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[SXSW 2024] The Big Wrap-up news

[SXSW 2024] The Big Wrap-up

Maurice Wenneker, straight from SXSW, Austin, Texas

My main reason for attending SXSW this year was the tremendous developments in AI. But, as always in Austin, it turned out to be the week where AI was put into a broader perspective. I tried to find my place between the tech evangelists and the doom-mongers. And last but not least, to come home with practical use-cases that we can immediately implement for our clients at PAKT.

A few takeaways:

The Supercycle is Here!

It's clear we are in the midst of a technological supercycle, comparable to the industrial revolution. No one can afford to ignore this. It's interesting to see that, as usual, we overestimate the short-term consequences (no, you're not losing your job next month) and underestimate the long-term consequences (yes, in two years, your job will definitely look different).

Data Becomes Even More Controversial

Back in 2014 at SXSW, we already heard "Data is the new oil". It was mainly about using data to identify your customers and where to reach them. Now, this data trains models that can precisely tell what your customers want. The amount of data needed is so staggeringly  large that we will have to engage in a lot of discussion (Read: lawsuits) about this in the near future. Consider, for instance, GPTs that can create commercials but are trained with films from directors who get nothing in return. Is that actually okay? And what does the business model look like then?


For years, AR & VR were promises that never really materialized. Since Apple rebranded this space to ‘Spatial’ with the Vision Pro, things have suddenly accelerated again. Two themes I encountered frequently at SXSW latch onto this.

Loneliness: A lot of screen time, especially on social media, makes many people feel lonelier. If a screen already makes you lonely, I wonder if it will get any better when we're all wearing goggles in our own little worlds.

Others brought up the point that all the sensors in the hardware around ‘Spatial’ generate data to train models. Especially the irises, if scanned properly, are said to have excellent predictive power regarding our thoughts. So, your Vision Pro, your Apple Watch, and all your handy home automation are actually data suppliers for the big models. And well, do we really want that?

Big Tech Have the Big Tools

Whether it's Microsoft, Amazon, OpenAI, Meta, or Google, the big boys are going to dominate in AI. They have the data to train models and the means to deliver AI to the consumer in a meaningful way. Just look at Microsoft's Azure, which can easily automate complex business processes, and you immediately feel this is going to change a lot. Sure, generating beautiful images is great, but if you suddenly reduce the costs of your lawyer, accountant, and digital consultant tenfold, you can imagine the disruption.

*Humanoid Robots*

We've seen robots in factories for years. Those are robots that can do one thing very well but nothing else. We rarely see robots that resemble humans and can help us with many different tasks. With the advent of AI, we are also seeing acceleration in this area. I found it enlightening that traditionally we think, hope, or fear that robots will replace people in certain jobs, but that's not the starting point for the creators.

These creators see robots helping us with specific parts of our work that we find less enjoyable or too heavy. For example, in nursing. Nurses greatly value their work with patients but spend 60% of their time on tasks that don't directly involve patients. Think of fetching things, changing beds, etc. These are precisely the tasks that robots could do well in the future. In this way (and with better salary conditions), maybe more people would be interested in entering nursing again. According to Jeff Cardenas, a new generation robot builder, a multi-purpose humanoid robot should cost about as much as a mid-sized car. I say, bring it on.

SXSW doesn't provide bite-sized chunks but lets every visitor compile and follow their own program. You won't find it easier to meet new people anywhere else, nor enter into conversation and discussion as easily as in Austin. That's also the strength of the festival. To step out of your Amsterdam bubble and try to relate to all these new impressions and information with an open mind for a week. I would recommend it to anyone. And if you want to know more about the practical use-cases of AI within PAKT, you know where to find me.


Maurice Wenneker is CEO of PAKT

PAKT is an European ecosystem of nine production companies in The Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden. With an in-house team of 145 professionals we are dedicated to delivering high quality film and photographic content for global brands and international ad agencies at scale



Also read:

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