Happening March 10th thru 19th in Austin, SXSW is the essential destination for global professionals and curious minds to explore visionary ideas and the latest innovations in advertising, technology, music, film and culture.

Check out our recap of Wunderman Thompson SXSW sessions that featured on the stage this week 'A Practical Guide to Whether Your AI is Sentient' and 'Weathering the Storm of Black Maternal Mortality’ with insights from our experts.

Wunderman Thompson SXSW Speaker Sessions

'Weathering the Storm of Black Maternal Mortality'

With Dania Alarcon, Chief Medical Officer, Wunderman Thompson Health

In 1992, Dr. Arline T. Geronimus, ScD, Professor, Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, coined the term “weathering” to describe the “health deterioration in early adulthood as a physical consequence of cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage” of Black women. Today, the concept remains little understood and contributes to poor health outcomes for Black mothers, who are three times more likely to die in childbirth than White or Hispanic women. In this session, women come together to tackle this health inequity: A prominent Black doula shares her experiences from the frontlines; a poet expresses the lived experiences of Black women across the maternal journey through inspiring verse; a doctor explores the opportunity for impactful interventions designed to improve Black maternal experiences and health outcomes; and an advocate connects these women to take on weathering.


  • There is a global Black maternal mortality crisis leading to three times higher death rates in Black mothers during childbirth compared to their White or Hispanic counterparts
  • The concept of weathering remains little understood, yet is a key root cause of chronic stress contributing to the Black maternal mortality crisis
  • Community care providers like doulas can improve birth outcomes for Black mothers, yet many healthcare providers have not fully or optimally integrated them into clinical care settings
  • Poetry and artistic expression provide a path to healing for Black mothers and birth workers who support them, while offering healthcare providers an opportunity to develop deeper empathy and understanding of the need for respectful maternal care
  • “Our most potent technology is our humanity, and that’s what we need more of," said Dr. Yvette Perry, Listener Poet, TGLP
  • Please subscribe to RxUCKUS – the interactive zine that’s disrupting the status quo in health equity and follow #STARTARxUCKUS

'A Practical Guide to Whether Your AI is Sentient'

With Jason Carmel, Global Lead, Creative Data, Wunderman Thompson and Ilinca Barsan, Director of Data Science, Wunderman Thompson

Is your AI alive? Are you sure? A Google engineer was fired for publicly claiming the language model he worked on was sentient based on the emotional depth of conversations he experienced “talking” to it. Scientists around the world have weighed in against the model’s sentience while acknowledging the reality of remarkably human-sounding output, raising the debate: how would we know if an AI did, in fact, become self-aware?

With the construction of a general Artificial Intelligence looking more likely in the coming decades, it’s time we come up with a checklist that AI practitioners and hobbyists alike can use to be certain, one way or the other, that our machines have become sentient and discuss whether that's the right question to ask in the first place.


  • Recent events surrounding the release of large language models by Microsoft and Google raised the concept of AI sentience in the news
  • We define sentience broadly as a requiring a combination of experience, agency and magic
  • Sentience in AI does not exist and is a LONG way away, if it is indeed possible at all.
  • So rather than focusing on sentience as an issue that we might face some time in the indefinite future, we recommend focusing on Responsible and Ethical AI as something that can make artificial intelligence better right now.
  • Think your AI is alive? To find out for sure, visit our sentient-o-meter here

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