Tech trends from SXSW blow up legal issues

Originally published by Law360

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Publication March 2019

Lawyer jobs being taken by robots is a popular media theme these days. However, after having attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology conference last week, I think the robots may, in fact, be needing us. In the next few years, technology will take us to a level of complexity that is almost unimaginable. That complexity will stretch our existing legal frameworks and require highly skilled lawyers to navigate outcomes.

SXSW is one of the most important technology events on the global calendar. More than 75,000 delegates descended on Austin, Texas, to hear over 5,000 speakers ranging from IT company execs, Hollywood celebrities and no less than six 2020 presidential candidates, including Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz. The big tech companies pay millions to completely transform sleepy restaurants into “Experience Spaces” to capture the eye of SXSW’s young “influencer” crowd. In fact, the event has been called the “Millennials’ Woodstock.”

The big theme from the event was the ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Eminent futurist Amy Webb was asked at the end of her session on tech trends — attended by more than 2,000 people — why she had not mentioned AI. She said the answer is simple: “AI is in everything and every industry, now and in the future.” AI was everywhere at SXSW — in sessions from healthcare, transport and finance, all the way to storytelling. So too was the concern about bias in AI, with at least six sessions dealing with this topic in whole or in part.



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