By Rodrigo Carvalho*
Imagine that you are in the lobby of one of the biggest innovation events in the world, marveling at hundreds of simultaneous themes and attractions, and you can hardly choose which of the talks to attend.
One of them discusses alternatives to the global crisis of access to housing, the other talks about launching commercial flights to space. Later, a panel discusses using data to fight racial inequality and next door all about the most valued NFTs on the market.
In the program, the theme “Personal Air Vehicles: What’s Next?” appears, and one of the colleagues gets excited: “At last, someone talked about flying cars”.
This ridiculous situation that brings, side by side, Complex societal challenges and topics that, in contrast to the former, can seem outrageously superfluous speak volumes about the SXSW schedule, which reflects a delicate period of transition from a focus on innovation.
Of course, we are all excited about the ‘technological fireworks’ of each year and recognize its important contribution, but there are at least a dozen reasons for this shift in agendas, which include the increase in inequalities and social injustice and the very support of of human life on the planet.
Those who watched the 1960s sitcom, ‘The Jetsons’, might have the idea of an innovation that translates ‘technology’ and ‘progress’ into values such as comfort and practicality, addressed above all in an individual dimension.
In recent years, perhaps as a result of technological escalation, this vision has been shifted to a context where innovation exists to solve the world’s problems, addressing urgent issues that focus on guaranteeing basic rights and resources that affect everyone.
That’s why in addition to debates about the future of entertainment, retail virtualization or new autonomous vehicles, SXSW is also promoting numerous discussions on advances in access to health, in the fight for gender equity, for social justice and for the defense of democracy. I would venture to say that this is the new face of innovation, or at least that’s what the event’s program in recent years seems to say.
And the metaverse? Of course, we cannot conclude without this key element, the star of this issue. The metaverse is the perfect representation of this paradox, and is often read as an instrument of alienation from the problems that the world has been facing.
No wonder platforms promote their projects in the metaverse as “perfect places to escape reality”. Well, who wants to escape reality? We want to resolve reality, right? Sessions such as ‘How the Metaverse can Rebuild Society, but Better’, ‘Beyond the Metaverse: The Evolution of Reality’ and ‘The Metaverse & its Impact on the Physical World’, make this counterpoint and seek a connection of meaning so that this just be the buzzword of the year.
*Rodrigo Carvalho is innovation director at iDTBWA