Published @ ICT Magazine
Since the beginning of IT the interplay between business and IT has been a challenge. This is because the traditional IT professional simply speaks a different language than the marketer who wants to launch a new revenue model. One does not know what the other means when developing new applications, for example. The software developer has little or no eye for user-friendliness. His focus during the build is the technical functionality and not the behavior of the consumer. Now that technology is becoming more accessible, things are getting better. But things really change with the advent of text-to-everything innovations. Text is directly turned into an image, code, video or even a complete 3D environment.
This fall, the art world was in turmoil when Jason Allen won an art competition with an AI-created artwork. It has been known for some time that artificial intelligence can win over art from people of flesh and blood. In this case the interesting part was in the explanation from the synthetic artist about his creative process. Allen explained that he had produced the work using the AI art tool ‘Midjourney’. This artificial intelligence creates hyper-realistic images based on entered text. Allen only entered certain words and the artificial intelligence did the rest. The jury was touched by the specific wording Allen had found and the art piece he selected (out of more than 300). Allen was proud of that. This enabled the smart technology to do its job. In other words, the artist had discovered a language that won him the first prize.
Midjourney isn’t the only tool that converts language into hyper-realistic images. Announcements of the most advanced synthetic media tools follow each other in rapid succession. With the rise of No-Code and creative AI, in which so-called text-to-everything possibilities seem infinite, the power of language is becoming immensely important.
It is also relatively easy to describe a thought with ‘Dall-E2’ and ‘Stable diffusion’ tooling, after which the artificial intelligence visualizes it. “Meta’s Builderbot” even promises that dream worlds are recreated in a full 3D environment. Developers who still want to work with code can also rely on text-to-code solutions. Think of the GPT-3 use by Microsoft.
From prompts to visuals
This development, in which we can easily transform text into a (3D) image, is causing a significant shift to richer, complex or ‘thicker’ data. Not too long ago, Google published Imagine Video, similar to Meta’s Make-a-video. Both are tooling that converts specified text to video.
Videos are then edited again with ‘runwayml’. A brand new demo shows how the command ‘import city street’ creates a video of a street with traffic in a large city. The prompt ‘make it more cinematic’ then provides a blue, arthouse-like filter. Removing a lamppost is also done in a second. A matter of typing that the object may be removed.
The power of language
This text-to-everything trend makes language more important than ever. How bizarre is it that IT professionals – originally mostly beta types – are now making the difference with what until recently belonged to the domain of alpha types: the power of language. Language sensitivity is becoming more than ever a distinguishing skill. An entire industry is already emerging around these new skills.
For example, startup Promptbase.com calls itself “a marketplace for buying and selling quality prompts that deliver the best results.” Users can invoke text prompts related to avatars, logos and photos. This platform sells image prompts for aforementioned AI models. This saves money on API costs, is the promise.
No more jargon
Another consequence of this text-to-everything novelty is that the gap between idea and execution is becoming a lot smaller. The quality of the idea becomes all the more important. How someone arrives at a creative product or how good the solution is for the problem; it all gets more challenging.
And another special side effect of all this is that it may resolve the language barrier between business and IT. Jargon is no longer in the way, because complicated terminology for insiders doesn’t work very well in the synthetic media apps. What becomes clear is that word artists among IT professionals will flourish in the coming decade.
Thijs Pepping is a trend analyst at SogetiLabs – VINT
A great opinion piece by Abigail Moss. She interviewed me, I’ve put some quotes here, read the full piece @ Vice.
Thijs Pepping, Co-author of Real Fake (Playing with reality in the age of AI, deepfakes and the Metaverse), explains that NFTs are a good example of an unpleasant side of human nature; the desire to create scarcity where it doesn’t need to exist. “While we have abundance in virtual worlds, we could make copies of everything”, he says. “NFTs bring exclusivity and scarceness to these worlds. Why would we want that? Because we are humans: we want to feel special, show off, enrich ourselves, protect the things we love.”
