Top 5 takeouts from SXSW 2019

  • Robots aren’t going to steal our jobs

It’s official: Robots are here to make our lives easier rather than replace us. The focus of human processes automation is targeted on facilitating time prioritisation rather than replace human capabilities wholesale…

However, if you want to be really safe then guide your kids (or retrain yourself) along the path toward manual skilled occupations. Put simply, all the big tech companies are thinking about sexy stuff like AI generated architect and structural engineering plans, they’re not working hard to develop the next robot plumber, plasterer or crane operator.

  • AI is more hope than hype

The conversation surrounding AI seemed to have evolved considerably since we started attending SXSW in 2017. As tangible examples of the applications emerge and the benefits become clear, the nervousness seems to have subsided somewhat. The sector where AI feels like it is proving to have the greatest potential to deliver the most societal good is in Healthtech. The ability to use algorithms within tight parameters to aid frontline diagnosis (e.g. mole screening, retinal scanning) both speeds up the time to treatment, it also helps to reduce false positive referrals allowing overstretched physicians to focus on treatment.

  • Last mile logistics is a big opportunity for growth

I know I keep wanging on about the scooters in Downtown Austin but it signified a trend that really hit (and almost injured!) me. The interesting thing was that speaking to the locals, it wasn’t something that they felt was necessarily alleviating out of town traffic or reducing the number of cyclists. Day to day it seemed to be those who are far enough from work to consider driving/taking the train/taking a taxi because the walk is that little bit too far. The real city centres are spaces that are too varied for AI to automate the transport of people or ‘stuff’ so while London might be fighting the introduction of Scooters I think that in some way shape or form we will start to see Tech solutions for that ‘last mile’.

  • Fortnite et al. could signal the beginning of the end for traditional social media

A message being driven home all over SXSW was that Gen Z are looking for active rather than passive engagement from entertainment more than any other generation. Whilst it may feel a bit stretchy, Fortnight and other battle royale team games such as Apex Legends, have made team chat integral to the experience meaning young players are interacting constantly about tactics and much much more. Combined with the frustration of splintered messaging functions across apps, it seems Fortnite is set to shake up more than just gaming.

  • The insurance category is set for a shakeup

Another category also set for change is insurance. With the traditional model of car ownership under attack from all directions, including from the growth of last mile logistics solutions, insurance is understandably set for a shakeup.  All is not lost however! The prediction is that new models will emerge for insuring the person rather than the vehicle, be it car, scooter or something else shared. Furthermore, as AI application becomes more widespread, so too will the need to insure against harm. Companies will need to protect themselves if AI makes a wrong decision. I can see entire underwriting departments being created as we speak.

By: Fleur Horner

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