The most compelling SXSW Interactive talk I've caught so far was the cracker jack two-man tango on Sunday afternoon between authors Andrew Keen and Clive Thompson called 'Is the Internet the Answer?'
The title was a play on Keen's new book The Internet Is Not The Answer, which posits that the innovations that were alledgedly going to set us free have instead eliminated our jobs and turned us into digital prisoners. It paired Britisher Keen off with Canadian Thompson, who takes a more optimistic view, as his newest book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing The Way We Think For The Better, makes plain. 
In practice, however, it wasn't so much a point-counterpoint debate as an invigorating discussion about the often troubling places that the brave new world has brought us. 

Thompson, who appropriately wirtes for Wired since he is one of the most wired speakers you will ever  hear, discussed the concept of "recency," and how the interconnectedness of the web and social media apps like Twitter have directed an extraoridinary focus on the now. Collective obsession and groupthink hones in on a subject of the moment before discarding it, whether it be the Arab Spring, Trayvon Martin or a missing Malaysian plane. While remaining the more optimistic of the two, he pointed out that the great mistakes of history have been made from ignoring the past and being unable to focus of the future, "and while that issue has always been with us, it's more acute now than ever."

Keen talked about how the wealth of information at our fingertips has meant that "We've forgotten how to forget" - everyone's past is there to to be revisited - "but we've also forgotten how to remember," because we let our digital memories do it for us.
He mocked the over-used tech word "disruption": "Disruption is the new orthodoxy," he said, and stressed the dangers of the winner take all economy that has produced world dominating digital titans such as Facebook, Google and Apple, all of whose owners are so rich "they could solve the Greek debt crisis themselves, or buy a small European or African country."
Rather than the worshipped Steve Jobs - subject of Alex Gibney's unflattering film Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine, which is playing at the SXSW Film fest - Keen suggested the real model to look up to in the digital age is Microsoft's Bill Gates, who "realized you have a responsibility" and set the example of "spending half a lifetime amassing enormous wealth, and the second half giving it away."
Another sobering thought about the dark side of technology: What with the coming Internet of Things, with wearable devices all the rage at SXSW,  Keen said, "the new Big Brother isn't Big Brother in the Orwellian sense, it more lies in the Big Brother of the reality TV show sense. The new authoritarianism is the increasingly sophisticated subtle control of everything.... Privacy is the new scarcity." 
Previously: 'Love & Mercy' with Brian Wilson at SXSW Follow In The Mix on Twitter