SXSW: March 10 2018

Saturday was a hot day in Austin—the high was around 90—but most of my time was spent indoors at Interactive sessions or Film screenings. I had no time to search for free food, but I did get to eat both lunch and dinner while watching movies at the Alamo Ritz.

The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Daniel Pink explained that he spent two years investigating existing research on timing. This resulted in his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. He focused on three major points:

  1. The hidden pattern of the day profoundly affects our mood and performance. He talked about a Cornell study which analyzed 500M tweets. The study found that positive mood rises in the morning, dips in the afternoon, and recovers again in the evening. This seems to be true across multiple studies. He gave some examples using Big Data analysis: earnings calls, standardized test scores, errors in health care. For most people (excluding night owls), analytical tasks should be done in the morning, administrative tasks in the evening, and then tasks requiring insight in the evening. He then tied this analysis to work tasks, including the timing of meetings.
  2. We underestimate the power of breaks. His primary example was related to a study of parole decisions in Israel which found that judges were more lenient after breaks. We should be taking more breaks: even short breaks, try to move around, be with others, go outside, and be fully detached. He recommends to schedule breaks throughout the day.
  3. Endings help us energize and elevate. He pointed to some examples: 29 year-olds are most likely run their first marathon, more people are likely to cash in a gift certificate within three weeks than two months, and giving bad news first and then the good news.

The World Beneath Our Feet

This documentary follows Matt Green on his quest to walk every block in New York City. After the screening, he and filmmaker Jeremy Workman answered questions from the audience. Green has covered about 8600 miles and estimated that he has at least 1000 more to go. I highly recommend this film to anyone who loves the city.

Christiane Amanpour on Sex & Love Around the World

I arrived halfway through Kara Swisher’s interview with CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. The women discussed the diminishing leadership role of the U.S. throughout the world. Amanpour started as a CNN desk assistant and noted that most of her mentors were men. She observed that young people have a better tolerance of acceptance than previous generations.

Convergence Keynote: Ta-Neisi Coates

Ta-Neisi Coates, a writer for The Atlantic magazine, was interviewed by his editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg. Coates also writes the comic Black Panther, the basis for the recent movie. This week Coates announced that he will also become the writer of Captain America. He is “oddly optimistic” about the discussions around racism in journalism right now. He explained that he prefers to dig deeply into particular subjects. He blogged throughout Obama’s presidency, but did not agree with all of his policies. He tries to “write angry…with tenacity and heart.”

Walter Isaacson on Hacking da Vinci’s Genius

Author Walter Isaacson observed that Leonardo da Vinci combined creativity with technology. Born out of wedlock, he became the most creative person in history. We know what he looked like due to various sketches. Leonardo started by designing costumes and scenery for plays. His interest in science was reflected in his art. He was fascinated by spirals and never stopped asking questions. Throughout the session, Isaacson drew parallels between Leonardo and Steve Jobs, who was the subject of his previous book.  Isaacson noted that Leonardo’s paper notebooks still exist, but he was unable to access many of Steve’s emails due to technology obsolescence. I had read both books and enjoyed how he tied them together in this talk.

7 Non-Obvious Trends Changing the Future

Robot Bhargava first talked about how to spot trends. He quoted Isaac Asimov: “I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.” He rewrites and republishing his trend guide every year. The secret of non-obvious thinking is curating your ideas. Here is his 2018 list of non-obvious trends:

  1. Manipulated outrage: online and in the media
  2. Ungendered: will need to reevaluate gender bias in products and marketing
  3. Human mode: more human interactions along with more automation
  4. Light-speed learning: small, quick chunks of education
  5. Enlightened consumption: by both businesses and consumers
  6. Disruptive distribution: direct delivery, flex space
  7. Lovable unperfection: some mistakes and imperfections may be OK

Ruben Blades Is Not My Name

Ruben Blades is a popular singer, songwriter, actor, and activist. He grew up in Panama and now lives in New York City. He also has a law degree from Harvard. He told that audience that he is approaching 70 years-old and decided to tell his life story in his own way. In case you were wondering, his full name is Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna.

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