Avish Gordhan’s SXSW Diary: Day #1

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SXSW_1 (1).jpgAvish Gordhan, joint-ECD at M&C Saatchi Sydney is attending SXSW 2019 in Austin, Texas. Here Avish shares his experiences straight from the conference exclusively for Campaign Brief.

Popping my SXSW Cherry

This is my first SXSW. And (insert eyes wide open emoji). It’s intense and amazing. One moment you’re questioning the ethical and moral foundations on which AI is being developed, the next you’re watching the staff of the Daily Show tell you about their creative process. And inbetween it all, you stand in queues and meet randos with incredible minds.

My very first presentation was an interview with Howard Schultz – the guy who put Starbucks on the map in the 80s. It felt like he was using Austin as a sounding board for his future presidential campaign. There was a lot of rhetoric around pride and the American dream. And the only thing it didn’t have was a bunch of guys in singlets and trucker hats shouting U-S-A! U-S-A!

He made a lot of sense (which is a good start for an American presidential hopeful these days). But I was actually there for the next talk by Amy Webb. Pro tip: if you want to see something at SXSW, go to the presentation before and stay in your seat.

Amy Webb is a futurist and the author of a 2019 emerging tech trends report. It was an eye-opening presentation filled with an intimidatingly large amount of information.

Some amazing things (think underground farms in China and Japan that produce 100x more volume per sq ft, using 40% less power, 99% less water and resulting in 80% less food waste).

Some “huh?” things (like a car being developed by Kia with MIT that uses AI-based real-time emotion recognition technology to change the ambient environment of the car based on a driver’s emotional state).

Some worrying things (most notably, the prevalence of biometric scanning and data collection that’s happening all around us without a proper understanding of who owns the data and how it can be shared). If someone owns the data on your DNA, do they own your body?

I’ve only been here a short while. But I can tell what I love most about SXSW already. It’s the diversity of learning and discussion. You can have politics for breakfast, tech for lunch and philosophy for dinner. Oh and whisky after all of that.

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