South by Southwest 2023 – Emerging Technology Highlights
Annually, the South by Southwest (SXSW) Convention hosts an array of conferences and sponsored events celebrating emerging innovations in technology, film, music, education, and culture. This year the convention lasted from March 10 – March 19 and was held all throughout Austin, Texas. Here are a few of the key takeaways from the tech front of SXSW 2023.
Spotlight on ChatGPT
Unlike last year’s conferences which concentrated primarily on NFTs and cryptocurrency, OpenAI’s ChatGPT served as the main topic of discourse. The company’s president and co-founder Greg Brockman shared the story of the brand’s conception with thousands of viewers in a ballroom filled to capacity. He revealed that OpenAI launched from a meeting with “Elon Musk, Sam Altman, and other AI researchers united against the emergence of evil AI.” Further, Brockman noted that the company initially began as a non-profit but later required more capital in order to fund its operations. During his speech, he maintained that OpenAI “want[ed] to have AGI (artificial general intelligence) benefit all of humanity.” In order to fulfill this mission, the company needed to raise billions of dollars. However, financers sought to profit from their hefty investments, thus forcing OpenAI to evolve into a “capped profit business,” meaning there is “only a fixed amount that investors and shareholders are able to get” in terms of ROI. Lastly, Brockman addressed some of the technical problems surrounding ChatGPT. He asserted that with each new version released, the platform has continued to remove various kinks and glitches.
Self-Driving Cars in the Near Future
Additionally during this SXSW, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt announced that his company’s driverless robotaxis are “ready to enter the ‘scale up’ phase.” In regard to autonomous vehicles, this company has remained a top competitor in the space. GM’s acquisition of Cruise provided the startup with a large amount of capital. Initially, Cruise faced reluctance and fear from consumers, as many possessed negative attitudes towards and safety concerns regarding this type of advanced technology. When first surveyed, around 50% of people reported skepticism about self-driving cars. However, after riding in them 92% expressed willingness to do it again. As technology continues to progress, people seem more open to the idea of transportation through autonomous cars. Moreover, Vogt asserted his belief that the market for robotaxis would be significant in the near future. Even though they would still have their own cars, people would utilize robotaxis when they did not want to drive, similar to how ride-share services are used today. In summary, Vogt affirmed that Cruise and GM in conjunction plan to expand production for autonomous vehicles, expanding their range of capabilities and locations available.
AI’s Effect on Company Performance
Lastly, renowned CEO of ARK Investment Management Cathie Wood spoke about Artificial Intelligence as a whole along with Generative AI tools. During her speech, she noted that ChatGPT “ushered in AI’s ‘internet moment,’” as “the public is finally aware of this technology.” The company has generated a greater awareness for AI, allowing it to become more “mainstream” and accessible to a larger consumer demographic. Further, Wood maintained that she “expect[ed] AI to raise office worker productivity by more than four-fold by 2030.” Specifically, she predicted that ChatGPT, DALL-E, and Copilot would significantly increase worker productivity. For instance, coders would be able to reduce time spent on tasks with these tools. Finally, Wood noted that AI programs would also allow for a decrease in production and training costs. With this technology, copy and imagery that would take hours for humans to produce could now be generated within a matter of seconds. Conclusively, Wood highlighted the importance of AI and its inevitable integration into company procedures with her platform at SXSW.