For Thijs, a virtual world completely divorced from the real world, and where we can start to see ‘privilege’ as a thing of the past, is practically impossible. “It’s like the meme with the house on fire and the dog drinking coffee,” he says. “Andreessen is offering the dog a VR headset so the dog can say ‘This is fine’. But it’s not fine. It’s not fine that we are experiencing record breaking heats, people are fleeing their country as climate change migrants […] It’s not fine that we are reporting about shortages of lithium, cobalt and nickel for batteries, and at the same time Congolese children are dying during the cobalt mining.” And it’s these same resources, he points out, which are used to make our VR headsets and gaming consoles.
A lack of reality privilege (or to put it more plainly, global inequality) props up the metaverse in many ways, and will continue to do so unless huge social shifts take place in the real world. “These real life problems show the point Andreesen is missing,” says Thijs. “The Metaverse and real life are highly intertwined. Don’t get me wrong: for me it’s a no-brainer that virtual experiences can be meaningful, transcendental even, and they can be high-quality alternatives and add-ons for aspects of our real life. But it’s just a broadening of reality.”
The danger of talking about “reality privilege” is that it positions the metaverse as a viable alternative to IRL experience, and shuts down anyone who tries to question this. The real world and the created world of the metaverse will inevitably blur further, but one is unlikely to completely subsume the other Matrix-style. “We need to become more mindful, reflect more, become more mature in navigating between these realities,” says Thijs. Rather than thinking of the metaverse as an escape from reality, we could use the things online worlds can teach us – abundance, flexibility, generosity – to help us learn how to improve the physical world we live in now.
A story from 2042
George is sitting in his chair. He makes wild hand movements in the air. Every now and then he makes a clicking sound with his tongue. His eyes move to the rhythm of his hands, while the left corner of his mouth slightly curls up. To a Realist his room looks quite empty. Next to his chair there are only a few large and small plants. Beautifully green and well cared for. So good, you’d almost think they’re fake.
George is very satisfied with his room. Years ago he got rid of his desk, cupboards, laptop and smartphone. If he still needs certain things, he snaps his fingers and he has his desk or laptop again, virtually of course. In theory, he could then also type via a virtual keyboard, although he hasn’t touched a keyboard for a long time. ‘Building’ has been the new typing for quite some time now. Certainly for the reality builders, in short ‘builders’. Those people used to be called IT professionals.
George is so absorbed in the construction of his new data story that he is startled when Julia walks in. For a moment she puts her hand on his shoulder.
“Do you have a minute?”
Joris feels his headset glow for a moment, indicating that tension has been measured in the voice of his empowerment coach. Gesturing to his headset to render the build and switch to physical reality mode, he mumbles, “Sure, what’s going on?”
“I hear you used BestYou again during that sales call,” Julia says.
Shit, how does she know that?
During his virtual encounters, people see George’s facial expressions through a realistic facial simulation. Of course, like everyone else, he has pimped his digital face a bit: a full head of hair and a clean jawline, a new fashion trend that he likes.
Less accepted is BestYou, the personality optimizer that lets people be their best selves. Both virtual physical and virtual psychological. Sometimes George uses the new feature, which adds short, laughing micro-expressions to his facial simulation. No one sees that this comes from BestYou, while it does increase its likability by an average of 8.5 percent, according to the algorithm. He only uses it when absolutely necessary. For example, in an unfamiliar business environment. Not with his own friends or family.
“You know, Julia,” he begins, “I just had to score. If I am not allowed to build that story for that customer, I will miss my bonus.” George looks at the ground. That could mean a downward spiral. He keeps it to himself that without that bonus he can no longer afford credits for BestYou, which means that he will undoubtedly miss out on even more gigs.
A chill runs down his spine. shit! BestYou is still on and tries to tell him that he is completely ruining it for Julia. But when he gestures now to simulate the best intervention, Julia will no doubt see the reflection in his eyes.
“This is really not going well, Joris.” Her voice sounds irritated. “According to your colleagues, you even used BestYou during your team outing in Upside-Down.”
