This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.
Day one is in the books.
In the workplace sessions I attended, a theme emerged right away: How can companies large and small use what they are the best at to solve problems in the world? What does the world look like if businesses made decisions based upon “massive transformational purpose,” and did this either beyond or within their primary role of generating profit?
It’s difficult to sum up how it all came together but I’ll give it a try.
The economist and technologist Tim O’Reilly presented a vision of the future economy in stark and realistic terms.
Today and in the future, technology will continue to drive the economic performance of companies. Artificial intelligence will make everything more efficient and in some cases - nearly frictionless. Imagine the ease of a one-click Amazon transaction applied to your routine medical care?
The result will likely be larger companies, more automation, and even more personalized service for customers. People will be supercharged by A.I. to do more meaningful work than ever before. More wealth will be created and - if we follow the same trajectory we’re on now - the gap between the wealthiest and the middle class will continue to widen.
A way to understand how fundamental these economic changes are is to think about a map, Reilly explained. If you used a 75-year-old map to get from Mansfield to Chicago, you would likely get lost because the roads have changed dramatically over time. Likewise, digital technology has completely altered the roadways of economics and thus made the maps we have obsolete. His challenge to cities, business people, and citizens is to “redraw the map” for a new reality that measures the success of a company by the good it puts into the world as well as its profit margin.
That’s a powerful challenge that got me thinking about the deep expertise in Mansfield’s business community. Engineering, technology, hospitality, entertainment, the arts, manufacturing. We design complicated things. We manufacture complex products that have a worldwide impact. We’re experts in entertaining audiences and having fun. And that’s just the beginning.
If all that expertise were applied in an organized way to help drive progress in the Mansfield’s downtown, what would that look like? Something to think about.
NOTE: For a fascinating and exhaustive look at the world through data, check out Our World in Data.
Stay tuned and follow the progress via #SXSW419. And watch for more blogs at richlandsource.com/rising_from_rust/sxsw.