Unlike many conferences, South by Southwest (SXSW) provides not only an opportunity to network and learn about interesting subjects, it provides an environment to expand one’s creative thought process. Rather than providing sessions jam-packed with academic/professional information, many of the sessions at SXSW simply aim to have a thought provoking discussion of essentially infinite subject matters. In addition to the live bands, premieres of indie films, and numerous sessions with noteworthy speakers from a range of backgrounds, large companies and startups alike showcased their newest tech.
Why is it valuable?
At SXSW, how much did I learn about stroke? Little to none. Does that mean the SXSW experience wasn’t valuable to the Health for America fellowship? Of course not (otherwise I’d likely not be writing this blog). On the contrary, the experience provided insights into many new technologies outside of the scope of what we’re currently working on. I found one such example at a company’s podium advertising their NFC (Near Field Communication) powered biosensors. Although the tech isn’t applicable to what we’re currently working on, it does expand the realm of possibilities for possible pivots or future solutions. Plainly, being privy to recent developments in enabling technology is a necessity for any innovator. You don’t know what you don’t know, so indiscriminate learning is often the only way to expand your mind and recognize possibilities outside of your initial train of thought.
Abstract thought of the day—if an analogous problem is a neural net getting stuck at some local optimum, then an analogous solution might be novelty search. Think differently!