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Every single year, the heat is on. Everybody is looking for The Thing that will make SXSW sing. The tech that will be the talk of town. The thing not to miss. Countless agencies, investors, promoters and owners have been burning through major heaps of cash to be top-of mind at the Austin exhibition. The most notable winner was, without doubt, the launch of Twitter here at SXSW 2007. The most noticeable loser is probably Meerkat in 2016. After a very promising hype just before the conference, it was killed in a minute by the very same Twitter.

If I have to put some money down, there are two obvious contenders. The Metaverse in all its angles and possibilities, and the great come back from never really gone away: blockchain and its growing number of derivatives: the cryptocurrencies, the derived coins, the tokens, the non-fungible tokens, the smart contracts, the POP’s (proof of Attendance) or POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol): essentially a blockchain protocol that proves you were somewhere at a certain time. All this will be in close harmony with talks about Web 3.0 and the decentralized internet. I hope you’re up to speed with your DAO? Your decentralized autonomous organization ?

Men in Black

It’s a bit concerning that a small army of smart looking financial business people cramped in very fashionable hoodies (that Hugo Boss suit would scream ‘murder’ at SXSW) and great corporate hair are taking on SXSW, in a town (Austin) that has as tagline “keep Austin weird”. Just looking at the adds, take overs, signage all over Austin, there is no doubt: NFT’s, the blockchain and WEB 3.0 will be served in all seizes and flavors.

We’re going to see a ton of NFT companies and startups in Austin,” acknowledges Hugh Forrest, director of the SXSW Interactive festival, to the AustinINNO: “They have a lot of money. They’re spending money. Every inch of concrete that can be sponsored is going to have an NFT company attached to it.”

The Dollyverse !

I counted well over fifty blockchain/crypto/ NFT/Token-theme presentations, demo’s, art-set-ups, panels, activations, gatherings, diners and events. Global superstar and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominee Dolly Parton (singer of “Jolene”, godmother of Miley Cyrus, you’re welcome.) is partnering with FOX Entertainment’s Blockchain Creative Labs to launch “Dollyverse,” an audience-centric Web3 experience. “There’s almost nothing more important to me than connecting with my fans. And I’m almost always up for trying something new and different. I’d say releasing NFTs at my first ever appearance at SXSW, with James Patterson by my side, definitely counts as new and different!” said Dolly Parton (76). Look, If the Queen of Country music is going Metaverse… it might be time to take a deeper look at it.

There is another Musk

I’am also particularly looking forward to the session with Kimbal Musk (yes, Elon’s baby millionaire brother) on DAO’s (decentralized autonomous organizations). The core idea that decentralized blockchain-based voting and governance will revolutionize centralized corporate decision-making, is not new…it looks like DAO’s have finally grown to maturity as investors, non-for-profit organizations, charity and community projects start rolling them out to reduce administrative waste, carve out the spent on middlemen and optimize resource allocation.

Time for the « HOW »

I must admit that it’s getting interesting. After years of presentations on the « what” and the “why”, I was left a bit hungry and mildly frustrated. Truth, I made more money with a couple of coins than with my -very modest- savings account. But was that it, the big crypto-everything? It looks that here at SXSW, at least some answers are going to be given on the “HOW”.

How will this enable us, common mortals, to deliver prove of our assets? How will it help artists and thinkers to secure and monetize intellectual property? Can craftsmen, artists, provide proof of authenticity? Brands help to certify provenance and applied ethics around products? Can it end the sweatshops? Stop bio-food and short-supply-chain-swindle? Can it help recruiters drilling down to the real academic credentials of a candidate faster?  

Can it help refugees to prove who they are and where they come from, complete with their academic and asset history? Can it be used to track use of art, and fairly pay artists? Will it revolutionize dating apps? Replace loyalty cards? Will it replace banks, brokers or notaries? Will it help secure medical records, while facilitating need-based access? Will it allow media agencies to deal wit data in a responsible way? Will it help protect consumers with their basic privacy and digital identity rights?

I have the questions. Will SXSW have the answers?

« He talks about you in his sleep
And there’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name

And I can easily understand
How you could easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me
Jolene »

Dolly Parton

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