AI and Humanity, Curiosity, and Culture at SXSW

3 of Our Key Takeaways from the Big Event

AI and Humanity, Curiosity, and Culture at SXSW

Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes

As promised, SXSW delivered on a captivating exploration of innovation, creativity, and culture. In this article, we share three of our biggest takeaways from the event, from the dynamic interplay between artificial intelligence and humanity, to the transformative role of curiosity in design, to the triumph of cultural authenticity.

AI and Humanity, Curiosity, and Culture at SXSW

1. The Intersection of AI and Humanity

Featured Sessions:
Using AI to Enhance Human Connection—Not Replace It
AI, Dali, + The Future of Creativity

As humans, it's natural to feel apprehensive when encountering the unknown. However, as thinkers, creatives, and innovators, it's our responsibility to transcend fear and embrace the realm of perspective and possibility. At the forefront of this enigmatic landscape stands AI, an unavoidable tool that beckons us to navigate its complexities, harnessing its potential to support and enhance our innate creativity.

What AI Can Do:

  • Learn & Evolve: AI absorbs and synthesizes information, becoming smarter with each input.
  • Maximize Efficiency: AI processes copious amounts of data faster and more accurately than humans can, making it a great tool to summarize and share and maximizing fiscal and human capital through minimized legwork.
  • Inspire & Identify: AI is incredibly useful when it comes to discovery. From streamlined prototyping and iterations to pattern and trend identification, AI accelerates idea generation, making space for humans to do what they do best: create.

What AI Cannot Do:

  • Self-Start: AI is only as smart as we allow it to be and cannot output without human input.
  • Dream: Humans dream–AI doesn't. While the machine does learn and replicate, it cannot absorb true consciousness and lacks the capacity for genuine creativity.

Put simply–humans are curators, AI is a distributor, and amid the symbiotic relationship defined by complementary strengths and inherent limitations, we recognize that AI's essence remains tethered to human ingenuity, innovation, and creativity. Look out for more of our thoughts on AI at SXSW in an upcoming article!

2. Design with Curiosity at the Core

Featured Sessions:
Making Curiosity Contagious
Play as Brand Strategy

Understanding consumers' needs hinges on a deep curiosity to know their need states. From strategy development to experience execution, "curiosity" was a key word woven throughout sessions at SXSW.

Leading experience brands such as Whole Foods, Delta, and Hilton emphasized the importance of richness stemming from curiosity: What does the consumer really want? How can we create that on an individual level while maintaining scalability? Many of their solutions were rooted in thoughtful research behind mental, emotional, physical, and social wellbeing that took form in creative (and most of the time unexpected) partnerships, enablement of customization and personalization, and "do the most" experiences.

Brands like Adobe and Lyft underscored the role of curiosity in strategy formulation with special emphasis placed on the idea of reflecting humanity as it exists, not as it's expected to be.

AI and Humanity, Curiosity, and Culture at SXSW

The Four Archetypes of Curiosity

Generally, curiosity mindsets can be organized into four quadrants–each having their own preferences when it comes to stimulation and service. Understanding the differences in these curiosity types helps individuals and brands better tailor experiences, both internally and externally.

Internally, it's important to understand the minds that are creating the experiences to set any deliverable up for success. Externally, understanding the curiosity mindsets of your audiences helps deliver and distribute in a way that best resonates. Now What, a global insight company rooted in curiosity and understanding, broke down exactly how these mindsets differ from one another and how to maximize their potential accordingly.

The four types of curiosity mindsets (definitions derived from Now What):

  • The Inner Child: The Inner Child approaches curiosity like a playground. They embrace the magic of a beginner's mind and move through life with open eyes and open ears. They're susceptible to wonder but impervious to assumption.
  • The Rebel: The rebel approaches curiosity like a blank canvas. A rule-breaking optimist at heart, they challenge the status quo and believe in curiosity's power to rewrite and reimagine the world around them.
  • The Tinkerer: The tinkerer approaches curiosity like a puzzle and they can't help but take things apart, piece by piece. By understanding the different pieces that make something up, they can build it back together in innovative and creative ways.
  • The Voyager: The voyager approaches curiosity like a treasure map, following their instincts to the ends of the world. Their adventurous spirit guides them on their quest to learn as much as they can about the people, places, and ideas out there.

In the realm of design, curiosity reigns as the catalyst for innovation and empathy. Successful brands are championing curiosity’s ethos, understanding their consumers deeply and forging connections and experiences that transcend the ordinary.

Find your curiosity type here.

AI and Humanity, Curiosity, and Culture at SXSW

3. Culture Wins Over Control

Featured Sessions:
Long Live Culture Media
Connection in a Creator Era

Gone are the days where brands can thrive while being contained. As we all know, content is king, and in a world where it runs rampant, keeping up is critical to the success of a brand. This idea is two-fold:

  1. Media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, and X continue to thrive, and while user numbers continues to rise, so do the stories we see, resulting in an oversaturation of content that is on its way out almost as quickly as it found its way in. No matter how fleeting, these trends are powerful, and arguably essential, for brands to respond to. However, strict brand standards and content approval processes do not allow for this kind of fluidity so that opportunities to connect with audiences are missed.
  2. Successful brands are no longer one-sided visions, but collaborative experiences: experiences that invite the consumer to become a part of the story and make it their own. There's a certain sort of cultural authenticity that is only possible when unscripted.

Expanding your ability to respond and collaborate is critical–the more control you require over your brand, the less likely it is to be able to do just that. Culture media is here to stay, and culture doesn't happen without the voices and experiences of people.

A prime example of this concept was CeraVe's recent fake news campaign in collaboration with Michael Cera. While the intent was planned, the form it took was anything but. For those that missed it, this campaign was meant to be a buzz-creating story rooted in Michael Cera's claim to actually owning the CeraVe brand, a claim that had absolutely no backing. From influencers to investors, the world was abuzz with questions. While (unknowingly to the world) CeraVe knew exactly what they were doing planting the fake news seed, they never imagined it would take off the way it did. Thanks to the unscripted direction of influencers and the collection of voices around the world trying to get to the bottom of the story, this ad made for one of the most engaging super bowl ads we've seen in years.

AI and Humanity, Curiosity, and Culture at SXSW

Embrace the Human Element

As we walk away from SXSW, we recognize an overarching theme that even amid an ever-innovating technological landscape, embracing the human element is key. In this convergence lies the promise of a future where innovation is driven by empathy, creativity flourishes in curiosity’s wake, and authenticity serves as the cornerstone of meaningful engagement.

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