What We Learnt At Pause Fest 2019

March 5, 2019

Image Source: Pause Fest 2019

A few weeks, ago Melbourne played host to Pause Fest, an annual festival of ideas, technology, business and creativity. 

Obviously, our team of Labsters couldn’t stay away from this “creativity infused event” with the main theme of the event being “Intimate futures”. Here are some of the topics everyone was talking about…and should be thinking about for 2019….

AI: Moving towards more realistic and optimistic expectations of what AI can do for humans

AI is still a prominent topic. Not only in the possibilities it offers, but also the fear that surrounds it. Interestingly, we may be moving towards fearing it less, and accepting it more for what it is, or what it can be at its best. 

Cecilia Ambros, Head of Creative Studios for Amazon Advertising (US), pointed out how AI used to be portrayed in pop culture as the villain, with super-intelligence that could destroy mankind. Today, it seems there has been a clear evolution in film and entertainment where AI has progressively become more of a companion: an equal with human-like intelligence, who learns over time (as we humans do) and finds a natural place in our human lives. Will this eventually lead us to feel less awkward and uncomfortable with AI? Can we in turn accept it into the more intimate spheres of our lives?

Challenging our perceptions and expectations of AI was also mentioned by Konrad Feldman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Quantcast, who explained that our fear of AI often comes from people overestimating its capability in the short term. 

Konrad reminded us, however, that what we mean by ‘AI’ is in fact ‘Machine Learning’, which is highly reliant on humans, and is likely to remain reliant on humans operating and “teaching” it for quite some time. 

The awkwardness we do feel around AI is however not unfounded. There are clearly some situations we have witnessed where it has a controversial impact. Billy Seabrook, Global Chief Creative Officer at IBM iX shared an example where the same AI technology that is being used in San Francisco to detect skin cancer, is also used in China’s facial recognition social credit system. However, he believes AI can be best leveraged when companies keep a focus on innovating with trust and responsibility, touching the lives of the many, rather than the elite few, and delivering experiences that help humans belong. 

Image Source: Pause Fest 2019

Gen Z on everyone’s lips

Move over Millennials: Gen Z are the next target audience we’re all desperately curious to know better. This should come as no surprise, as they will soon become the single largest consumer group on the planet.

And they’re an interesting bunch. 

Hannah Murphy and Stephanie Winkler, both Strategists at VICE Australia, told us that Gen Z's are living in a “Moment of Consensus”. That despite their ever-increasing desire to be unique, different, and individual, they are actually becoming the same, through algorithms and social media curating and dictating their lives. Simply take a look at the infamous Festival Shirt to see this in action!

Social media is not only having a major influence on how they present themselves to others, but also how they see themselves. Murphy and Winkler spoke about how Gen Z's are living in “a highlights reel” of their friends lives – with all this “good stuff” in fact making their lives worse. They feel a disconnect between the aspirational, successful lives of others they see online and the realities of their own lives. With the “20-something multi-millionaire” or “10-year-old activist” now being seen as the new “norm”, this new reality is making them feel unsatisfied with their own lives, and in turn making them feel anxious, concerned about mental health and afraid of failure.  

Sarah Owen, Senior Editor at WGSN, also emphasised Gen Z’s desire for individuality and uniqueness. This was illustrated in a hypothesised shift of the well-known model Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Owen cited acclaimed public speaker Conniff Allende, who has proposed that the new needs place a larger focus on self-actualisation, and Wi-Fi / battery sitting within our basic needs to function.

Image Source: Pause Fest 2019

She also had an interesting take on this generation, who seems to split across two overarching mindsets: Gen Me and Gen We. Gen Me are more consumer driven. They follow the crowd and are driven by status. They are obsessed with making their own brand (even though it’s potentially the same as everyone else’s), and in their pursuit for individuality, they also have a strong need for acceptance. They are all about FOMO. On the other side, Gen We are all about FOGO (fear of GOING out). They are more civically engaged, prioritise equality and fairness, and are empowered by each other

Image Source: Pause Fest 2019

Brands can do good….and should.

Last but far from least, many speakers spoke out about the need for organisations and brands to take responsibility and create positive change. Consumers don’t just want this to happen, they expect it - and this is increasing with “94% of Gen Z believing companies ought to address social and environmental issues (compared to only 87% of Millennials)” as John Elliot, Founder of Sole Savers reminded us.

Businesses, big or small, should feel empowered to make a change and play a key role in making a difference to the issues they (and their consumers) believe in. 

Elaine, Ally, Lena & Amity