Don’t Fear the Future

With next year’s SXSWi conference fast approaching and tickets already on sale, we decided it was time to reflect on what’s happened since March. One predominant theme at the last conference appears to be trending everywhere now—Artificial Intelligence (AI). The only difference is that what we heard at SX and what we hear now are dramatically different.

Currently, every article we come across is focused on the loss of jobs and the inevitable dystopian future caused by the rise of super-intelligent machines. Great fodder for movies and headlines, but how much of that is reality vs. science fiction?

Malcolm Frank, a speaker at one of the sessions, had a more positive outlook for the future, stating that the fear of AI taking over jobs shows a stunning lack of imagination. He brought up a phenomenon known as the “Budding Effect,” named after Edwin Budding, the inventor of the lawn mower, and how that single invention ultimately led to today’s $620 billion sports industry.

While many jobs will be displaced due to AI, mainly rote work, entire industries will spring up that we can’t even begin to imagine. Not to mention, we’ll look back on this current time and be shocked by what we were okay with. Take cars for instance. Tesla’s self-driving car technology has clocked over 200 million miles and has already been proven to save lives and reduce accident rates. Imagine five years from now—it’ll be considered wildly unsafe to get into a car that a human is driving. Other industries, from healthcare to insurance to the legal system, will also see dramatic changes thanks to AI. Needless to say, there’s a lot to look forward to in the near future.

Another speaker, Melanie Cook, took the doomsday scenario very seriously and made a great point stressing the need to focus now on creating an AI that’s a friend and not a foe. One that’s designed to augment rather than replace. And we need to program it in a way so that it instinctively knows right from wrong.

There’s no doubt AI will continue to be a hot topic at next year’s SXSWi festival, and we look forward to seeing how the conversation evolves. All in all, we side with Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings, who after being defeated by IBM’s Watson, stated “I for one welcome our new computer overlords.”



The lawn mower helped kick off today’s sports industry. Imagine what new industries will develop from AI.