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SXSW 2021: Between enslavement and technological hope!

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After a cancelled 2020 edition, SXSW festival-goers gathered behind their screens to listen to the debates and exchanges of the world of innovation and new technologies. Debates that spoke of space conquest, health, virtual reality, finance, social media or the fight against climate change.

Even online, SXSW allowed participants to discover new prisms of reading about the latest technological advances.

From altered reality to geopolitical domination of the Clouds

Each year, Amy Webb is increasingly successful with the presentation of her foresight report at SXSW. And this year again, everyone is talking about it! Its scenarios, in which technology alters the perception of the real world and orients our desires and needs to better enslave us in a technological matrix dominated by technology giants, and especially those that dominate cloud solutions from Microsoft to Huawei.

Other powerful ones are emerging: the health giants, especially the companies working on the human genome. Therapeutic solutions that should widen the gap between the rich and the poor by lengthening the lives of those who can afford it.

Amy Webb

The space fantasy

The conquest of space and the economy of “new space” are booming. The exchanges were numerous and intense around the conquest of Mars by manNASA has announced that the next American on the Moon will take place in 2024. A journey to initiate the construction of a lunar base with the objective of exploiting the resources of our satellite.

For the former astronaut, Dr Dunbar, the conquest of Mars will take place, but not in 2035, rather around 2060, because given the constraints of space and technology, it is not realistic to say that man will live on Mars in less than 30 years. For Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity Space, the conquest of planets like Mars will require an automation of the construction of infrastructures directly on site via 3D printing.

As for Avi Loeb, Professor at Harvard, he defends the theory that we are not alone in space. Life exists on many other planets, it remains to know in what forms. According to his theory we could be, on a galactic scale, a very primitive form, similar to ants.

Avi Loeb

Towards eternity

Advances in genetic knowledge are such that today the hopes for a cure for many monogenic diseases are real. Companies like Taysha are now in the clinical phase testing solutions to treat epilepsy or diseases affecting the central nervous system.

With this progress, demographic issues will arise since, according to the United Nations, today, a girl from 13 to 50% chance of living up to 104 years. This led Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital, to say that brands would be better off creating the position of “Chief Elder Officer” to ensure that they were able to reach an aging clientele.


Innovations to save us

Every year, innovations to fight pollution or climate change go further. During this edition, there are many startups around the circular economy, whether for metal recycling with Molyworks, Ioncell and its non-chemical textile recycling solution or Applied Bioplastics with its eco-friendly plastic technology.

But saving humanity also means changing the diet of Westerners!

Whether it’s Oceans 2050 or Sprinsteen Seaweed, growing algae for animal and human feed seems to have all the virtues. Indeed, an underwater agriculture would allow the oceans to absorb much more carbon and thus fight against global warming.

Oceans 2050

But the next step would be to eliminate the production of animal protein from farms because they emit CO2. With FutureFields this becomes possible thanks to cell farming. Between algae and cell culture, agriculture has great challenges ahead of it to transform and respond to environmental issues.

The power of social media

Of course, many conferences were held around Tik Tok. It is important to know that Tik Tok is becoming a real media and there is a lot of talk about politics as with the activist Jackie James and his 2 million subscribers. It became the meeting point for GenZ to discuss societal issues, to the point that the Washington Post launched on Tik Tok and became a reference for information sharing.

Social media are also being singled out because for the US Army and the FBI, micro targeting coupled with deepfakes can be real dangers for democracies. The manipulation of information with these technologies could generate violence and revolts. For Alexander Vindman, social media should even be banned at least 18 years of age.

Once again SXSW suggests the best of technology to help humanity in the face of climate change but also the worst with its grip on our lives.

To learn more about SXSW 2021, watch our expert’s daily debriefs!

As an expert in emerging technologies, Nicolas travels to innovation shows around the world to spot and analyse the new trends.
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