SXSW Sydney: robot dogs, tech bros, and virtual Geisha girls

The Intriguing Landscape of AI at SXSW

A mechanical dog that is both recognizable and slightly unsettling ambles through the audience of a South by Southwest session in Sydney. The panelists deliver their perspectives on a future that is progressively characterized by automation and artificial intelligence while performing on stage.

“It will become significantly, significantly more consequential,” says Ed Santow, the current director of policy and governance at the UTS Human Technology Institute and former human rights commissioner. “That will be beneficial for a great number of individuals, but it will be extremely, extremely difficult for a greater number of people.”

Charlie Brooker’s Take on AI and Boredom

Despite its prevalence throughout the previous year, notably at SXSW, not everyone believes AI is a game-changer.

Charlie Brooker, the creator of the Netflix series Black Mirror and at least partially responsible for the terrifying nature of robot dogs, stated that he found artificial intelligence “boring and derivative” when he asked ChatGPT to write an episode about malfunctioning technology for the popular show.

“It is merely imitating an action.” And it has devoured every description of every Black Mirror episode, presumably from Wikipedia and other user-generated content, and is now essentially spewing that at me. “It pretends to be something it cannot achieve,” he informs the audience.

A pop-up bar outside the main convention center in Tumbalong Park, where the free events are set up, boasts an “AI cocktail” that is merely a margarita and claims to have been designed by AI. One cannot help but wonder whether Brooker may be correct.

“Our regulatory system is deficient.”

Attending an event may reveal AI as the latest capitalist invention, an approaching catastrophe, a need, or something unworthy of consideration.

During a panel discussion on the ethical utilization of AI, Kate Bower, an advocate for consumer data at Choice, argues that individuals unknowingly expose themselves to risks posed by AI due to its inconspicuous nature in credit services and search engines.

She states, “People have no idea when they may be at risk of being harmed by AI.” “This could occur due to a lack of diversity, insufficient inclusion, or opaque credit scores, which would prevent them from obtaining a mortgage.”

“They may be unaware that that algorithm contains discriminatory elements; therefore, the redress options available to us through our current regulatory system are insufficient.”

AI’s Impact on Journalism and Deep Fakes

ABC’s director of news, Justin Stevens, expresses enthusiasm for the potential of artificial intelligence but acknowledges that the public broadcaster has been extremely cautious about how it operates, preventing it from being used to generate original journalistic content.

According to him, it could be useful for investigative journalism by scraping judicial records and accumulating data in minutes, whereas doing so would have taken weeks otherwise. Additionally, AI tools capable of detecting AI deep fakes may prove useful in the future.

“The precise magnitude of the impact it will have on our industry and sector is unknown and not observable; however, I am not precluding the possibility that it will be entirely negative,” he continues.

Deep fakes generated interest in the Real Housewives of Sydney event, where only a handful of attendees brave the cold and rain to hear the contestants discuss the new Binge reality show. This could have been remedied with the use of AI.

In the interim, bandwidth remains accessible for the technological trend of the past: cryptocurrencies.

Has it died? Fred Schebesta, co-founder of the comparison website Finder, disagrees. Alongside increasing inflation, it is actually on the road back (although that is not financial advice).

“We had a bad actor in crypto,” Schebesta says of Sam Bankman-Fried, who is presently on trial for allegedly deceiving investors and stealing customer funds from FTX. “As you are aware, Americans will mess with you if you interfere with capitalism.”

Schebesta says he didn’t know the fraudster when Finder sold FTX’s over-the-counter trading section before the financial crisis.

Additionally, NFTs, the jpg-artwork transaction that was popular a year ago, have their own slot. With a half-capacity audience, the panel titled “NFTs – sizzle or fizzle?” leans more towards the latter. When asked if anyone in attendance possesses an NFT, only a few raise their hands. However, when asked if anyone owns one about which they do not feel humiliated, all hands fall.

In the tech expo, away from the talkfest, a Monster energy drink stand offers barber cuts to men while an Intel representative shouts invitations to participate in a video game event. One can interact with virtual Japanese Geisha ladies via a VR headset; these are the booth babes of the twenty-first century.

A virtual reality headset tour of the Project Sunrise aircraft is provided by Qantas, which also includes physical representations of the first and business class cabins. Furthermore, an obscure rationale propels an armored vehicle that is on exhibit for the Australian army.

“Devoid of a summer camp atmosphere”

The announcement that Sydney would host SXSW, the first location outside of Austin in nearly four decades, was a significant victory for the city, especially in light of the difficulties Sydney’s nightlife has encountered over the past decade.

However, SXSW is an anomaly in Austin by its very nature, attracting tech bros and individuals with profound connections to music, film, and television. Sydney is already home to a significant portion of Australia’s entertainment industry and tech geeks, so SXSW is not notably different from the numerous tech conferences that the city hosts. Ultimately, the atmosphere does not evoke a strong sense of summer camp.

It may be due in part to the venue’s location; Darling Harbour, where the majority of the events take place, is not a weekday destination for the majority of Sydneysiders. An alternative scenario is that numerous events may demand a multi-day pass that exceeds $1,000 in price to enter.

Single tickets, expo passes, and wristbands are alternative admission options, however they cost $200 and do not guarantee entry.

Additionally, they may contribute to the disorderliness of well-attended occasions, such as Brooker, where individuals who arrive 30 minutes late are turned away from the queue and are forced to wait in auxiliary rooms that are already occupied.

Earlier this year, when Sydney hosted World Pride, the presence of an additional 500,000 queer individuals authentically altered the atmosphere of the city; it was a moment of revolution. It is evident that attracting such major events to Australia could be successful under the proper conditions. However, SXSW is not quite the same.

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