Shapeshifting Materials, the Surveillance State, and Machine Listening at South By Southwest®

The Intelligent Future Track explores the impact of technologies such as artificial intelligence, deep machine learning, connected devices, and more.

“Advancements in technology are streamlining every aspect of our modern lives. Intelligent Future sessions will explore the burgeoning and transformative technologies that challenge the way we think about and approach the future,” says SXSW Programmer Meaghan Hermann.

Dive into the Intelligent Future Track at the 2019 SXSW Conference to learn about topics like AI surveillance technology, how biases affect machine learning, the ways in which sci-fi storytelling colors our understanding of AI, and more. Intelligent Future Track sessions take place March 8-14 with primary access to Interactive and Platinum Badges; secondary access to all other badges.

Intelligent Future Session Highlights

Morphing into the Future: “Shapeshifter” Materials

Speakers: Lining Yao (Carnegie Mellon University)

What if unassembled furniture could put itself together? Or if clothing could respond to skin conditions to keep you cool – or safe? And what if you could buy flat pasta that takes shape when cooking? It’s all within the realm of possibility with “adaptive materials.” What there is to know about the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University is in its name. This lab challenges and often upends what we think we know about things in our lives. It's where 2D flat pasta springs to 3D life once it's in boiling water, and a jacket made of an adaptive, transformative material reacts to humidity and body temperature -- and responsively "vents" when worn. Materials as shapeshifters will inspire and give you a glimpse of what seems like future fiction being realized today.

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Taming the Orwellian Surveillance State

Speakers: Cristian Farias (Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), Barry Friedman (The Policing Project at New York University School of Law), Tracy Ann Kosa (Stanford University), and Rick Smith (Axon Enterprise)

Police around the world are rapidly deploying increasingly advanced technologies such as drones, facial recognition, and electrical weapons. Each has the potential to be abused, violate privacy, or extend the reach and control of the government in scary ways. However, these technologies also have the potential to save lives, make communities safer, and ensure justice is less biased and discriminatory. Governments are confronted with issues around protecting data, access to information, and unethical uses of technology. Join members from the first AI & Policing Technology Ethics Board to hear about how government agencies and companies can responsibly develop new technologies to maximize the public good and create safer communities while reducing the risks to our privacy and personal freedoms.

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Untold AI: Is Sci-Fi Telling Us the Right Stories?

Speakers: Cory Doctorow (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Christopher Noessel (IBM), Malka Older (Author), and Rashida Richardson (AI Now Institute)

How do depictions of Artificial Intelligence in popular science fiction affect how we think about real AI and its future? How has fiction about AI influenced the development of AI technology and policy in the real world? (And do we really have to talk about Terminator’s Skynet or 2001’s Hal 9000 every damned time we talk about the risks of AI?) Join bestselling sci-fi authors Cory Doctorow and Malka Older, editor Chris Noessel, along with futurism and AI policy experts as they examine what TV, movies, games, and sci-fi literature are telling us about AI, compare those lessons to real-world AI tech & policy, and identify the stories that we should be telling ourselves about AI, but aren’t.

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On Bots & Bias: When What Machines Learn Is Wrong

Speakers: Anamita Guha (IBM Watson), Lauren Kunze (Pandorabots), and Justina Nguyen (Dashbot)

How do we humans build bots that don’t suck—especially when training data sources like Twitter or Reddit can corrupt them into “Hitler-loving sex robots in 24 hours”? And WTF is up with gendering AI assistants female? Join industry leading ladies for some real talk on building and scaling intelligent bots. We’ll debate hot-button issues like when to use AI and ML—and whether or not it really works. Should we design conversational software based on UX and consumer preferences—which many cite as why we’d rather boss around Alexa than Alex—or do we build for a better society even if it means censoring data? Hear diverse perspectives from experts on the Enterprise, Developer, Data Analytics, and Brand Experiences to learn critical bot building dos and don’ts in this rapidly evolving ecosystem.

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Let AI Hear What's Going On: Machine Listening

Speakers: Yoonchang Han (

Speech recognition is one of the most popular AI technologies because it makes humans to communicate with machines more naturally. However, audio contains much more information than that. There are millions of sounds we hear every day such as footstep, coughing, dog barking, and music, and making sense of any sound we hear every day is called machine listening. Current AI systems can't understand what's going on around them, but this emerging sound cognition technology can make them understand the context to provide appropriate service on time, also open up new possibilities for creative applications. In this session, he will introduce the concept of machine listening and what kind of new services, user experience, and musical/artistic expression can be made based on this technology.

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Purchase your SXSW Badge and reserve your hotel today to experience these sessions along with 10 days of screenings, showcases, exhibitions, networking, and more this March 9-18 in Austin, TX.

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(Teaser photo) The World's Smartest City session at SXSW 2018 featuring Theo Blackwell & Katherine Oliver - Photo by Kurt Lunsford

By Hayden Bagot