March 28, 2023

SXSW 2023 - Key Takeaways from the Tangent Team

Nadine Clarke

Strategy Partner


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SXSW 2023 was the 3rd edition the Tangent team attended, and what a year it was. Compared with the 2 previous editions, this one was marked by a seemingly high post-COVID attendee rate - with most keynotes attracting considerable queues.

“South by” is famous for the calibre of speakers, who covered a plethora of fantastic topics across the board. Amongst the conversations, panels and general buzz, the team shared some of the highlights that will stick in their minds for months to come:

  1. The future of work and AI

Certainly, the fear of AI replacing us in our jobs has never felt more real. As Chris Hyams, the CEO of Indeed pointed out, the AI revolution are akin to the rise of the iPhone. The separate production, purchase and use of devices like answering machines, alarm clocks, calculators and small digital cameras declined, but the boom of app developers, multi-device designers, and even Bluetooth became apparent. Where some parts of the industry will see a similar decline, new ones will also grow.

Moreover, the event coincided with the meteoric rise of tools such as ChatGPT, the fastest growing app of all time. Nothing more solidified the theme than the presence of Greg Brockman, co-founder and president of OpenAl, the company responsible for ChatGPT, giving his views on what’s to come with AI, GPT4 and future use cases.

Dr. John Maeda, VP of Design and AI at Microsoft likened it to the old fashion ketchup glass bottles, "it takes forever to come out, but when it does, it all comes out at once".

Considered a SXSW headliner, Amy Webb’s 2023 tech trend report also heavily referenced generative AI, including (sometimes scary) scenarios around its uses for vaccine creation. Andy Eva-Dale, Tangent's Technical Director believes that "the future features around code generation, debugging and architecture fascinating, as I believe we will all be using these types of tools in the future to aid our day-to-day roles."

Design Partner Richard Trigg added that AI will just remove arduous and repetitive tasks, and AI automation processes will leave room to allow people to do what people are good at, and even aid in a better work-life balance.


  1. Responsible journalism & future trends

Leigh Gammons, CEO of Tangent, attended “Why Journalists and Futurists Need to Talk” featuring Stuart Candy, Futurist and Mat Thompson, New York Times journalist. They described journalism "as often the first draft of history, but it strives to frame the future."

They talked through various scenarios where data has told us what the future is likely to be, and yet the outcome could be wildly different. As an example, the polling reports before the Trump election in 2016 had not even had him being the Republican candidate and yet, he won the candidacy and then went on to become President.

In brief, the two panellists discussed how wildly different predictions can be through the 3 dimensions of foresight and how, over time, general predictions and actuals can vary to a greater extent because more factors come into play:

  1. Difference: How are things changing and where could this lead us to?
  2. Diversity: What are the different ways that an unpredictable system could evolve?
  3. Depth: What would it mean and how would it feel to be in particular future circumstances?


  1. Future-facing themes & experiences

SXSW hosted more than 20 events around sustainability within the sports industry, supply chains, tech, and more. 2022 might have been the year of the 2030 and 2050 Carbon NetZero pledges, but 2023 is the start of how we're going to make that possible. We can expect to see the rise of green jobs such as sustainability managers in the months and years to come.

Dotted across the conference venues are also pulsating experiential and immersive brand events, from Patagonia to Porsche. But the most notable one this year was run by Audible. "The highlight of that experience was surely the sound booths where you could record your own vinyl on-the-spot and walk away with it. We saw people singing happy birthday, others clearly sharing heartfelt messages, and in my case- I recorded a detailed account of the previous 24h- all under 4 minutes!”, shared Nadine Clarke, Strategy Partner.

SXSW did not disappoint and although we're seeing deep operational shifts across the interactive and digital industry, the speed at which these trends might develop will be the one to watch. Until SXSW 2024!