SXSW: March 8 2019

Today was the first day of South by Southwest 2019. Each year I’m surprised by the crowds on the first day of SXSW. There’s so many people on the downtown streets and in the Austin Convention Center!

Welcome to SXSW 2019

SXSW Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest welcomed the attendees to this year’s conference. He explained the overall logistics and encouraged everyone to use SXSW as an opportunity to fuel their creativity. This year express passes can be requested for Interactive sessions, in addition to Film and Music passes. These passes need to be requested online at 9 AM for the next day. This change has forced Bill and me to plan ahead more. We can already see that we’re going to be confused about the current vs next day’s schedule. 

Brené Brown

The Only Unfollow that Broke My Heart was the title of Brené Brown’s Opening Keynote. She listed the people who are on what she calls her “Brain Trust,” which includes J.K. Rowling, Ken Burns, and Oprah Winfrey. However, the head of her Brain Trust was Maya Angelou who she actually met once. Brené has been studying the subject of belonging and spoke about four practices:

  1. People are hard to hate close up. Move in. (“unless your beliefs about me dehumanize me”)
  2. Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil. Her standard responses to today’s questions: Alarming. Gender and Race. Climate Change. “The amount of energy required to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” 
  3. Hold hands with strangers. Her example was the spontaneous community that formed in Houston after the Challenger explosion.
  4. A ministry of presence. She used an example of speaking to parents at Sandy Hook earlier this week. 
  5. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart. “Just be you, that’s the only thing you do well.”

Brené ended with a group sing-along of Townes Van Zandt’s song, If I Needed You. I wondered if her presentation was too touchy-feely for a tech audience, but I heard lots of positive feedback.

Maria Shriver, Alexandra Socha and Farida Sohrabji with Ashley C. Ford

Moderator Ashley C. Ford began this session with the fact that two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Maria Shriver encourages all people in their 20s to start taking care of their brain. Dr. Farina Sohrabji explained that depression is an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s for women. Actress Alexandra Socha talked about her mother’s experience with the disease. Maria’s interest began when her father had Alzheimer’s and she realized that women were not getting this disease just because they lived longer. Dr. Sohrabji is interested in how hormones result in sex biases. Her passion is to make sure that research includes both men and women. All agreed that everyone must be an informed patient. Maria is pushing for more caregiver support including time off. She said that a women is twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s in her lifetime as breast cancer. 

Since it was already past lunchtime, Bill and I walked down Rainey Street in search of food. We had just missed the free BBQ at Fort Worth house, but found tacos and acai bowls at lululemon’s place. We also visited the Garden of Earthly Delights, an outdoor venue advertising Netflix’s new series called Good Omens.

7 Non-Obvious Trends Changing the World in 2019

Rohit Bhargava first talked about what he feels are challenges for innovators:

  •  Unobvious Assumptions: Examples: the QWERTY keyboard, Dyson bagless vacuum. 
  • Constant Disruption. Examples: Trump merchandise, Casper mattresses. 
  • Believability crisis: Example: all natural Coca Krispies.

Bhargava then explained how he curates his ideas. He uses noteboxes to summarize/tag written notes that he takes. He also color-tabs his books. Here are his 7 non-obvious trends for 2019: 

  1. Retro Trust: deliberate downgrading, nostalgic experiences
  2. Muddled Masculinity: “Today’s Masculinity Is Stifling” – The Atlantic article
  3. Innovation Envy: hackathons, open office seating, 
  4. Artificial Influence: fake Twitter and Facebook accounts, virtual performers and influencers
  5. Enterprise Empathy: slow checkouts, empathetic bottle design, Grandkids-on-Demand
  6. Robot Renaissance: robot explorers, robothespians 
  7. Back-storytelling: content marketing

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

This documentary tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her blood testing company Theranos, which dissolved in 2018. Holmes and her COO/President Sunny Balwani have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. Director Alex Gibney explained that he became interested in the psychology of fraud while making this film and has decided that people are compelled by stories that they want to like. He had access to over 100 hours of footage from people within the company.

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