“Of course. It was just a ridiculous storyworld. Jean always does, with his backward ideas. Why don’t we just go to #Amirite. They may be Pre-Fab experiences, but all famous memes just walk around there. And by the way, Kermit had it on too.”
“That seems unlikely to me. If there’s anyone who doesn’t need that, it’s Kermit. He is always one-on-one with his Real Self.”
Really?! For a reality psychologist, Julia is very naive. But kudos to Kermit for getting away with it. Or could she be right?
“Do you think they knew I used BestYou during my pitch?” Joris wonders aloud.
Julia turns her head away and sighs. “That’s not even the point, Joris…”
Joris waits, but no words follow. He again feels two light vibrations from BestYou, now on his shoulders. He knows he has to be honest now. That is precisely why Julia is his Catalyst. Not just to support, structure and inspire – what managers used to do. But also because she dares to confront. After all, George himself has indicated that he wants to deal with all realities more congruently.
“I know,” says Georges, defeated. “Thank you. Shall we go down? The rest is already there.”
The sun shines in the spacious downstairs room. Also here are some near-perfect plants, a corner sofa, and a chair here and there. George smiles when he sees his father sitting there. Colleagues, family and friends visit him once a month. Each of them has a stake in three to five companies and projects. It took some time getting used to seeing his father, daughter, high school friend and colleague working side by side. Today there are eight people.
The coffee moments and lunches have never been so cozy. Usually they take a short walk, play football or go for a run.
His football friends think George is crazy that he regularly invites clients to his home. Yet more and more people are doing that. And nobody is shocked that he has less hair in real life and a different line of sight.
Anyway, today is a new day. Let’s build something beautiful without BestYou. Both with his work club here in reality, and with his challenging data story. He clicks his tongue, makes a few hand movements and immediately the room fills with his data story. He hears approving and even admiring sounds from everyone. He starts to build.
Thijs Pepping is a trend analist at SogetiLabs – the Sogeti Research Institute for the Analysis of New Technology.
This was actually my tv-debut. The Dutch news show EditieNL made an item of the popular ‘BeReal’ app and asked me if and what this would change. Some pointers:
✨ BeReal sends users a notification once a day and the idea is that you take a ‘spontaneous’ photo within two minutes. With your front and rear camera at the same time. –> The app is seen as a move against the Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok filters and manipulations.
📱 Unlike other social media platforms, you cannot edit the photo at BeReal. Others can see how many times you’ve retaken the photo and how long you waited after the notification came. –> an attempt to quantify ‘realness’ and authenticity.
Reporter Lonneke Haveman explored the app to see what the user is experiencing. We concluded that the app challenges you less to play with reality because there are no filters. But also at BeReal you are faced with a choice: How do I pose? Do I want to retake the photo? What do I want to share? Do I want to wait before taking a photo?
–> The Real-Fake discussion continues in this app as well. And that discussion is only going to get more intense, interesting and meaningful in the coming years.
🖥️ You can watch the tv item here: https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/video/uitzendingen/video/5305031/afl-118
Thirty years for a mouse
Metaverse after three decades
The metaverse is not a revolution or an endpoint. It is an evolution with valuable opportunities for a gradual transformation to a much richer internet of engaging experiences. The gaming industry has been benefiting for decades from an increasing number of users and corresponding revenue growth. Hanging out and socializing as an avatar in games has now become the most natural thing in the world for young employees.
Medical and defense specialists were already using Virtual Reality in the 1970s. Only in 2010 did designer Paler Luckey come up with the first prototype of virtual reality glasses. The popular Meta Quest glasses evolved from that design. Accenture ordered 60,000 pairs of glasses last fall to train new employees. The NFTs stem from the blockchain technology that came into existence in 2009. Despite the fact that the NFT is the benjamin in the group, they are already showing how much financial value people place on art, status and elite communities in virtual reality.
The dramatic increase in video calls over the past two years is arguably the biggest breakthrough to widespread adoption of virtual reality. In that sense, the IT manager does not have to make a long face when asked what to do with the metaverse. If we use the broad definition of Sweeney, chances are that many IT managers have been involved in this new virtual world in one way or another for years.
