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Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.

Ep47. Helen Todd: Celebrating the 1-Year Anniversary of Creativity Squared

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Ep47. Celebrating the 1-Year Anniversary of Creativity Squared: A.I. and the Boundless Sky of Possibility

Creativity Squared is officially one year old! It’s been an exciting and fast-paced year, both on the production of this podcast and all that has transpired on the A.I. front. Today’s episode is a special one because it will serve as a time capsule of where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re going here at Creativity Squared and at the intersection of A.I. and creativity.

This episode is also a checkpoint on our journey to answer the big, hairy questions that inspired us to do this kind of podcast in the first place. We’re on an infinite quest to better understand how A.I. will change our relationships, our work, and what it means fundamentally to be human.  We share expert insights on these questions from our archive of 40+ interviews with a diverse range of technical experts, researchers, executives, artists, activists, thinkers, and entrepreneurs. 

If you’ve been on this journey with us since the inaugural episode featuring Harry Yeff in April 2023, then happy anniversary to you, too! Thank you for your support as we grow the Creativity Squared platform into the best source for critical conversations at the intersection of creativity and artificial intelligence. 

This past year has been a whirlwind of activity, like building a plane while flying it, particularly with the rapid developments in artificial intelligence. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who has supported this venture through messages, subscriptions, or by becoming paid members. Your support fuels our passion and sustains our efforts.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible team behind the scenes at Creativity Squared. Special thanks to Edward, Dan, Megan, and the team at Play Audio Agency, who are instrumental in bringing this podcast to life.

One ah-ha moment for launching this show happened on stage at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2023. Greg Brockman, co-founder of OpenA.I., was pressed by the moderator on ethical considerations around A.I., particularly about artists’ attribution. His response — that the developers themselves don’t have all the answers and that it’s crucial for society to engage in shaping the use of these tools. This comment underscored how we need to have community-wide dialogues about the future we wish to build with A.I., emphasizing a human-centered approach where A.I. amplifies the best of human potential, not replace us.

This show aims to be a proactive platform for these conversations, envisioning a future where artists and creators not only coexist with A.I. but thrive. Creativity Squared explores the intersection of A.I. and creativity, engaging artists, creators, and the intellectually curious. As we celebrate our first anniversary, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible.

To our Creativity Squared community, I know time is our most valuable resource and we appreciate the time you spend with us. My commitment to you is to make every episode worthwhile by bringing you the critical conversations that will help us navigate the evolving landscape of A.I. together. Here’s to exploring, learning, and shaping a future that enhances our collective human experience.

As we like to say on the show, “You never know what ripples will turn into waves.” One conversation can make all the difference. 

Managing Anxieties and Aspirations About A.I. Through Understanding

Imagining the future of A.I. can be scary. It’s a natural human reaction to fear the unknown, especially with technology as transformative as artificial intelligence, which is already integrated into every facet of our daily lives. From Google search results to social network algorithms and voice assistants like Siri, A.I.’s influence is pervasive. The launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT has further democratized A.I., making it accessible through natural language interaction and highlighting its implications for better and worse.

As we navigate this new era, it’s crucial to address the valid concerns surrounding A.I.. This show aims to be a safe space for exploring these concerns, whether you’re just beginning to engage with A.I. or you’ve fully embraced its potential. But as we’ve seen with previous technologies such as social media, the rapid adoption of A.I. comes with risks. Issues like polarization, the loneliness epidemic, and depression among teens illustrate the potential for greater societal impacts.

The night before launching this podcast, I watched The AI Dilemma, a sobering presentation by Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin from the Center for Humane Technology, the same duo that created “The Social Dilemma” for Netflix. They likened themselves to messengers from the future, warning us of the need to slow down A.I.’s unchecked proliferation and to implement meaningful regulations. Their presentation suggests we adopt a position of cautious optimism and proactive regulation to avoid repeating past mistakes.

