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Berlinale 2024 - EFM

Industry Report: New Media

The EFM explores the human factor in working with AI


BERLINALE 2024: During the session, three keynote speakers analysed the interaction between AI and the human element from various perspectives

The EFM explores the human factor in working with AI

At the EFM Industry Sessions, AI has been in focus, and the first in a series, "Working with AI: The Human Factor", inaugurated this section. AC Coppens, the panel moderator, introduced the three keynote speakers, briefly outlining the focus of their talks. The session, part of a series on AI organised with the EFM, began with a discussion on human rights, aiming for a balanced and informative exploration of AI's emotional impact. The sessions will delve into AI's influence on filmmaking, human roles, and the ethical considerations of human-machine collaboration in media production.

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Dr. William Charles Uricchio, professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and founder of the MIT Open Documentary Lab, delivered a keynote speech focusing on the historical context of AI in media and its implications on human identity. Uricchio asserted that AI should be viewed as a medium that mediates our interaction with the world, shaping the information we receive and altering our relationship with reality. He highlighted the three functions of AI: representation, transmission, and computation, tracing their origins back to the early 19th century. Uricchio emphasised the importance of understanding AI as a recursive system that constantly learns from and interacts with humans, challenging traditional notions of media representation and transmission.

Furthermore, Uricchio drew parallels between AI and religious beliefs, suggesting that humans tend to project their attributes onto AI systems, similar to the way they have historically conceptualised gods. He urged for a critical assessment of what defines human intelligence and what traits should be offloaded to AI, emphasising the importance of empathy, awareness, and understanding as uniquely human attributes. Uricchio concluded by expressing optimism about AI's potential to clarify human identity and encourage a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, urging for a shift towards embracing the qualities that distinguish us from artificial intelligence.

Amir Baradaran, founder and CEO of ABXR Engine, discussed the implications of AI, particularly in spatial computing, and its impact on human perception of reality. He drew parallels between the iconic "red pill, blue pill" scene from The Matrix and the contemporary struggle to discern reality in the age of AI. Baradaran emphasised the generational gap in understanding reality, highlighting the importance of questioning the significance of discerning truth in a digitally mediated world. He then delved into the concepts of singularity, artificial general intelligence, and narrow AI, explaining their significance in the evolution of AI technology and its potential impact on human behaviour and perception.

Baradaran also analysed the current ecosystem of AI, focusing on the exploitation of user data and the creation of predictive models that shape human behaviour. He raised concerns about the power dynamics within the AI ecosystem, advocating for a reevaluation of user agency and the establishment of a more equitable relationship between users and AI technologies. Baradaran proposed the concept of "digits and producers" as an alternative to the traditional user framework, suggesting a collective ownership and control of data to mitigate the pervasive impact of AI on marginalised communities. He concluded by advocating for radical imagination in envisioning alternative AI ecosystems that prioritise common goods and services, emphasising the potential for collective action to reshape the future of AI technology.

Souki Mansoor, director and founder of Bell & Whistle, shared her expertise on the intersection of AI and filmmaking, aiming to provide practical insights for navigating this rapidly evolving landscape. Mansoor's background as an independent filmmaker and consultant in both creativity and strategy positions her as a knowledgeable guide in this field. She emphasised her mission to empower creatives to harness AI tools to shape the future of storytelling, advocating for a shift from reactive adaptation to proactive design.

Mansoor delved into the new hard skills required for AI filmmaking, including prompting, workflow organisation, compositing, and training. She highlighted the importance of engineering inputs to optimise outputs, creating efficient production pipelines, organising assets effectively, and integrating AI elements seamlessly into visual worlds. Additionally, Mansoor stressed the significance of training AI models on one's own intellectual property and data to foster creativity and innovation. She encouraged filmmakers to embrace these skills alongside intangible qualities like curiosity, adaptability, discernment, collaboration, and generativity to drive positive change in the industry. Mansoor concluded by inviting participants to join the AI filmmaking revolution, highlighting the potential for storytellers to shape culture and create impactful narratives in collaboration with AI technologies.

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