Every day at Coffee & TV, we do something new. Something original that’s not been done before.
It never gets boring. (At least we’re not digging holes for water. That would be well boring!) Mainly because everyone has that nagging doubt (or bloodcurdling fear) that this time we might not manage it.
It is my job as CEO to look to the future and try to prepare us to meet the challenges that lay ahead. When I talk to other business owners, a common question is, ‘what are you going to do when the robots take over your jobs?’
So, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this.
Firstly, I wonder, what are ‘the robots’? Presumably they mean machine learning algorithms, rather than physical robots. I’m sure they’ll come eventually, but for now there is nothing funnier than watching metal men fall over:
Adobe and other visual science companies are doing some impressive work in image recognition. They are automating some of the more mundane tasks, like rotoscoping (drawing around images frame by frame) and background replacements. No doubt one day we’ll be able to send sequences off to the cloud, to come back ‘adjusted’, in the same way that we render computer generated images now.
This will be a huge help, as we won’t have to pay expensive artists in Soho to do the dirty work (whilst plying them with coconut flat whites and oxygenated nuts). We will be able to let them focus on the exciting/scary stuff much more of the time.
If a task can be repeated, it is up for robot-grabs. If I ran a middle-of-the-road media company I might be concerned how I would compete in this brave new world. But without trying to make out we’re better than we are, you just can’t codify what we do. We feed on inspiration and drink creativity shakes for breakfast (I’m really sounding like a wanker now). But the pure brilliance of our best artists is something that I don’t believe will ever be able to be automated. If ‘the robots’ were to ever get close, we would develop new techniques to amaze and delight audiences, so they’ll have to start all over again.
I could be wrong, in which case this post will be online to haunt me forever. But I’m pretty certain that the breath-taking, emotional, human response we feel when we see something visually beautiful, sublime or horrific, is a very long way from artificial intelligence’s capabilities.
At least until the robots are the audience, too.