The Royals

The Royals’ own Zoe Bonwick gives us the low down on her trip to SXSW

by Zoe Bonwick

Touching down in Oz after a whirlwind visit to Austin, this year’s winner of the Royals’ annual SXSW “Lucky Dip” trip answers a few questions on the bold and bizarre from Texas.

I couldn’t stop talking about…


I haven’t heard those two letters as many times in one week. It was all about AI at South By - how it’s being used and also the watchouts, from managing our fears to how we manage this awesome power. It needs to be harnessed in the right way. Dr. Joy Buolamwini’s talk was a standout. She's the brains behind the Algorithmic Justice League, an AI bias expert, MIT researcher, and artist. Fortune Magazine called her the "conscience of AI” and her mission is to ensure companies are held responsible for their AI products, especially things like facial recognition used by security and U.S. police. Her research dives into how accurate this technology is, looking at gender and race. One thing that really got me thinking was her points on the issues these programs encounter with misidentifying people, in particular Black women. Especially if used by the police to arrest people. That inaccuracy is a huge problem. I hadn't thought of AI as a security tool before. So, what happens when it all messes up? How do we fix those mistakes?? What options do people have on how they use the product? It's a whole new world of questions and the answers aren’t always clear.

I found this a little unsettling …

The real humans who sit behind social media.

In this case, it was the real humans sitting behind Meta and other platforms sifting through the content before it hits the public eye. We’re talking about Kenyan workers on $2 per day reviewing content to meet standards, ensuring it’s not explicit or threatening. But there’s an even higher price they’re paying - with so many experiencing PTSD from exposure to horrific content. It’s taking a serious mental toll.

What is something you found particularly interesting?

Dylan Alcott’s talk on inclusion and accessibility.

The Royals talk about it a lot, both amongst ourselves and with our clients. I’d thought about it at the top level, but Dylan’s talk extended beyond that to the opportunities for disabilities. In another panel at SXSW, Paula Carozzo, a disability activist who experienced a brain injury at 5 years old. She spoke about the massive community of people with disabilities and it is one that anyone can join at any time. All it takes is one accident or event. The session also touched on our ageing population as a huge group who are going to need different care. I was inspired by the opportunities within both these communities and how we can provide access for more people. For example, Dylan spoke about how he’s currently approaching tourism operators in Australia, providing them with basic toolkits to support and bring businesses and facilities up to spec so people with disabilities have access. This opens up travel for so many who would never have been able to do so previously. More people, more experiences for them, and more opportunities for businesses too.

Any upcoming technology we should be excited about?

It’s all about super-apps.

Streamlining everything into one app to increase productivity. A super-app is a mobile or web application that can provide multiple services including payment and instant messaging services, effectively becoming an all-encompassing self-contained commerce and communication online platform that embraces many aspects of personal and commercial life. Think about WeChat, which has over a billion users. I’m interested in anything that will make life easier and give you more time back to do the things you want to do.

I dipped into…

American tribes.

I went to the Rodeo and NBA. Yes, they’re both sports, but the culture and tribes around them were something I had never experienced before. At the rodeo, they said a prayer for everyone, and the intensity of the crowd singing their national anthem, people tearing up with full American pride, was something I hadn’t experienced before. Yes, there was bull riding and roping all sorts of things, but they have an event for 5-year-olds where they get children to ride sheep around. It felt like I’d stepped into an alternate reality. Who knew kids could be attached to sheep and raced?!

You should really think about…

The power of being more decisive.

I think that’s something you have to keep learning over and over again. There was a great session all about unpacking decisions with Choice Words podcast host, Samatha Bee, and actresses Ilana Glazer, Pamela Adlon, and Michelle Buteau from the movie Babes. The entire session focused on what the decisions were that brought you to where you are now. There was a great quote from Michelle that talked about how decisions make you secure.

“Your ability to make decisions is what makes people feel safe”.

That one hit especially hit home for me. Listening to these women who were all time-poor parents themselves, constantly tasked with being able to make decisions - no matter whether they’re right or wrong - and how powerful that is. Kids feel safer around those who can make decisions confidently. Making a decision and showing you've got the conviction to stand by your choices says a lot.

One last thing …

The fun I had experimenting (I even made myself into a hologram!)

I loved tinkering with a few real-world applications that would be so valuable. For example, they had a mini-light box for virtual shoe shopping. You could spin the image around to see the whole shoe as a 3D object. Imagine that application in-store. Customers view it, order it, and have it shipped directly to their homes. No inventory stock is needed! Definitely, a handy business model to consider.

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