Bull Session

The Future of Creative Work

February 28, 2019          

Episode Summary

This week, on The Digital Life, we discuss the impact of AI on the future of creative work.

Resources:

Creative Next

Jon:
Welcome to episode 291 of The Digital Life, a show about our insights into the future of design and technology. I’m your host, John Follett and with me is founder and co-host Dirk Knemeyer.

Dirk:
Greetings, listeners.

Jon:
This week, we’re going to be talking about Creative Next, which is our new show debuting on February the 19th, and you can find out more about the Creative Next project at www.creativenext.org, and we’d love it if you came and checked out our new podcast.

Jon:
Dirk, what is the Creative Next show all about, and how is it a continuation of what we’ve started on The Digital Life?

Dirk:
  Yeah, so on Creative Next, what we say we are doing is future proofing creatives. That is specifically around the encroachment, which has a negative connotation that I’m not intending, of automation brought on by most directly artificial intelligence, but also other small ware technologies we’ve talked about on the show, like internet of things, 3D printing, stuff like that. The reality is, our frame for automation is one that is or about the factory floor. It’s about what we used to all blue collar workers being displaced. It wasn’t about us, the people who would listen to this show, the people who are involved in creative stuff.

Well, the reality is that automation is now making its way into our space. It has, in fact for a long time, and we haven’t used the language of automation, but we have a design firm here at GoInvo and for many years, the core tools for our team, among them at least, is the Adobe Creative Suite, and that is software that’s loaded with automation, that has drastically automated what design means over the last 30 years now.

This show is about the fact that automation is coming more quickly, in a way that is woven more into the very day work lives of me, of you, of people like us, all kinds of people. This is impacting researchers, writers, artists, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs among others. It’s going to change our work. It’s going to change our jobs. Tasks first are going to be falling to the automation, some of that automation will simply take the tasks over, some and more commonly it will be augmenting, so they will be tools that are helping us to perform tasks more quickly, giving us more power.

Again, going back to the Adobe Creative Suite example. But, those will in turn change what our jobs look like. They’ll change the skills required, the tasks required, and for folks to be ahead of that, to have it be a tool that is improving our career, improving our chances, giving us more longevity, and more ability to really thrive not just survive, we’ve got to be ready for that. We’ve got to be knowledgeable, we’ve got to be thinking, we’ve got to be learning, and Creative Next is about exploring all of that stuff.

Jon:
Yeah, just to expand a little bit on the idea of automation within the creative fields, I mean you give the example of the Adobe Creative Suite which, in and of itself, is automation. The first version of Photoshop or InDesign is automation in and of itself, if you look under the hood there is an awful lot of things that Photoshop is doing, that InDesign is doing, that used to be done by hand, right?

Dirk:
That’s right.

Jon:
They used to be done in a much different way. One of my first design internships involved using a paste-up board, using wax, right? So we would –

Dirk:
What’s a paste-up board? What is this wax you speak of, Jon?

Jon:
We would get the columns of text, and I would be running it through this machine that put a little coating of wax on it, and I would arrange the layouts on the board and that that board would get photographed, and that photograph would eventually find its way to a plate, which would be printed on the press, and that’s how the book was eventually assembled. That was my earliest exposure to the graphic design industry. There were a number of designers on staff. I, of course, was just an intern basically, a summer employee, and these designers were going to learn about this new fangled software called Quark. They were being sent to classes.

Dirk:
What’s Quark?

Jon:
I think Quark still exists.

Dirk:
Barely.

Jon:
The competitor and precursor to InDesign, right?

Dirk:
I researched it in the context of Creative Next, it exists, but barely.

Jon:
Yeah, so there you are. That is the way automation comes to an industry. Now we don’t even think twice about it. No-one’s seeing the wax layout paste-up boards in at least 20 years, right?

Dirk:
People 30 and under don’t know what those things are.

Jon:
And that’s just one example of all the miraculous stuff that the Creative Suite automates for you, without you even knowing it, right? That’s happening on the digital side, too. All of these issues, we’re going to dig into on Creative Next, which brings me to the second talking point today. Why are we doing this show? What’s the impetus for us to do it? What inspired us to do it? We’ve been doing The Digital Life since 2010, which I guess is, it’s time for a change maybe one of those.