“A.I. may help us achieve major advances like curing cancer or addressing climate change. But the point we’re making is: if our dystopia is bad enough, it won’t matter how good the utopia we want to create is. We only get one shot, and we need to move at the speed of getting it right.” – “The A.I. Dilemma” 

This dialogue is vital as we consider A.I.’s role not just in enhancing our lives but also in shaping the fabric of society. By critically examining A.I.’s impact and potential, we aim to harness its benefits while mitigating its risks. This show is committed to fostering a deep, informed conversation about how A.I. can serve humanity positively without exacerbating existing challenges.

We’ve welcomed guests from both sides of the A.I. divide, but almost everyone holds at least some optimism for what A.I. will offer us, even those who could stand to lose more than most of us. In episode 10, for instance, photographer Thomas Boenig discussed how text-to-image generators might make it harder for photographers to find work while acknowledging that A.I. could offer benefits to society that outweigh the consequences to his career. 

 “I’d hate to see the craft slowly fade away and be replaced by computers. But [A.I.] will have so many positive impacts on our lives that maybe we can sacrifice photography for the sake of humanity. Being able to cure cancer, I’m totally fine with that if that’s the result.” – Thomas Boenig

Curing cancer might sound like hyperbole, but A.I.’s capabilities are vast and growing. For example, Google’s DeepMind A.I. lab rocked the scientific world in 2020 by cracking the code to understand protein structures, unlocking infinite possibilities for combating disease and improving the food supply. In my hometown of Cincinnati, Dr. Kelly Cohen is using A.I. innovatively in healthcare to diagnose coronary artery disease during regular mammograms to improve early detection. 

At a recent MIT A.I. summit, I also learned about A.I.’s potential to revolutionize modern medicine by moving beyond traditional pharmaceuticals to more targeted molecular solutions that could fundamentally alter how we treat diseases.

In this rapidly evolving era of scientific innovation, we stand on the precipice of significant progress. It’s a time filled with both exhilarating potential and substantial challenges. Notably, while some argue that progress inevitably causes collateral damage, I believe that assumption reflects a lack of imagination. We must recognize that although jobs may be displaced, new opportunities and fields will emerge. However, the transition requires thoughtful upskilling and robust social safety nets. Progress doesn’t need to repeat the errors of the past; we have the capacity to organize and uplift entire communities through deliberate and inclusive actions.

The reverse narrative held by the self-identified “techno-altruists” that A.I. or any new technology will serve as a cure-all for societal issues is just as off-base. Realistically, many of our challenges, such as solving world hunger, don’t lack technological solutions but rather the political will to implement them. My optimism is cautious yet hopeful, and through this show, we aim to foster critical conversations about shaping a future where A.I. amplifies human potential rather than replaces it.

Why We Launched Creativity Squared 

I recently returned from a Women in A.I. retreat hosted by Joanna Peña-Bickley, who was also our guest on Episode Four. One of the points she highlighted is the necessity of understanding and approaching the challenges that A.I. presents. For all artists and creators, my goal is to inform and empower you. Whether it’s protecting your intellectual property, enhancing your creative outputs with A.I., or choosing not to use A.I. at all, staying uninformed is a disservice to both oneself and society.

Creativity Squared is committed to empowering creators, artists, and the intellectually curious to navigate this new age of imagination confidently. As we transition from the information age, where productivity ruled, to an era where creativity and ideas reign supreme, A.I. offers unprecedented opportunities. It democratizes creativity, enabling those without traditional resources like camera or video equipment to bring their visions to life.

Each Thursday, I engage with trailblazers in A.I.—from artists to technologists—each sharing the belief that A.I. should enhance, not replace, human capabilities. My marketing background might have made it easier to focus solely on integrating A.I. into commercial strategies. However, the profound impact of this technology on our very humanity is too significant a topic to ignore. It challenges us to define what it means to be human and explore how technology can enhance our sense of community and connection.

Thank you for joining this journey. Every episode is a step towards a future that keeps humanity at the heart of technological advancement.

