Mar 17, 2023 - Business

AI dominates South by Southwest

Journalist Laurie Segall (L) and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman (R) speak on stage during a March 10 panel about the impact of generative AI. Photo: Errich Petersen/Getty Images for SXSW

As South by Southwest heads into its final weekend, it's clear that AI has taken over this year's conference and festivals.

Catch up quick: AI — or artificial intelligence — has rapidly developed in recent years and has the power to transform everyday tasks.

Driving the news: Thousands of techies in town have brought the AI buzz with them.

  • The SXSW schedule features dozens of panels about AI, while brands have held meetups and shown off their AI technology at parties and events.

What they're saying: Execs of companies like Reddit, Grammarly and Indeed — and even government officials and university researchers — discussed how AI could play a role in their work.

  • Reddit COO Jen Wong told Axios' Kerry Flynn on stage Monday that ChatGPT could impact time spent with platforms like Reddit.
  • Wong, responding to the question of whether Reddit's future is threatened by services like ChatGPT, said, "Where do you think they get their answers from?"
  • Meanwhile, U.S. Justice Department antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter said in a SXSW panel that the department has hired data scientists to "make sure we have the ability to understand that technology."

The intrigue: Last year's SXSW was all about cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), or unique digital assets — often works of art, game characters and other creative products — recorded on a blockchain.

  • Flyers were littered around town and there were at least two dozen NFT-related events on the SXSW schedule, including meetups, workshops, panels and art galleries.
  • At one 2022 panel, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg even announced that NFTs would be coming to Instagram.
  • Reality check: One year later, Meta announced it would be "winding down" support for digital collectables, and NFTs seemingly vanished from SXSW.

What to watch: Whether AI could finally be the trend that sticks.


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