Howard Saunders   Jan 03, 2023   Apple, culture   0 Comment

Don’t read this blog. Try AI yourself. Go to OpenAI, sign up to ChatGPT and have some fun. You’ll soon see that it changes everything.

You’ll have read a fair bit about it: how it will make most of us redundant (not true) and how it will transform transport, healthcare and education (true). You will have heard that the digital behemoths (Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon) have invested billions in it and you may have briefly dwelt on the potential disruption it’s likely to unleash before going back to your cornflakes. But none of this means anything until you’ve tried it yourself. Like I did.

If you’re an accountant or desk bound lawyer of some sort you’re probably half hoping you’ll be put out to pasture on UBI and craft gin within the next five years. But the future isn’t likely to be that cruel, thankfully.

Like me, you probably thought that AI will take many years before it becomes truly creative. Obviously, we thought smugly, it will solve problems, produce huge reports, create spreadsheets and work alongside Jeff in those vast warehouses, but as for anything creative, it simply cannot understand the human condition.  And when it does we’re all shafted anyway, so there’s no point fretting. 

We were wrong.

Driving to Heathrow with my son yesterday we messed around with ChatGPT. Obviously, first up we asked it to write a few silly poems and limericks. It answers instantaneously. Some of them were hilarious, largely because the results appear so instantly, rhyme and rhythm intact, you can’t quite believe it’s happening. Next up, I asked it to write me a blog about AI. Here it is. Ok, so it’s a little dry but it would damn well sneak into LinkedIn without looking out of place, that’s a fact.

But our jaw dropping moment came after we asked it to write a poem about Roger a guitar playing squirrel. Within a few short minutes the poem blossomed into a screenplay for an entire musical. The AI suggested movie titles, merchandising ideas, marketing concepts, it wrote all the song titles and lyrics, it proposed the creation of a rival band of forest dwelling musicians, named all the characters, suggested a love interest (Samantha the squirrel) wrote a gentle ballad (to break up all the rockin’ melodies) designed the movie poster, the trailer, the tag line and even food concepts for the squirrel themed cafe in Roger’s theme park. No exaggeration, within twenty minutes we had a complete media franchise. And all this was possible within a month or so of launch. Imagine what it will be capable of in a year, five years, twenty-five years! We surely will not have to wait very long before it can instantly animate the entire musical. At least the credits will be short.

Oh, and if you have any doubts as to its musical talents Open AI has also developed a nifty little thing called Musenet that will write all the songs. Musenet is a bit like a digital Bill Bailey in that it can play Lady Gaga hits in the style of Mozart. Or Mozart hits in the style of Lady Gaga for that matter.

Pop culture, it seems, is pretty easy to emulate. From silly make believe musicals to modern pop ballads AI has decoded so many it innately understands how to construct something that will slip seamlessly into contemporary culture. And therein lies the challenge.

Governments think the answer is to retrain. But anything governments propose to retrain you as is surely already out of date. Others believe we should learn to become programmers, to stay one step ahead of the game. But that’s like learning how to build a typewriter when the computer arrived. No, the answer is staring us in the face.

When culture is so predictable, when films are focus grouped into mediocre uniformity, when music is formatted to homogeneity and when art has grown predictably political to the point of irrelevance then it’s for genuine, creative, living, breathing humans to dig deep and retaliate. The birth of AI is not a marker for surrender or throwing in the towel. AI is the starting pistol for a new wave of mould breaking, non formulaic creativity that celebrates our superiority here on planet Earth. Let the browbeaten retreat into the comfort of their self-made defeat. Human creativity will always push through. 

Don’t panic. A genuine renaissance is on the horizon.

Join me on Twitter @retailfuturist for daily rants and light hearted banter

About Howard Saunders

The Retail Futurist, otherwise known as Howard Saunders, is a writer and speaker whose job it is to see beyond retail’s currently choppy waters. Howard spent the first twenty five years of his career at some of London’s most renowned retail design agencies, including Fitch & Company, where he created concepts, strategies and identities for dozens of British high street brands. In 2003 he founded trend-hunting agency, Echochamber, inspiring his clients with new and innovative store designs from across the globe. Howard relocated to New York in 2012 where the energetic regeneration of Brooklyn inspired his book, Brooklynization, published in 2017. His newfound role as champion for retail’s future in our town and city centres gave rise to the title The Retail Futurist. Howard has been interviewed on numerous television and radio programs and podcasts for BBC Radio 4, BBC Scotland, the British Retail Consortium, Sky News Australia and TVNZ, New Zealand. His talks are hi-energy, jargon-free journeys that explore the exciting, if not terrifying, retail landscape that lies ahead. When not in retail mode, Howard has recorded, literally, thousands of digital music masterpieces, most of which remain, thankfully, unheard.

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