SXSW 2013 Part 2

A month later and here are the top 5 things I've talked about since returning from the US murray_SXSW1

8 Cities in 14 Days

Melbourne Los Angeles San Francisco Mountain View New Orleans Austin Detroit New York

... Then I shot a wedding the next day in Melbourne



Digital: Good & Evil

I couldn't help but wonder if all these new fangled digital doodads were pointing us towards imminent destruction.

Fortunately, I came to realise I'm not the only one counting down the days until AIBO becomes our robot overlord. While in Austin I came in contact with some truly extraordinary people who have dedicated a large proportion of their lives to a smarter, more sustainable internet for the entire human race.

These include, but are certainly not limited to:

Electronic Frontier Foundation (via Aaron Swartz) Tor Scott Belsky Al Gore Jason Silva The Imaginary Foundation The Big Think Ben Essen Bre Pettis & Makerbot Industries Google[x]

I keep a much better list of cool stuff here, but my point is this:

Digital is just like any other medium or pursuit that has permeated deeply into our lives. It can be used in as many different shades of good and evil as there are people on this planet. The difference is the speed at which digital outpaces not only other mediums, but often even the minds of those at the bleeding edge of it's design.

This speed of adaptation means that any hard and fast rules about how the internet should be designed or used are by their very nature, outdated by the time they've been created and debated. Which leads me to think that anyone ballsy enough to try and 'define the rules of the web' should preface those rules with a short disclaimer...

"The internet moves hella fast. Forget writing rules, these are merely principles to which we hope the global population will adhere whilst we navigate towards the digital horizon"

Rules are made to be broken. Principles and values can be designed to bend and incorporate the rapidly pivoting nature of digital behaviour.


Drones are flying under the radar

Get it? That's a drone joke.

Just ask these guys how many people are moving to rural Idaho so they can design and test their very own drones.

There are literally hundreds of business ideas I'd never imagined before sitting in a room full of drone fanatics (and critics). Not least of which is the most obvious... Celebrity stalking, which is no wonder that Hollywood is out of bounds for your new ArduCopter, so forget it pal.

Long story short, I participated in an awesome brainstorm and workshop session with the team from Google[x] where we came up with a long list of ways that drones could be used for good and evil (here we are again). There's no escaping the fact that drones make people nervous... Which leads me to my next point


The Internet of Things is upon us

Global connectivity is imminent. Emerging markets won't be emerging for much longer. Blah blah blah... You've heard it all before on ads at the airport, but consider this



This is an ugly image.

Forget for a moment what it represents about digital infiltrating our lives and those of our children (if you're genuinely freaking out about that, you're probably reading the wrong blog) but focus instead on the way they're interacting with one another.

Oh wait... They're not interacting at all.

Digital technology has brought us a long way from traditional education and entertainment, but it's still essentially a deeply anti-social thing to plonk yourself in front of a screen, right?

Google Glass is just the beginning of what I believe will take technology from being something we look at, to a mere extension of our being.

Forget the lame apps we are stuffing around with right now... When you realise you've just been reading this on a screen while facing away from everything else in the room, I hope you'll start to understand the sheer scale of opportunity that awaits humanity when we are able to perfectly integrate information into genuine human behaviour (like talking face to face, high fiving and even making love... NOW I've really got you thinking!).

And finally...


I come for the bricks, I stay for the mortar

After nearly a week on the road across the USA, like many other attendees I arrived in Austin pretty exhausted.

Then came the rain, which so very few of us were prepared for.

So hopefully I can be forgiven for saying my initial opinion of SXSW was 'why the f*%! did I bother coming all this way for a day of talks I could have watched online in the comfort of our Australian summer!?' What I came to realise over the coming days flew in the face of everything I'd heard about the personalised internet spelling the end of serendipitous, random discovery.

It slowly dawned on me that while I could probably sit in a similarly darkened room back home, streaming recorded talks by people like Al Gore and Elon Musk pontificating on the future of digital... That's not why I was there.

Sure, the keynote speakers are why we hand over $1000 per ticket and travel across the globe, but as any good networker knows, the real gold lies in connecting with like minds before and after the presentations. I'm not talking your lame old breakfast networking sessions... The regular smash and grab competition to pocket the most business cards and crusty old danishes.

I'm talking about genuine, serendipitous interaction with individuals cut from the same cloth.

People driven to listen and learn from your experience, as well as inspire you with their passion and maybe even involve you in their projects. People who, just like myself, can't quite describe why something matters to them so much, it just does.

And that's why I know I'll be back again.

I'll be back for a million reasons, but most of them can't be written or photographed... You'll just have to come with me.

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images via Hunckercast, Google & yours truly