Author: Thijs Pepping, trend analyst at the New Technology Exploration Institute (VINT) of ICT service provider Sogeti.
Read the full article @ https://fd.nl/tech-en-innovatie/1431583/lil-miquela-bestaat-niet-maar-toch-is-ze-een-topinfluencer-m2d2caphWWym
Erdinç Saçan, teacher and researcher at Fontys university of applied sciences wrote a book entitled ‘Inclusive Artificial Intelligence’. In the book, 40 experts speak, who explain in clear language what AI is, and what questions, challenges and opportunities the technology poses.
I talked about the blessings of biased AI: these biases hold up a mirror. And if we are wise we use these ugly, natural, and sometimes handy insights to better our humanity. Read my full contribution @ https://www.fontys.nl/actueel/erdinc-sacan-schrijft-boek-inclusieve-artificial-intelligence/
💬 🖊️ Interviewed by Social Studies Trade magazine M&P – Meaning of Real Fake for teachers? (February 2022)
Ivo Pertijs wrote this article for M&P. The interview had an interesting angle: what is the relevance of Real Fake for teachers? We talked about the importance of taking TikTok seriously and many other things. I learned from Ivo about Minecraft based history lessons and got some insights into the life of teachers and the school system. Always nice to turn homewards wiser after a conversation 😀
The Dutch Institute for Marketing (NIMA) keeps an eye on freshly published professional literature throughout the year:
“Sometimes there are real gems in between, those are the marketing books that you should not miss as a professional in this field. Every three months we declare such a must-read the marketing book of the quarter. For the first quarter of this year, the choice fell on ‘Real Fake’ by Menno van Doorn, Sander Duivestein and Thijs Pepping.”
Proud and happy 😃. Read their review @ https://www.nima.nl/nieuws/is-fake-straks-nog-fake/
Two prestigious clubs have nominated our book in their top 10 book of the year. Very honoured and proud :D. On the 20th of April we will be at their bookfestival and they will announce who will win the #1 spot.
Some information about these two clubs:
Sioo was founded in 1958 by 7 technical and economic universities, partly on the initiative of the consultancy industry. The Netherlands was rebuilt after the Second World War by engineers who at the time had technical but less organizational and change management insight and leadership. An external training institute had to be set up to coach the engineers on this in practice and Sioo was born.
The Order of Organizational Advisors (OOA) was founded in 1940 in Amsterdam as the Central Bureau for Organization and Efficiency. In recent years, the Order has taken the step into the future and has shifted its focus to binding the new generation of management consultants. The Order wants to be less normative and more of a ‘platform’ for professional exchange. Personas that the Order wants to focus on are the ‘proactive start-up entrepreneur’ and the ‘focused professional networker’, with a coaching role for the more experienced advisors as ambassadors of professional quality.
That’s a strange experience; being interviewed by one of my favorite magazines… KIJK magazine is always so wonderfully curious, inquisitive, and explorative. Add to that a professional photo session with Allard Faas… Very ‘serious’ and fun to experience this
“In a world of deepfakes and fake news, it is increasingly difficult to determine what is real and what is not. A new book tries to map the blurring boundaries between real and imitation. KIJK spoke with co-author Thijs Pepping.”
💯 🧐 Facades.ai – Review Real Fake: “well-written, full of examples and totally captivating.” (January 2022)
Luis Irizarry is behind the tech blog Facades.ai which is completely dedicated to synthetic media and deepfakes. He truly knows the ins and outs of the field, so I am grateful (and relieved ;p) he gives our book a 5/5!
“Deeply philosophical and engaging, the book gets into the weeds of what reality “is” and how we need to consider all different flavors of it: objective reality, subjective reality and synthetic reality (which is pixels on a screen). If you’re looking for a better understanding of this new synthetic world we live in, look no further than Real Fake.”
Read the full review at https://www.facades.ai/blog/real-fake-book-review-ai-deepfakes-metaverse/