Dirk:
Wow. It’s almost a decade. Yeah. I’m interested to hear your answer, but for me, it’s something that needed to be done. It’s something that I saw impacting … I saw it happening in the bigger world, you know, the projects like The Next Rembrandt Project, sort of this experimental thing where a machine is making an original Rembrandt painting. Reading the story about the … It’s things we’ve talked about on this show, so our listeners are familiar with some of it, but reading the story about the AI that submitted an essay into an essay writing contest, and finished in the top half of competitors. Stories like that, that said, “Wait a minute, there’s something … Something’s coming with this technology,” and as we looked at it more closely … I’ll speak for both of us here, you can correct me if need be … We really … The more we researched, we went from being agog and thinking in line more along the lines of sort of the scifi type stuff, that you hear from the media about AI, to really understanding the big change is coming but it’s not what the media is talking about.

It’s not what we’re reading about and learning, it’s different. It’s more subtle. It’s more integrated into our lives, and it has a more direct and real impact on our work lives in particular, in the short term. In the years ahead. People weren’t talking about that. It was still stuff that would be down the artificial general intelligence path, or stuff about goofy robots. I really felt like people are looking in the wrong place, and so for me it was like this is something people need to be aware of, it’s a story that needs to be told, and it will help a lot of people, because we’re understanding things that are going to really impact the world of work in the years ahead, and it’s going to surprise a lot of people.

The people who aren’t surprised, the people who are striving with it, and us, and hopefully our listeners, and hopefully much even broader than that, but are going to be at an advantage, are going to be protected, are going to be … In the language you’re using on the show, future proofed. For me, it was something that the discover of it surprised me, the learning of it enlightened me, and I found a calling that this was something that needed to be done to be of service to people who I consider my peers, my friends, my colleagues, people I’m sharing community and history with.

Jon:
Yeah, that’s a great way to sum it up. I think for me, I’m very interested in sort of the patterns of change over time in relation to the economy, and emerging technologies in particular, and how people manage their work across these transitions. For example, we’ve gone through this a number of times in the past. As human beings, we’ve moved from being hunter-gatherers to agriculture, from agriculture to industry, and now from industry to information, right? As the drivers of our economy. In each of those transitions, those transitions take a long time, which may not be something that we’re accustomed to discussing.

This long transition, which we are currently experiencing from a more industrialized economy into more of an information economy. Understanding that those changes really sparks a lot of interest from me. I’m interested in this kind of transformation. For me, this podcast Creative Next is … It’s a podcast, it’s also a much more focused research project in a lot of ways. We’re going to be talking to experts on AI, experts on design, on technology, similar to The Digital Life in that way, but exploring this thesis around what’s next for a creative economy. So, that’s another thing that excites me about the show, is just the focus and the research aspect to it as well.

Dirk:
Extending those differences a little, Jon, I mean for I don’t know, six years or so now, I’ve called myself a social futurist professionally. That’s the term that I’ve used, and I still use it, and I still think it’s correct. But, I have found myself weaving in the word journalist. I’ve never thought of myself as a journalist. But, the nature of this project, the work we’re doing, the way we’re doing it, my peers have been journalists, and I’ve been doing journalism work, and it’s a strange skin to wear, but I’m wearing it. It’s kind of cool. I’ve never felt that way with The Digital Life, certainly. I mean, we’re definitely bringing a level of research, of rigor, of real deep attention to these topics.

Jon:
Yeah, and I’m excited about that for sure. Dirk, what’s the first season going to be about? What’s the depth and breadth of the first season?

Dirk:
Yeah, so each season is going to take a side … to cover a wide topic that we think all together build a story around AI automation, and helping to future proof creatives. With that in mind, season one is about learning. When we settled on learning, we started to figure out, what is it we want to say about learning, what does this show need to be about? We start at sort of a high level. We start the season with sort of a philosophical look, a historical look at learning, at the relationship between humanity and technology. From there, we pivot into understanding terms. Understanding what we’re talking about, so going deep into artificial intelligence. Going deep into other smart ware technologies, and sort of doing the learning for ourselves about the context that we’re functioning in.

