Under the rose-crested ceiling of Edinburgh’s impressive Assembly Rooms, we are gathered for the second annual Beyond Conference 2019. Exploring the intersection between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the creative industries, we are joined by computer tech companies, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and academics, to gain insight into the advancements these innovators are making in embracing machine learning and tackling the challenges that are impacting the future of the sector.
Here are the top five things I learned from my two days at the conference.
Robots aren’t going to take over the world
Refreshingly, Carly Kind, Director of the Ada Lovelace Institute, reassures us, “robots will never out-create their creators”.
But don’t we all feel that our jobs are at risk due to the rise of more efficient automation? Haven’t humans chosen to integrate machine learning in to our everyday lives?
“It comes down to changing social perspectives,” says Kind, “through the power of art and literature.” Examples of this are ‘The Jungle’ by Upton Sinclair, and ‘The World Set Free’ by H.G Wells; the latter predicts a more destructive and uncontrollable sort of weapon that the world is yet to see. Is this the view point we should adopt when thinking about machine learning?
Kind believes that it is humans that are the real creators here, and without our input in helping computers thrive in the creative industries, we wouldn’t see any developments in the digital age. Therefore, we can expect to see a lot more AI collaborations in the future to ensure that there will always be a human approach at its core.
AI & VR – creating new ways of telling stories
Guy Gadney is the CEO of Charisma.ai, a company combining the worlds of storytelling and gameplay to bring together an emotional evolution of characters with dynamic memories – creating a new form of conversational entertainment. This new technology allows viewers to step through the screen, meet the characters in the stories, and give the player the general feeling of true immersion. He has found in the past that audiences feel a sense of frustration that they could not direct the story in the way they wanted to, and his objective is to promise users more control over this.
However, he does not want to give users functional control of the story, but rather for them to be in the story. He wants to put the player in front of the characters, so that they then influence the story to give a bespoke experience. “The story, for them, is about the emotional journey, and their involvement in that journey,” says Gadney.
Thankfully, technology has caught up with these ideas. “There is no right or wrong in the more narrative-driven approach, nor is there in the character-driven approach that Charisma are taking.”
We could soon see the next generation seamlessly move from being passive viewers to engaged players in stories.
AI & Music: Creativity & the Complexities
Music has seen a rise in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
On-demand music is here to stay, and key players have already made sizeable advances in discovering new ways to listen to music and engage with audiences. Spotify uses users’ data to personalise and recommend music playlists; while Apple adds additional content to Apple Music, such as livestreams and pre- and post-album coverage. But how do we move beyond simply touching the tip of the iceberg?
Artists and music producers are embracing machine learning in developing different ways to establish industry workflows – just like our guest speaker Reeps One, who has been experimenting with vocal practices and advances in machine learning to give a new representation of physics and sound. In 2018, he presented the first-ever beatboxing tournament between him and an AI opponent. He achieved this by teaming up with artist CJ Carr in developing a deep learning program, taking a lecture Reaps had given in Sweden, and transforming it into a new set of sounds. Reeps is now internationally recognised as a leading artist of the New School Beatbox scene, with his global online following reaching to 50m views and counting.
AI in the heritage sector can recreate interviews with Holocaust survivors
Sarah Coward, CEO of The National Holocaust Centre and the Forever Project, has been developing new digital technology that not only preserves survivor data, but also allows audiences to listen to life-sized 3D projections of them, to ask questions long after they have passed away. The programme demonstrates the power of a digital approach to convey the experiences of individual lives, so their stories will never be forgotten.
Ten volunteer survivors agreed to be filmed at the centre, and each person undertook five days of filming in 40-minute sections. The museum sees 20,000 schoolchildren pass through the centre each year, and almost all of them participate in a Q&A session with a group of 40 volunteer survivors. They ask intelligent and fearless questions, such as, ‘do you wish you weren’t born Jewish?’
“That important interaction is in danger of being lost,” says Coward. Almost half a million children have had a live audience session with eyewitnesses, and it is this technology that will continue to allow them to do so, even when those survivors have passed away.
AI inherits the bias of its creators
Storyteller from the Future, Karen Palmer, ignites the stage with clips from her powerful and emotionally responsive latest film RIOT. The immersive film uses storytelling, gaming, facial recognition, and AI technology to navigate through a dangerous riot.
Palmer’s work challenges its participants to become aware of implicit bias and consciously build new neurological pathways in the brain, through overriding automatic behavioural responses to better understand the lived experiences of others. It represents a powerful development in the emerging field of neurogames. Her objective with this film is to empower people in giving them the insight to come together in making a difference.
So how can we deal with resolving the challenges of bias that’s facing AI? Having more diversity is one way of ensuring that it isn’t just one demographic creating software for the masses. Palmer explains that the majority of iPhones are designed by men; this is why they are slightly too big for a woman’s hand. “By having more gender and colour diversity in those creating these systems,” Palmer states, “they can be designed more equally for everyone.”
A system used in the New York justice system, called Compass, supports judges when they are sentencing criminals. It has been proven to be biased against people of colour and suggests giving them more severe jail sentences. “It’s the automation of these systems that are not allowing us to be made aware of their repercussions,” Palmer concluded. It is with this that she wants to take AI to the masses. “Why should governments and corporations be the only ones creating AI?”
Let us know: What is the AI gadget you would like to have? Or do you already have a favourite?
The Forever Project is seeking donations to deliver ten more testimonies. You can help at www.foreverproject.co.uk