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The full moon bounces over the mirror of Lake Travis, near Austin Texas.  The view I have while writing this is probably my favorite one, on the planet. And I have been places. But things are not all right. Lake Travis is an impressive body of water, spanning a length of 102.6 kilometers and a maximum width of 7.2 kilometers. It boasts 436 miles of shoreline and covers 7,665 hectares: it nurses a potential storage capacity of 970,946,976 liters of water.

Drought and sprinklers

However, drought conditions are affecting Central Texas, water levels at the lake are close to 10 meters lower than average, leaving the lake is 46% full. Green lanes are drying out, dirt bikes are exploring dried out riverbeds. Still, a big part of the average Texans still have not made the link with global warming, they are too busy driving their gargantuan trucks (with federate stickers and “Trump won” stickers” to the shooting range, or setting up programs to enforce their anti-women’s rights policies. The sprinklers on the golf courts blast like there is no tomorrow. Part of this state catapulted mentally a century backwards.

Antidote

Luckily, the annual SXSW Conference in Austin is a refreshing antidote for the rightwing political Texan scene. One of the biggest innovation gatherings on the planet starts today in downtown Austin. The lineup is impressive:   It promises to be an exciting and vibrant gathering of industry leaders, technologists, robots, contrarian thinkers, eth(n)ical fighters, human right organizations, students, bankers, artists, activists, techno dreamers,  digital anthropologists, CEOs,  influencers, investors, crypto bro’s, celebrities, creatives and flat out bizaroids from various fields and all continents. I even spotted a Shaolin Monk. And, there is William Shatner,  captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise himself. What more can you dream off?

Melting pot

The conference, which is an unparalleled melting pot for attendees to connect and learn, features no less than 25 tracks of programming, covering topics ranging from technology, ethics, design, digital marketing, transportation, and beyond.

At the heart of the SXSW Conference are the eight Interactive Tracks, which bring together experts and cutting-edge companies working in future-focused technology. These tracks include the 2050 track, which focuses on long-range, big-picture thinking and explores future-focused tech and next-gen advancements. The Advertising & Brand Experience track examines strategies for engaging audiences through traditional, digital, and experiential marketing practices. Meanwhile, the Design track highlights how top designers, developers, artists, and creatives build our physical, digital, and virtual worlds with purposeful intent.

The Energy track explores problems and solutions related to energy production and delivery, while the Health & MedTech track addresses how technological and social changes impact the healthcare industry. The Markets & Economies track examines changes in our systems of commerce resulting from various disruptions in our current world, while the Tech Industry track focuses on the people, platforms, software, hardware, and virtual systems driving the world’s next wave of change. Finally, the Transportation track explores technological advances that are transforming the way we get from here to there.

Impressive line-up

Chief Programming Officer, Hugh Forrest, said, “Our group of Featured Speakers marks a significant first step towards a phenomenal SXSW 2023, representing the full spectrum of the creative industries that converge in Austin.

The SXSW Conference is indeed unveiling a plethora of impressive speakers this year, including a star-studded lineup of industry leaders, artists, and celebrities such as musician Nick Jonas, actor Tommy Dorfman, writer Cheryl Strayed, entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, Martin Luther King III, filmmaker Damon Lindelof, and actor and producer Eva Longoria. The lineup also features rapper Blxst, drag performer Gottmik, tech entrepreneur Austin Russell, Allyson Felix, a former Olympic track and field athlete, Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist, Cecile Richards, a lifelong activist and advocate and the flat-out fantastic futurist Amy Webb.

Artificial Intelligence

On top of  the latest advancements in quantum technology, the impact of technology in the workspace and the workplace, discovering innovative transportation solutions, the future of work, the impact of tech on climate and nature, and on the re-inventing of our social fabric, I look forward to the sessions on how AI stormed from “maybe one day” to “top of the bill” in a couple of months. The first interviews I had here in Austin on that topic promise that it is only the very beginning, and that the likely outcome on our society will pulverize the impact of even electricity.

That is a big statement. As I enjoy a piece of delicious brisket, I wonder: will AI solve the problems we created? Or did we just invented another problem?

Looking at Lake Travis, I think I know the answer. If humans were to find the solution, we would have acted by now…

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