From there, we pivot to looking at how machines learn, and then specifically how learning machines have been participating in, and influencing games. We get into chess, we look at … You know, chess was the first of the major strategy games that AI defeated, it’s now been over 20 years ago. That’s given us 20 years to study once a machine dominates a game, what happens to that game, and what happens to the people who play and compete in that game?

We explore that, and then we move into poker, which is more recent. Understand how humans were able to build a machine that beat the best players, but then what has that done to the poker community just over the last two years? What impact has that had on strategy, on play, how are poker pros using machines? Which was pretty cool, too. That got us through about half of the season, and then we move into learning in the most direct way. Series of five shows, I think are really strong, where we start by looking at how is learning functioning in the corporate world, then talking with a high school principal, how is learning functioning in high school, then how is learning functioning in university, then how is learning functioning for young adults from a student perspective, how are they learning both in and out of the university, and then finally to online learning and lifelong learning, and how those things are manifesting.

Before then, finishing off by taking a look at where AI is headed, where automation is headed. In the years ahead, what are some things that will be changing, and contextualizing those in the future season. Maybe that’s a long winded overview, but that’s … Season one is about learning, and that’s the journey that we’ve taken with it.

Jon:
Yeah, that’s a great summary. A couple of the guests … Could you give us a hint who we’ll be hearing from on season one?

Dirk:
Sure, there are a couple of guests that we’re familiar with from The Digital Life, really our discovery of this project, and our research around it started with some of the work that we’ve done here. For example, Noam Brown, who is one of the co-creators of Libratus, the AI that defeated the poker pros. He is joining us for an episode about that. We also … The very first episode is with Carie Little Hersh, who we have here on The Digital Life. She’s the anthropologist and a lot of wonderful insights from Carie, and we’re thrilled to have her back for Creative Next.

But then a lot of new blood. A lot of people that will definitely be new to our listeners, and new to our shows. Chris Chabris, fantastically smart author, professor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, talking with us about chess. Tobi Bisetti, senior machine learning engineer as episode two, and she really gives us a good framework for what we’re talking about here, when we’re talking about AI and machine learning. The real stuff, not the scifi stuff. The nuts and bolts, among others, and we have 12 guests in this first season, and I think it’s a fantastic crew.

Jon:
We’ve noticed, we’re going to a season rhythm now, as opposed to straight up episodes, so each theme will have a season associated with it, and there’s six seasons that we’ve got planned, which will bring us through this year and next. Dirk, what are the subsequent seasons going to be about?

Dirk:
Yeah, so learning is … There certainly in learning we’re getting into ways that automation will directly impact creatives, specifically during those 12 episodes we’re going to be talking about how research science is impacted, for sure, as well as education. But, once we get past learning which is a little more general, we’re going to get more narrow into application. So, season two we’re calling communication, and that’s going to be looking at things like writing, journalism, marketing, things that have to do with the automation of communication in a bunch of different ways. Season three is going to be about form, so art and design. Broadly. You know, we’re going to be looking at music, we’re going to be looking at painting, sculpture, as well as design and the things that maybe our listeners are more likely to be doing, but these things have a reciprocal relationship what’s happening in art and design for example. Form is going to be focused on those things.

Function then is going to pivot in season four to engineering. How we make things work, and how we will automate the way that we make things work. Then season five is going to be on leadership, and that’s going to come from a couple different directions. One is about leadership in management, how those things will be automated. The other part of leadership is how leaders can implement automation solutions, at scales small and large, into their organizations, whether their organizations are small or large, and really understanding what is it going to look like to be shifting, and to be leading the shift into automated work places.

Season six is going to be called, “You.” It’s going to look at our lives, and look in the most direct way, regardless of whether you’re an engineer, or an artist, or a journalist, or a research scientist. How will this impact you, how can you make the most of it? How can AI automation not be something that’s a little scary, that’s a little uncertain, that feels destabilizing, but it’s something that’s empowering, that is something that really is a tool for good in your life, in the life of people who count on you, and count on your ability to make an income. But also good for the world at large, and how you and those tools could be a catalyst for that. That’s our plan.

