SXSW Interactive Festival 2019

Ida in Austin, Texas March 2019


From March 8-12, I had the pleasure of attending the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.

This year, several of the sessions concerned artificial intelligence, digital transformation and innovation. These are fascinating topics for AVO in our quest to do epic shit, as well as for our customers and partners. The following is a short summary of three sessions that I found particularly capturing. I have included a few quotes that caught my attention, and links to the blogs and web pages of the speakers. Hopefully it will inspire you as well!


«How to build a brighter AI future»

Cassie Kozyrkov   Chief Decision Scientist, Google

Cassie Kozyrkov

Chief Decision Scientist, Google

Cassie Kozyrkov from Google gave a talk about how machine learning and artificial intelligence can be done right and wrong, and what it takes to harness its potential. During the session, she identified what she considers to be the biggest threats in AI and how to spot opportunities for a brighter AI future. For more about Cassie and her way of thinking, check out her blog Hackernoon.'

Potential dangers and risks with AI today

  1. Anthropomorphization 
    We like to think that sometime in the future, AI will be able to replicate the abstract thinking of the human mind, which makes it easier to convince us of their intelligence

  2. Unreasonable expectations
    Finding patterns in data that aren’t actually there

  3. Jumping on the bandwagon
    Using AI just for AI’s sake, though it should only be used when the task demands it

  4. Data with a capital D
    Data is not magic and should not be treated as it

  5. Untested solutions

  6. No safety nets
    Mistakes will come and should be planned for. Build safety nets

  7. Ignorance amplified

Ingredients in a brighter AI future

  • AI literacy and use of common sense

  • Think of AI as a programming tool first of all

  • Remember the basics of teaching

  • Test everything on new data

  • Build safety nets

  • Train your decision-makers

  • Embrace responsible progress

«If it’s written in Python, it’s probably machine learning. If it’s written in PowerPoint, it’s probably AI.»

«I would love for AI to be boring and useful now.»

«AI is like medicine - It can be a life-changer to those who need it, but everyone else should know better than to snack on it out of boredom.»

Ethics and responsibility in “the AI and IoT age”

Say hi to AVO from me, Ida!

Say hi to AVO from me, Ida!

Former Chess World Champion Garry Kasparov has been engaged with human-machine interaction ever since his legendary chess matches against IBM Deep Blue in the 1990s. At the SXSW Interactive Festival he joined Ondrej Vlcek from Avast Security, who has driven AI in the security industry for several years. Together they discussed the rise of intelligent technologies such as IoT, the questions of ethics, and the right to privacy in our connected world.

I found it particularly interesting that the recent increase in IoT technologies in our homes and lives in general (such as AVO employees’ beloved Google Home Minis) provide new opportunities for privacy violations and surveillance for cybercriminals and governments. What can and should regulators and industry leaders do to protect people's privacy and uphold ethical standards?

Read Ondrej Vlcek’s blog and articles on the subject here, and watch IBM Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997 here. I also found a talk online that is similar to the one that Kasparov and Avast held at SXSW, you can watch it here if you are interested.

«We’re not being replaced by robots, we’re being promoted!»

«When it comes to IoT, your home is only as secure as your weakest device.»

«Digital transformation, AI and an innovation mindset»

Sandy Carter is the Vice President of Amazon Web Services, and Kathy Klotz-Guest is the Founder of Keeping it Human. At SXSW 2019 they gave a talk together on how to cultivate the right innovative culture in an organization, customer obsession and bias for action for AI success. In this session the two badass women discussed needed culture changes, how to obsess over your customers, leverage machine learning, and to say “yes, and…” to new ways of thinking. I found the session to be very witty and inspiring.

Here is a link to Sandy Carters blog, and here you can read more about Kathy Klotz-Guest and Keeping it Human.

Sandy Carter   VP, Amazon Web Services

Sandy Carter

VP, Amazon Web Services

Carter on «Two pizza teams» for AI

Think about the size of your teams for AI, says Carter – it’s more important than you might think. She recommends so-called “two pizza teams” - teams that are small enough to share two pizzas if they have to work overtime together. In addition to being small, they are also empowered and have the mandate to make actual decisions then and there. This fosters ownership and autonomy and drives innovation forward.

Kathy Klotz-Guest   Founder, Keeping it Human

Kathy Klotz-Guest

Founder, Keeping it Human

Klotz-Guest on psychological safety and the «Yes, and…» expression

Innovation is an agile mindset, and psychological safety is key for team members in an organization that wants to succeed with their innovation strategy. Is it safe to experiment and occasionally make mistakes in our organization? Does each individual contribute to make it safe to fail? Klotz-Guest argues that co-workers should meet each other’s suggestions with the expression “yes, and…”, which both acknowledges and accepts their colleague’s suggestion and at the same time adds to it and brings the idea forward.

«All successful companies have innovation in their DNA.»

«To be successful within digital transformation and AI, you have to have a strong data strategy – Do you have enough data, and is it good enough?»