From Podcast to Platform: How Creativity Squared Started and Grew

In honor of the anniversary, I also wanted to share a bit about our origins and how the show has evolved into a platform. Back in 2010, I launched Sociality Squared, which was among the first social media agencies ever established. Being an early mover in that space showed me the profound impact of emerging technologies. Fast forward to October 2022, when a friend who works at OpenAI set off the chain of events that led us to this point by sharing a demo of ChatGPT-3 with me. I realized right then that his technology, reminiscent of the early days of social media, could and likely would transform all aspects of our lives by unleashing our creativity.

I was nurturing an idea for a miniseries for a long time before encountering ChatGPT. In fact, that was the very first use case I posed to ChatGPT. My plan initially was to develop the miniseries with A.I. over the course of about two years, and maybe I will in the down the line!

Our focus extends beyond leveraging A.I. for creativity; it’s about enhancing human connections and community through technology. I often reflect on Eric Solomon’s emphasis on the importance of human connections, especially now. We strive to support artists and foster a community where A.I. uplifts creativity, not overshadows it.

“I approach A.I. with a lot of healthy skepticism. What really matters at this time, more than ever, is doubling down on true human connection and knowing the difference between that and human and machine interaction.” – Eric Solomon, episode 8

A testament to our commitment is our partnership with ArtsWave, a leading arts nonprofit. Last year, we donated 10% of all revenue to support their Black and Brown artists program. This initiative funds artists who explore themes like truth, healing, and innovation through art. We’ve also featured these artists in a special podcast series to give them a larger platform to share their work.

On a personal note, my relocation to Cincinnati during the pandemic brought me closer to new opportunities in the A.I. space. Alongside Kendra Ramirez, I co-host Cincy AI, the region’s largest A.I. meetup. This gathering connects A.I. enthusiasts and professionals to foster innovation and community engagement.

In addition to organizing meetups, my involvement in the Cincinnati AI Catalyst aims to use A.I. to uplift the region’s diverse community. This includes workshops to empower underrepresented groups with A.I. literacy, focusing on privacy, cybersecurity, and media literacy.

Another initiative, our A.I. Readiness Assessments, helps local businesses integrate A.I. responsibly across their operations. Our inaugural client, the YMCA of Cincinnati, reflects our goal of using A.I. to reinforce community ties and improve organizational efficiency. We’re also building a referral network to connect businesses with bona fide A.I. experts. 

Last but not least, my venture into ethical and consensual digital cloning with our partner, Render, has introduced new possibilities for personal and professional representation in digital spaces. Our website has more info about getting your own digital clone (which supports the show!). 

My clone, Helen 2.ODD, speaks 28 languages (27 more than human Helen can speak)  and represents a step towards the future of virtual human interaction. Natalie Monbiot, who leads strategy at the digital cloning firm Hour One, discussed in episode 39 how digital clones can open up opportunities by making your likeness available on a screen at any time or place, regardless of where your body is or what you’re doing. 

“There are things I can now do, thanks to my virtual self, that I could not have even dreamed of doing before. So even though we’re still nascent in this virtual human economy, I think it really will become an economy at large and something that will affect all of us.” – Natalie Monbiot

Creativity Squared is more than just a podcast; it’s a platform for exploring how A.I. can be a force for good, enhancing our creative expressions, strengthening our communities, and fostering a deeper connection to the arts. As we move forward, I’m enthusiastic about the potential of A.I. to enrich our lives, and I invite you to join us on this journey.

Standout Conversations on Creativity Squared

When I talk about Creativity Squared out in the wild, I’m often asked about my biggest takeaways. It’s hard to narrow down just a few because I learn something new with each episode, or even while revisiting an episode. 

That said, I have installed a few special guests on my imaginary “personal advisory board,” guests whose insights I use as a frame of reference in my own thinking and decision-making. 

One such guest is Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, who focuses on building networks based on mutualism. In Episode 15, she shared insights from her family’s history in the labor movement, emphasizing the power of collective action even against the biggest adversaries. Just as laborers organized during the Industrial Revolution to fight crony capitalism, Sara suggests that mutualism can serve as a framework to combat corporate A.I. developers’ reckless determinism.  

