Think Big March 21, 2019

Part 1: Keynote Quips & Surviving Scooter-Pocolypse

SXSW has a reputation of equal parts inspiring and energetic fun and the 2019 version was right on brand. This year saw Team P&G leave the cold Canadian climate in the dust as we settled back into our Austin home to take in SXSW 2019. Here’s some of our highlights.

Tech Trends of the Future

SXSW regular keynote speaker and quantitative futurist Amy Webb returned for another talk on the tech trends to look out for in the future. She again shared her entire 2019 report and took us through some of the highs and lows. A couple of the key trends include the death of privacy as we know it and the rules surrounding biometric scanning – the process in which companies buy and house genetic data for future use. If you’re interested in reading her report, she’s shared it online here.

Her Strange Year At Uber

Susan Fowler is known as the Uber Whistleblower because two years ago she wrote a blog post revealing her experience working as one of the ride app’s engineers. She wrote about the numerous times she was sexually harassed and revealed a glaring issue of inequality towards women in the workplace. But her chat wasn’t about rehashing a story from the past, it was about empowering and inspiring others for the future. Specifically, Fowler talked about some of the lessons she’s learned since she pulled back the curtain on Uber. Namely, how words can be powerful enough to change the world.

How 90’s ‘Bitchification’ Led To The #MeToo Movement

Authors Bridget Todd and Allison Yarrow presented an incredible case study on how entertainment norms and media sentiment in the 90s actually shaped the perception of women as different types of ‘bitches.’ The result is the horrifying reality that a lot of young girls had to live through the pattern of being denied victimhood. In fact, they saw that girls start to lose their self-esteem as early as 8 years old – a shift that remains to this day.  Everything from magazines to beauty products were establishing a foundation of thinness with regards to body image and the result was alarming increase in suicide rates in the 90s. Todd and Yarrow used this case study as a way to introduce a new way of thinking, where we move from apathy to activism. And the #MeToo movement is only the first of many steps in the right direction.

The Gun Emoji

Mark Davis is the President and Co-founder of the Unicode Consortium. In short, he helped invent emojis. Mark was joined by Desmond Patton from Columbia University, who studies gang culture and how emojis are used in language, and Jane Solomon from to discuss the history and the modern use of the gun emoji. They talked at length about how language on social media and through texting can easily lead to real life violence, and in some cases triggered by nothing more than an emoji. The fascinating discussion went through the advantages and potential dangers of emojis with regards to language and how we communicate as a modern society. The group ended on an inspirational note about how we can treat the gun emoji as a way to communicate trauma and better understand gang culture.

Malcolm Gladwell Doesn’t Want Your Electric Car

Malcolm Gladwell and Chris Urmson took part in a very candid and entertaining debate about self-driving cars. Moderated by broadcaster, Jo Ling Kent, the conversation was around the future of society given that self-driving cars are inevitable. Gladwell, who is an outspoken champion of driving, brought up very serious points about security and safety. Urmson countered by mentioning how sitting in traffic and finding parking are sucking time away from people being productive. Both had valid points and agreed on the fact that self-driving cars are definitely coming.

Uber & Lyft Facilitate Scooter-Pocolypse

As with years past, there was definitely a buzz around town about new tech. And although it’s not brand new, this year’s was definitely the rental scooter. No helmet? Sure, rent a scooter. Under the influence? Sure, rent a scooter. Zero experience navigating a busy street on a 2-wheeled danger machine? Sure, rent a scooter. All kidding aside, Scooter-pocolype had descended upon the conference and depending who was riding, it was either a resounding success, or a painful failure.


Pound & Grain sent down a team of eager learners so we covered a lot of ground in Austin. We’ll be back again soon with more summaries, more thoughts and more SXSW goodness to chew on. Until then, keep it weird!

These words are by Scott Lew

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