Why I am Chasing Robots at #SXSW

This year at SXSW I am chasing robots, not waterfalls. My dream for Interactive is to hang out with as many robots as humanly possible. I also want to see who will be pushing the bounds of AR and VR. Why Anne, why don’t you fear robots or the future of AI? Because a wise woman once taught me fear holds us back.

Cognition is THE MOST IMPORTANT key to binding robots to trust. We trust the mail will get here because it ‘always has’, but what of things that have to start somewhere? Robots need some heavy duty morality to gain trust in society. You probably don’t have to worry about your coffee machine turning into ED-209, but more like, autonomous cars. Autonomous boats. Autonomous planes. Ethical computing has taken off, and that’s a good thing. Unless maybe you have an evil army? Let’s just hope they’re not TOO goody-two shoes!

There are even classes about machine morality and computational ethics. Here’s one from Stanford, CS122: Artificial Intelligence – Philosophy, Ethics, and Impact


Being afraid of a future improved by technology is like being afraid of living longer. Our morals and standards don’t have to change because robots are in our midst. We create the robots and then we fear the robots, so what we actually fear is ourselves. That’s some deep stuff right there, but think about it. This technology is ours to create. I don’t understand why we’d create something that hates us unless we hate ourselves, first.

If we fear robots, what we really fear is change and the idea we have to improve to stay relevant. Robots are a foil signifying ‘the other’ and the idea that we humans cannot seem to get rid of- that we’re flawed and inevitably going to be replaced. That question and answer existed LONG before robots became a thing.

Think about participatory futures. Futurists generally see their role as liberating the future in each person, and creating enhanced public ownership of the future. This is true worldwide. As a long-time futurist I feel it my responsibility to help educate people about technology and to understand their fears.

Cognitive is the future. Deep learning and sentiment analysis on Twitter is a great example. I’ve seen companies do some amazing things in terms of gauging how their customers feel and capturing data used for marketing purposes.

Stay tuned for my recap of experiences at #SXSW16 IBM Cognitive house…