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All eyes on AI: what we learnt at SXSW that marketers should consider

SXSW attendees hoping to avoid the topic of AI would be sorely disappointed, as AI was woven into almost all talks and panel discussions from the first day of the festival to the last.

Picture of Luminary employee, Claire smiling standing in front of a black screen in a green top

By Claire Dunton, 12 November 20234 minute read

This article was originally published in Marketing magazine.

With AI influencing the future of technology, music and the screen industry - there was no better place to discuss the impacts than SXSW. With 33 Luminary team members attending the first-ever SXSW Sydney festival, our varied interests allowed us to cover more ground and hear from leaders across all disciplines.

Here’s what we heard about AI.

AI will threaten TV and film, but not all

When Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker took to the stage on day three of SXSW Sydney, he admitted that he has a lot of fear about the future of technology and the role that AI will play. Acknowledging that much of his six-season series centres around distressing scenarios brought on by an over-reliance on technology, one of Charlie’s main concerns was the threat to creativity. Charlie had previously asked ChatGPT to write a Black Mirror episode and was momentarily shocked at how well it could replicate the formula and backdrop of a typical episode. After reading more, Charlie realised that there was no substance to the idea, and ChatGPT was simply recreating episodes rather than building out an idea.

Charlie acknowledged that for TV show ‘procedurals’ (a genre of TV shows that follow a set formula like a police show), there probably would be a world in which these episodes and shows were 80 percent created by AI and 20 percent perfected by humans. By highlighting original, human-ideated ideas and productions, that’s how we cut through the AI noise.

Which roles will be replaced by AI, and will that create a greater gender inequality?

Throughout different SXSW sessions, many leaders quoted the startling statistic from the WEF (World Economics Forum) Future of Jobs Report, that by 2025, 85 million jobs worldwide will be replaced by AI, and that 97 million new jobs are expected to be created. It was most impactful when discussed in a panel discussion focused on machine learning and AI entrenching gender inequality for future generations of women. Moderator and Women Love Tech Editor and entrepreneur Robyn Foyster discussed this reality with a panel of three women, pointing out that statistically, these ‘replaceable’ jobs were more often than not held by women (clerical work, call centre work, cashier, bank teller, etc). Without support systems to educate this population on the new, emerging roles (for example, prompt engineer), the pay gap and skills gap could deepen. 

Yesterday's biases are being built into the future

Tracey Spicer, author of MAN-MADE: How the bias of the past is being built into the future, had some interesting thoughts on how gender and career are portrayed online. Similarly, fellow panellist and AI and Metaverse specialist Catriona Wallace believes that there needs to be better representation online of gender and race. When Googling ‘CEO’ 10 years ago, our search engine results pages were filled with white men in suits – it’s hard to find women within the results, and even harder to find women of colour. The same biases appear in AI-generated art and graphics. After all, it is simply regenerating what is already there and the stereotypes that exist, promoting these biases to the millions of users who are viewing, using and propagating these ideas and stereotypes into the modern world.

What happens to trust in a world of fakes and replicas?

Amy Webb, author, professor, CEO and SXSW headliner, believes that trust is something we are at risk of losing with the fast and wide roll-out of AI. Her work as a futurist has identified some concerning trends wherein deep fakes are making their way into hospitals and clinical environments. This threatens to destabilise our trust in healthcare, creating social divides and making it harder for ethical retailers and providers to reach their target audience.

Charlie Brooker, creator of Black Mirror, echoed the same sentiment at SXSW when he voiced his concern that addressing world issues is impossible if we cannot all agree on what the reality actually is. He also noted that of the many thousands of books that have been used for AI learning, some of these sources are not sources of truth, and can rather perpetuate theories and ideas that are not accurate or ethical. All of this raises a fundamental question: Are we destined to exist somewhere in the middle of fake news and reality?

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