisis; The Wu Tang Clan’s RZA talking about creative misdirection to maintain original thought; sex-tech entrepreneur Bryony Cole talking about the new ways we’re finding to create intimacy in our relationships; or author and podcaster Tim Ferris imploring us not to believe everything we think in the era of AIs and deepfakes. There are plenty of ways people are already taking responsibility in this new world we’re fast entering and new ideas and frameworks for how we can all do the same.
So, my take-out from SXSW 2023 is that we need to take greater responsibility for every facet of our work and our lives, now more than ever. And if you’re interested to learn more about how then get in touch and I’d be more than happy to talk with you further.