Jon:
Awesome. If you’d like to learn more about Creative Next, go to www.creativenext.org, you’ll also be able to find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at GoCreativeNext, so we encourage you to get in touch with us there, and to check out the first season of Creative Next on learning, and we’ll be excited to have you along for this next adventure.

Listeners, remember that while you’re listening to this show, you can follow along with the things that we’re mentioning here in real time, just head over to thedigitalife.com, that’s just one L in the digital life, and go to the page for this episode. We’ve included links to pretty much everything mentioned by everyone, so it’s a rich information resource to take advantage of while you’re listening, or afterward if you’re trying to remember something that you liked. You can find The Digital Life on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Player Fm and Google Play, and if you’d like to follow us outside of the show, you can follow me on Twitter @jonfollett, that’s J-O-N, F-O-L-L-E-T-T, and of course the whole show is brought to you by GoInvo, a studio designing the future of healthcare and emerging technologies, which you can check out at goinvo.com. That’s G-O-I-N-V-O dot com. Dirk?

Dirk:
First, just a reminder that The Digital Life is going on hiatus, but it may be back someday. We’ve gone on hiatus a couple times before, and I don’t know. We wanted to reach episode 300 and this all happened too quickly, so we may come back yet again. But for now, please do check us out at creativenext.org. If you want to get in touch with me, you can follow me on Twitter @dknemeyer, that’s D-K-N-E-M-E-Y-E-R, and thank you so much for listening all these years.

Jon:
That’s it for episode 291 of The Digital Life. For Dirk Knemeyer, I’m Jon Follett, and we’ll see you next time.

 

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Jon Follett
@jonfollett

Jon is Principal of GoInvo and an internationally published author on the topics of user experience and information design. His most recent book, Designing for Emerging Technologies: UX for Genomics, Robotics and the Internet of Things, was published by O’Reilly Media.

Dirk Knemeyer
@dknemeyer

Dirk is a social futurist and a founder of GoInvo. He envisions new systems for organizational, social, and personal change, helping leaders to make radical transformation. Dirk is a frequent speaker who has shared his ideas at TEDx, Transhumanism+ and SXSW along with keynotes in Europe and the US. He has been published in Business Week and participated on the 15 boards spanning industries like healthcare, publishing, and education.

Credits

Co-Host & Producer

Jonathan Follett @jonfollett

Co-Host & Founder

Dirk Knemeyer @dknemeyer

Minister of Agit-Prop

Juhan Sonin @jsonin

Audio Engineer

Dave Nelson Lens Group Media

Technical Support

Eric Benoit @ebenoit

Opening Theme

Aiva.ai @aivatechnology

Closing Theme

Ian Dorsch @iandorsch

Bull Session

Transformation

January 11, 2019          

Episode Summary

This week, on The Digital Life we discuss emerging tech and the transformation and fear of change that comes with it. For instance, over the past two years there have been at least 21 attacks on driverless vehicles in Chandler, a city located near Phoenix, Arizona, where Google spin-off company Waymo tests its vans. The reaction of Chandler’s residents to this encroaching technology represents the worries that we face as a society when confronting an automated future. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Wielding Rocks and Knives, Arizonans Attack Self-Driving Cars

 

Bull Session

Ethics for Emerging Technologies

December 14, 2018          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we talk with author and designer Cennydd Bowles about ethics and emerging technologies. Cennydd’s new book “Future Ethics”, published in September, is available in print and digital from Amazon and the book’s Web site.

How do we conceive of  ethics for emerging technologies? From data privacy issues, to embedded bias in software systems, to the myriad problems posed by artificial intelligence, what ethical issues should really matter to us, as a society? And, how do we grapple with these as new technologies emerge and gain traction?

For instance, mainstream conversations about ethics and artificial intelligence are typically centered around science fiction-type topics such as machines that are smarter than, or even from an evolutionary standpoint replacing, humans. This might be entertaining but is not addressing the real ethical issues that matter in the years and decades ahead. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Cennydd Bowles

Future Ethics