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Media C-Suite Week No. 48, Issue No. 34

A Week in the Media C-Suite, Week No. 48, Issue No. 34

A Week in the Media C-Suite

It’s Sunday, the 26th of November, 2023.

It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword.

That is a great statement. A story, really. And that is the point of it.

A lone swordsman can probably persuade a handful of unarmed pedestrians to do what he (or she) wishes. But a lone writer can do much more with a sharp whit. A pen can persuade the multitude when wielded by a storyteller.

However, a story is only as powerful as the audience it reaches.

That power has grown to proportions unimagined by the poets and thespians of old.

As a modern industry of storytellers, the Media & Entertainment industry has a lot to be thankful for.

A Grateful Pause

The United States has just finished its annual Thanksgiving holiday, which effectively shut the country down for much of the last week.

It is said that when America sneezes, the world catches cold. The same can said for pauses.

Unusual for long national holidays like Easter and Christmas, the American Thanksgiving celebration is not a religious tradition, but rather a secular harvest festival first held historically in November of 1621 by 53 survivors of the Mayflower and about 100 native Wamponoag people from neighbouring villages.

Having set sail for the Americas in the belief of their superiority, both culturally and religiously, the Pilgrims were wholly unprepared for the New World. It took the help of the local peoples for the literally “holier-than-thou” Europeans to live long enough to learn what crops would grow and how to hunt local game, including the now famous wild Turkey. A three day celebration of a bountiful harvest and friendship with the local villages was a lot to be thankful for. The event became one of the most American of traditions; that being a celebration of plenty by sharing a meal with family and friends as a means of giving thanks for community.

This week, as the United States wakes from its food-induced coma to complete what work can be done before the Christmas holidays shut things down again, the rest of the world continues in an often vain attempt to keep up. Whether acknowledged openly or refuted, most of the cultural progress that the world is trying to keep up with originates in the United States.

This can be viewed as a mystery by some or as a simple result of a cultural proclivity toward innovation as a means for advancement.  Outside of culture, there is little other explanation given the indisputable fact that there is no discernible genetic difference between the typical American and anyone else. Same brain. Same body mechanics. Same physical needs.

Anthropologically Speaking

Anthropology is the study of human origins and the cultural evolution that drives our species. An anthropologist would tell us that, physiologically, each of us today is indistinguishable from a human being hustling for a living a hundred thousand years ago.

That’s not to say that nothing has changed.

According to some theoretical mathematicians, our planet has shrunk to minuscule proportions over the past hundred thousand years, including our available resources. While no one really knows how many of us there were back then, the difference between a few hundred thousand people roaming a relatively empty landscape is a far cry from 8.06 billion people occupying every region on Earth today.

Getting from there to here has been an epic journey rife with romantic adventure and immeasurable trauma in equal measure. Talking about it has spurred us forward in the terrible face of very real dangers. From around the first camp fires to the first Thanksgiving tables, the one thing that unites us as a species between then and now, here and there, is our need to both tell and hear the stories.

For that innate Human need, we in the Media C-Suite give thanks.

Just Catching Up?

We all are!

The Power of Numbers

Strength in numbers is a great principle of survival. It is also the economic principle behind both politics and consumer marketing. The larger a population is the more value it holds for both collective action and consumer spending.

As we humans push beyond 8 billion people, it is estimated that 5.6 billion of us are now actively engaged as consumers of information over the internet. Much of that information is in the form of entertainment, from which many of us are educated. Much of it is advertising, which also educates some. Much of it is also what we think of as news, which informs most (if not all) of our political decision-making.

Until recently, humans have informed humans.

With the internet has come the algorithm to assist us in our selection of what to be informed by next. Propagation of information, and algorithms to sort it, has allowed ever more sophisticated computer systems to learn how humans convey information. These Large Language Models, or LLMs, are at the heart of generative artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT.

OpenAI, ChatGPT’s publisher advised this month that, in just a single year since its introduction to the world, over 100 million active weekly users are engaged in conversation with its AI.

The principle of “strength in numbers” hides a rather dangerous truth: math has no loyalty. Until now, we have counted on some form of human intelligence to create the information we consume (for better or worse).

As 100 million active weekly users engage with ChatGTP, ChatGPT is actively training another AI. That AI, code-named “Q*” by OpenAI, is an artificial general intelligence, or AGI. An AGI is an actual thinking machine capable of complex strategy with the power of true creativity. More importantly, AGI can itself make use of generative AI, like ChatGPT, replacing the human user and prompting for the generation of information for its own purposes.

As a writer’s tool, ChatGPT can help generate information at our direction, and at our discretion. It can greatly increase the output of a single writer, allowing far more information to be disseminated to the 5.6 billion of our fellow humans as entertainment, advertising or news. We are only limited by the prompts we input at the speed of our keyboards.

With AGI, our neighbours can be educated, sold to and persuaded to act by a wholly new form of intelligence pumping out information at the speed of light.

For better or worse.

Inflection Point

When complex systems begin to degrade, systems analysts look for what they call inflection points. These are momentary changes in behaviour that identify when a variable has been introduced. The variable can be something introduced from outside the system, or it can be a component of the system failing. Something introduced will either enhance the systems, or lead to one or more failures.

The inflection point is a complex system’s way of saying change is coming.

In complex systems, the failure of a single component can often be compensated for by other components taking up slightly more of the workload. If those components weaken from the added strain, they will begin to fail, increasing the strain on remaining components until more and more of them fail. This is called cascade failure, and ultimately leads to the collapse of a complex system, such as an economy or an ecosystem or a society.

The failure of one complex system often results in the emergence of another.

A sudden disruption in an otherwise smoothly operating system is an inflection point, which is what occurred over the course of this past week at OpenAI.

After 8 highly successful years at the helm of OpenAI, during which the non-profit organisation has achieved increasingly remarkable results at an increasingly rapid pace, Sam Altman, its founder and CEO was summarily fired. This prompted the near disintegration of OpenAI itself as over 95% of its workforce resigned as a result. This prompted a near complete reversal of the situation within the course of the week.

To understand the nature of this important inflection point in the complex system we call our modern world, we encourage you to read our explanation for why we all need an explanation from OpenAI.

Looking Forward?

Now is the time!

For those seeing the outline of a big picture with regard to AI, AGI and the Media & Entertainment industry, we have curated a short list of articles to help you focus.

We wish you all a productive week.

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Media C-Suite Week No. 49, Issue No. 35