Former Vice President Al Gore, WWE star John Cena and the guys from “Deadliest Catch” were among the speakers Saturday at SXSW Interactive. Read more of our reports at austin360.com/sxsw.
Gore used a popular metaphor to describe our current political situation: Our democracy has been hacked. “Our operating system in the U.S. is our Constitution,” he said, and the people are no longer in charge.
The conversation, which ping-ponged between humorous and serious, focused on his new book, “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change.” Almost an hour before his presentation began, lines snaked around the Austin Convention Center. And after an introduction by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Gore emerged before a cheering crowd.
He discussed the six drivers of global change, which range from more technological drivers like the “reinvention of life and death” to others that have a more political impact such as how the balance of power is shifting from West to East.
Each driver, he explained, has a “peril and an opportunity.”
Gore said nothing is going to happen to help us move forward as a nation unless we find a way to communicate with each other and require leadership. He says this can only occur if Americans are willing to take back democracy and make it function again.
— Nancy Flores
PayPal founder talks space
One of the most anticipated events Saturday attracted a large audience curious about dynamic South African entrepreneur Elon Musk.
The soft-spoken co-founder of PayPal, who now heads up three forward-looking companies — SpaceX, Tesla Motors and SolarCity — was open about his achievements and challenges and presented never-before seen video footage of a reusable rocket test landing from SpaceX, which drew appreciative applause.
Musk, who was interviewed by Chris Anderson of 3D Robotics (and former editor of Wired), focused primarily on his SpaceX work, where the company is trying to develop reusable rockets for commercial space travel. He described the terror and thrill of seeing a recent mission to the International Space Station go wrong and then go right and described how he got interested in space after his success at PayPal.
“I was always curious about space, but I didn’t think there was anything I could do with space,” Musk said. When he saw there wasn’t enough progress being made on a mission to Mars, “I thought perhaps this is a question of will.”
Musk said that in addition to trying to have some fun at SXSW Interactive, he was in town to talk to the Texas Legislature about a possible commercial spaceport in the state. He says the main obstacle might be the Texas Open Beaches Act, but apart from that, Texas is the frontrunner for a facility that would be built starting next year and would begin launching vessels in two to three years.
— Omar L. Gallaga
WWE owns social media
More than any professional sports league (NFL included) and most iconic entertainment properties, World Wrestling Entertainment is an entertainment industry leader in engaging fans on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and its WWE mobile app. With 97 million “likes” across its various company Facebook pages and 45 million Facebook followers across company accounts and those of its wrestlers and personalities, the company has embraced multiple platforms to attract fans to its television shows, live events and pay-per-views in unprecedented numbers.
John Cena, who has been the WWE’s most popular star for going on 10 years and is Twitter’s third most-followed athlete behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, talked at “Get Ready to Rumble! How WWE Is Crushing Social TV” about his initial hesitancy to join Twitter because of how public it made his personal life. He was won over by the back and forth the platform allowed him to have with fans.
Stephanie McMahon, the company’s executive vice president of creative, an occasional on-air performer and daughter of CEO Vince McMahon, said social media intensifies the feedback in the fan-company relationship and lets writers and other decision makers know how the scripted action in the ring is resonating. Through strategic use of social media to sell tickets and pay-per-view buys and draw viewers, company revenue increased 25 percent through digital channels.
— Chad Swiatecki
Can anyone have it all?
Men and women are going to have to work together to find solutions to the question of how to have a great career and a family, too, according to the speakers at “Beyond Work/Life: Changing the Debate & Making Change.” As a culture, we must start valuing caregiving. The ability to work from anywhere, flexible time, better daycare options and paid family leave are going to be important pieces of the puzzle.
“When I hear from men, they are saying that they don’t have it all either,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” “If we are going to have better choices for women, we have to have better choices for men.”
They also suggested a change in how we view careers. With people living well into their 80s, we need to think about slowing down in our 30s to have children and speeding back up again in 40s and 50s to achieve career goals. Ageist attitudes will have to be confronted to make this work.
The panelists said work/life balance means being able to have a great career and a family, too. In a world where 70 percent of women work, most people will be a caregiver at some point, and not just of children. Aging parents need care too. It is essential to get men involved in the conversation because this has to be an equal effort. Even so, the audience at the panel was mostly women.
— Esther Robards-Forbes
Captains of the Internet
The stars of Discovery’s hit reality show “Deadliest Catch” talked about the impact of social media on their jobs and their show. The panelists drew large laughs from the large crowd, but much of what they said is unpublishable.
Social media has added another layer to an already difficult job, but the stars’ main gig is and always will be fishing. They are learning as they go and figuring out how to deal with constant and growing recognition.
“I’m selling crab across the United States now. I wouldn’t be able to do that without social media,” said Keith Colburn.
— Dale Roe