“What’s really important in this moment is to say, ‘is this technology mutualistic? Are we building this ourselves? And are we building this for what we need?’ Or are we being presented on a platter, what this new technology will look like, and then we are being told how we have to fit ourselves into it?” – Sara Horowitz

Another enlightening discussion was Episode 45 with Dr. Andrew Cullison, who advocates for the integration of moral reasoning in A.I. development. He highlighted the necessity of embedding ethical considerations directly into the A.I. development process to preemptively address potential issues. 

“We need more people in our society trained to be able to identify moral issues because the real problems for A.I. are going to happen in spaces where there’s only a handful of people or a single research team. And that’s where the moral problem needs to be nipped in the bud right away. And so we need massive amounts of moral reasoning development across all areas of our population.”

One of our most impactful guests was Joanna Peña-Bickley, an inventor and design technologist who emphasized the need to conjure positive visions of A.I.’s future amid a sea of dystopian narratives in pop culture. It’s a theme that’s come up many times in subsequent interviews, but Joanna (a member of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women) is doing more than talking about it. 

“I am personally funding stories about positive outcomes [with A.I.]. Because if we only have dystopian outcomes, we won’t get to the positive outcomes. We’re getting closer and closer to figuring out how we treat cancer and Alzheimer’s. How do we think about real human conditions where A.I. is actually improving people’s lives? If we continue to tell dystopian stories, we will not get to solve for the important things around climate, our health, our society.”

One of our guiding principles on the show is diversity in everything. While A.I. development in Europe is still catching up to American firms, Europeans’ contributions to A.I.-collaborative art can’t be overstated. In Episode 11, Gerfried Stocker, the head of programming at Ars Electronica, Europe’s premier art, tech, and society conference, emphasized the need for inclusivity in A.I. regulation. Gerfried pointed out the Western-centric nature of current discourse, advocating for a truly global conversation that includes diverse voices from around the world. This theme of inclusivity has resonated throughout several episodes of the show.

“ I think what we have to learn is there is no totality, there is no absolute truth. There is diversity, there’s ambiguity. How do we deal with this huge amount of ambiguity in our world? This is where, for me, the role of artists and art really come into the picture.”

These conversations and all the others I couldn’t fit on here always remind me of the ripple effects that thoughtful dialogue can create, transforming into waves of change. Each interview begins with setting a clear intention with our guests to foster positive discourse in this complex landscape.

In an upcoming episode, we will hear from Yemi, an artist selected for an extraordinary space journey with seven other creatives. At the Texas Eclipse Festival, Yemi shared a powerful message about the role of dreams in shaping our future: “What is our future made up of if not woven from the threads of our individual dreams? If we don’t create space and time for dreaming, if we are not courageous enough to share these dreams, then we can never evolve the tapestry of the future that we all aspire to weave.” 

Reflecting on the power of dreams and their impact on art, I’m reminded of one of our most recent interviews with Martin Pagh, who built a chatbot trained on the writings and iconic voice of Salvador Dalí. I asked the chatbot, “Ask Dalí,”  what will happen to human creativity as A.I. evolves? 

I’d like to leave you with his response, which might be my favorite quote from any episode, partly because of Dalí’s penchant for speaking rich visual imagery but also because that imagery so beautifully captures our hopes for the future of human-A.I. collaboration. 

“To blend the icy veins of artificial intelligence with the molten gold of human creativity is to perform alchemy of the highest order. We must coax the machines to dance in the moonlight of imagination, letting their circuits overflow with the unpredictable rivers of human thought, for the chaos of dreams and the precision of algorithms, the law is a masterpiece waiting to be born, a digital phoenix, ready to soar from the ashes of rigidity into the boundless sky of possibility.” – Ask Dalí chatbot

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Thank you for joining us on this special episode of Creativity Squared. 

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.

Because it’s important to support artists, 10% of all revenue Creativity Squared generates will go to ArtsWave, a nationally recognized non-profit that supports over 150 arts organizations, projects, and independent artists.

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