3 key takeaways from a weekend at SXSW

The importance of design and Blockchain

How much can you learn from a weekend in Austin, Texas? If that weekend is spent at South by Southwest, the answer is “a lot!” We sent our Chief Digital Officer, Tim Frank Andersen to act as our reporter during the conference. Here are his three key takeaways.

1. Design has never been more important

John Maeda — a long-time professor at MIT — is putting the finishing touches to his extensive report about the importance and development of design.

He has not completed this year’s report yet, but the conclusion is obvious:

Design has never been more important — especially Computational Design. A Computational Designer understands Computation, works with all three kinds of design, thinks critically about technology and actively learns AI and other emerging technologies.

AI might be the most significant change driver in Design, and Maeda envisions that we are about three years away from the tipping point where AI will displace visual designers for a lot of jobs. But AI is not very good at Inclusive Design, which is what we should focus on. And then Designers need to learn AI as a new tool.

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being invited to dance.”

The unfinished report in its full format can be found here.

2. A new economy could be around the corner

Tim O´Reilly is one of the legends in the Internet history, standing behind the Web 2.0 movement and coining the phrase: Open Source.

His latest book “WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us”, was the theme of his speech at SXSW.

Tim believes that we need to start building better marketplaces where money is not the only driver, and this should lead to the design of our next economy where wealth needs to be redistributed in a much better way. As he said:

“There is plenty to go around, it’s just not going around!”.

It sounds almost communist, but that is not the case here. It is more a matter of companies taking on a more substantial responsibility and being sure that we are solving the right problems.

Especially when we talk about AI, it is crucial that we design with the proper algorithmic fitness function in mind. And here he asks the rhetorical question: “What is the objective function of our financial market?”

3. Blockchain is going to change the world

Blockchain technology is on everybody’s lips these days, and not without reason. According to one of the real whiz kids in this area, Joseph Lubin, the technology has the same potential impact as the Internet protocol, and it will not only change the financial industry but have a significant impact on industries ranging from shipping and healthcare to entertainment by cutting out value-draining middlemen.

 Joseph Lubin is the co-founder of the decentralized blockchain platform Ethereum and the founder of Consensys — a 700 people company, that builds applications for Ethereum.

According to him, the development we are witnessing could very well be the start of a new era: Web 3.0.

It is still early days, but initiatives are happening all across the stack. From addressing the energy usage issues through a methodology called State Channels to solving the number of transactions that can take place on a blockchain — going to infinity within 18–24 months.

As concrete examples, he mentioned a solution called Uport being used in the Swiss city of Zug for identification of citizens, Ujo Music for giving back rights control to musicians and Civil for sustainable journalism.

We might still be 1–2 years away from the major commercial breakthroughs, but it is an area worth paying close attention to.


One of the amazing things about going to SXSW is that you get to discover fascinating people that you knew nothing about. 

This year, Rohit Bhargava stood out. For the last four years, he has been highlighting 15 not-so-obvious trends, and his books are bestsellers.

You can find Bhargava’s books at the Non-Obvious Company


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