GlobalAustraliaNew ZealandU.S.A.
29 March 2023  •  Ryan Jordan

AI: The good, the bad and the ugly

Ryan Jordan

I attended this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, and was blown away by what I saw. I found myself feeling both scared and hopeful for our future. It challenged my perspectives and left me with more questions than answers. This is my best attempt to aggregate the big questions I will sit with over the next little while.

1. AI can clearly be a force for good and it’s going to transform the way we live our lives, but are we ready for the unintended consequences?

The transformative effect of generative AI on business, society, and health was the most central throughline of this year’s event.

Greg Brockman, the co-founder of OpenAI, spoke about their mission to build generative AI platforms that benefit all humanity. Brockman believes that AI is an amplifier of what humans can do, not a replacement for them. Understanding AI and how to prompt it is effectively an immediate promotion for professionals.

And generative AI is solving large problems that humans haven’t been able to yet, within health, climate action, education, and cyber security. However, despite the good that AI is providing to society, some big questions remain about the ethics of the technology and people misusing AI to cause harm.

Brockman argues that the deep learning nature of AI allows them to iterate and evolve. Placing guardrails in place as and when problems arise based on people’s behaviour within their platforms. But it does raise the question of how much testing is enough before transformative AI platforms are made accessible to people, and due to the deep learning nature of AI can you ever have enough testing in place?

2. Can we empathise with robots? And even if we can, should we?

Disney Parks and Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro introduced three AI-powered robots that Disney has been building to create the next generation of interactive characters for its theme parks. Like Judy Hopps, which is based on the insight that we can empathise with people, or in this case, things, when we see their flaws and imperfections. The prototype can fall down, get back up, move around on roller skates, and even do a somersault.

On the surface, this is incredibly exciting, but it raises some troubling questions about empathy. Children, who already form attachments to the characters they see in cartoons, run the risk of building superficial bonds with robots that can hold conversations with them and mirror their emotions. And what about the elderly and isolated communities? Are we creating the conditions for them to attach themselves to robots as a means of staving off loneliness? The truth is, I’m not sure. But it’s a scary thought.

3. Is our reliance on technology going to place unfair expectations on our personal relationships, and if so what are the unintended consequences?

World-renowned relationship psychotherapist Esther Perel talked about the other AI, or what she calls “artificial intimacy.” This is where people are with each other but are not present. She attributes the rise of artificial intimacy to society’s increasing addiction to screens, dating apps, and social media that allow us to optimise our lives.

But this relentless focus on optimisation has not actually optimised our ability to be present with one another. Most of life’s challenges are not problems we solve, but paradoxes we must manage. The technologies that help us remove many of life’s inconveniences have also made us ill-equipped to deal with the natural friction and messiness of living with another human. The ability to act freely during uncertainty and to see the ripple effects of our actions is what makes us feel alive.

In this age of modern loneliness, which often masks itself as hyperconnectivity, it’s important to remember that the intimacy within our relationships is embodied. Our connection to artificial intelligence and our friends through social media is not. The challenge for us as humans is to use technology to enhance our connections with each other, not to replace them.

4. Will the people who understand people and their behaviour be the ones who win in a world where AI is obviously here to stay?

‘People who understand people always win.’

This was a big idea throughout this year’s festival. Rohit Bhargava, founder, and chief trend curator for Future Normal and John Maeda, VP of design at Microsoft, argued that while AI may be faster, more accurate, and consistently rational, it lacks the intuition, emotion, and cultural sensitivity that humans possess. AI is only as powerful as the inputs that humans put into it. Those who understand human behaviour are best equipped to use AI as a tool to feed insights into their work.

But empathy alone won’t be enough. We need to challenge ourselves in the creative industries to use our advantage over AI. We must use AI as a tool to amplify our creativity, not replace it altogether. So, in the end, it’s not about whether AI replaces humans or not. The people who understand people and use AI as an amplifier of their creativity will ultimately win.

That’s my take from SXSW 2023. I think we’ve seen enough to recognise that AI is here to stay, and it will change everything. And while I have some questions that I will continue to sit with, I have come away feeling inspired and optimistic about what this means for us in the creative industries and within society moving forward.

Ryan Jordan is Group Strategy Director at Bastion Shine, Auckland

Originally posted on Campaign Brief here.

Interested? Fill in the form and we’ll make sure the right person connects with you.
We love working with brands and businesses that want to break the boundaries and join the new-world agency. Let's talk.
Sign up to our mailing list for update on all things Bastion.
  • Melbourne
  • Sydney
  • Gold Coast
  • Orange County
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • Auckland
  • Wellington
  • Brisbane
  • Canberra
  • The Rosella Complex
    Building 18A, 64 Balmain Street, Cremorne, VIC 3121

    Email Us

© 2024 All Rights Reserved