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NAB 2024: Humans & AI are better together

In the constantly-changing landscape of applied AI, the relationship between humans and our new artificial friends is the hot topic, from chats at the water cooler at work, all the way to the White House.

While the fear of AI replacing the “median human”, in words of Sam Altman, is a common concern, the data paints a different picture – one where AI and humans working together can unlock new levels of productivity and innovation. Note: this not only applies to the media and entertainment industry, but other sectors as well.

The untapped potential of human-AI collaboration

According to a study by Accenture, AI has the potential to increase average productivity by up to 40% when used to augment and empower human workers, rather than replace them entirely. This finding is echoed by a Deloitte survey, which revealed that only 16% of organizations are currently using AI primarily to assist workers in developing insights and the majority are still using AI mainly for automation and cost reduction.

This suggests there is massive untapped potential in using AI to enhance human capabilities such as creativity, and this was a huge theme we saw bubbling to the surface at NAB Show 2024.

As Mike Folgner, AI entrepreneur, said during the show:

“Make the effort to understand where it can fit in your workflow. Just embrace the fact that it’s going to be here, and we just need to figure out how it’s going to make our lives easier and better.”

The important point here is to understand the “how and why” of AI to better integrate it into our workflows and get ahead of the curve.

Superminds: the power of machines and people working together

The potential of human-AI collaboration goes beyond just increased productivity. Research by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence has found that “superminds” – groups of humans and AI working together – can outperform either humans or AI working alone on complex problem-solving tasks.

This synergistic relationship between humans and AI was emphasized by Hao Li of Pinscreen:

“What AI does is that it’s just processing all the data in a way that it’s easier for us to understand what it is, or even synthesize new content in a more efficient way.”

This said, not everything will be wonderful. Any technological revolution brings change, which means some jobs will no longer exist in the future. But new ones will emerge that combine AI technologies with human skills, ingenuity and experience. 

When the automobile was invented, horse-carriage drivers, blacksmiths and others became irrelevant for a large part of society. But this unlocked new roles like truck drivers, taxi drivers, mechanics, factory workers, and more. This is in addition to accelerating the exchange of goods and services globally.

Just like cars in the 20th century AI – properly applied – will let us get where we need to go an order of magnitude faster, with humans staying in the driver’s seat.

The future of human-AI collaboration

It’s difficult to disagree with Renard Jenkins, President of the SMPTE, who predicted:

“We’ve got about another 6 to 9 months before we get to that point where everyone says, ‘Okay, now let’s slow down and take a look at everything we have and see where we can actually use it.’”

Alejandro Matamala Ortiz, Co-Founder and CDO of Runway, agreed, saying that “we’re still at the beginning. We have only seen some sneak peeks of the potential of this technology.”

Dado Valentic of Colourlab AI pointed out that – contrary to a lot of the media coverage suggesting AI will lead to mass unemployment – many people who were never even considering becoming creators may find their ways to new careers. AI will make us specialist and multi-disciplinary at the same time as it accelerates our learning curve to learn and apply new skills.

“[Many people] learning color grading have become kind of recreational colorists (…) This means that instead of you having to look for work as a colorist at the post-production facility, you might choose to work for some creator or you might become a creator yourself.”

Microsoft’s Paige Johnson doubled-down on the company’s aim to create a world in which humans own, and are aided by, virtual AI copilots, stating that “The intention has not been to get humans out of the loop but rather to make more impact for every human interaction that happens. Personalization at scale.”.

Naturally, as with any massive technological shift, there is a tendency to worry about the impact on ourselves, and society at large. But we came away from NAB Show 2024 with the impression that the media and production industry is looking at AI with clear eyes and, rather than being worried about the impact, is excited by the possibilities.

As Paul Trillo, LA-based AI Filmmaker and Director at Trillo Films, told a panel audience:

“The more you’re scared of something, the more you should learn about it. The less you learn about something, the more scared you’re going to be.”

Similarly Pinar Seyhan Demirdag of Cuebric encouraged us to “stop being fascinated by computation and technology and start being fascinated by humans that invent.”

There’s a clear goal shared by all the companies we heard from, which we fully agree with: AI and humans working together to unlock unprecedented levels of productivity, problem-solving capabilities, and new opportunities for creativity and innovation.

This movement has many names right now: the cyborg approach, copilots, ai agents, co-intelligence, superminds. Whatever you choose to call it, by understanding the “how and why” of AI, we can position ourselves at the forefront of this transformative technology. The time to experiment and try out these technologies is now. 

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