Emerging Technologies

This is how AI is impacting – and shaping – the creative industries, according to experts at Davos

Impressions in front of the Installation by Refik Anadol Studio at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 20 January. Congress Center. Copyright: World Economic Forum/Faruk Pinjo

Generative AI has transformed the world of work for the creative industries. Image: WEF

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Artificial Intelligence

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Generative AI tools exploded into the mainstream in 2023, prompting Hollywood strikes as creative industries tried to navigate a potentially augmented future.
  • Artists, musicians and content creators joined discussions at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos on how to navigate a creative future with AI.
  • Here are some of the key quotes from sessions at Davos.

A dolphin with a baseball hat.

Happiness in a bowl.

A pocketful of hope.

These are just some of more than 4,000 prompts that have generated images. But not AI-generated images – they’re the work of New-York based artist Pablo Delcan, whose art experiment calls itself ‘the very first non-AI generative art model’.

On his website Prompt-Brush, which launched in January, Delcan invites people to send him a message with a prompt, and he will “generate a drawing with black ink and send it to you”.

@prompt.brush / Feb. 2024
Pablo Delcan's non-AI generative art model in action. Image: Instagram/@prompt.brush

“This project seeks to contribute to the conversation about the value of the human experience in the creative process, emphasizing the significance of personal interpretation and process,” explains the website.

“It juxtaposes the human element with the AI, exploring both its merits and its role.”

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Humans and AI

In the past few years, artificial intelligence has hit mainstream consciousness as generative AI writing tools like ChatGPT and Claude.ai, and image generators like Midjourney and DALL-E became better and more broadly available. And people, companies, artists, musicians and even Hollywood studios, worked out how – or how not – to work with them.

In August 2022, Théâtre D’opéra Spatial, an artwork made using Midjourney, controversially won an art competition in the US for its creator Jason Allen, for example.

The proliferation of creative AI tools has ushered in urgent discussions over ethics, regulation and guardrails. The potential benefits of generative AI – such as augmented creativity and productivity gains – being weighed against the pitfalls, such as data privacy, copyright infringement and inaccuracy.

This has also been accompanied by the rise of FOBO – or the ‘fear of becoming obsolete’ – with more than a fifth of workers in the US worrying they might lose their jobs to emerging technology.

But research by the World Economic Forum shows AI will not only augment existing jobs, but will create others in entirely new fields.

AI ‘as a driving force for the economy and society’ was one of the key themes at the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2024, where artists, musicians and content creators joined discussions on how to navigate a creative future with AI.

Generative AI and Hollywood

In May 2023, the Writers Guild of America went on strike over pay, with concerns about AI coming to the fore.

In June, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny was released in cinemas, showing 80-year-old Harrison Ford ‘de-aged’ with the help of an AI program.

And in July, members of the US actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) went on strike for 118 days, with protections over AI being used to replace actors as the major sticking point.

Speaking at the Davos session Workers in Focus, SAG-AFTRA’S Chief Negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, said AI “was a really important issue in our negotiations”.

“Our members are going to be on the tip of the spear in this area, especially voice actors, because the technical requirements of using generative AI with voice only are easier, and that makes it faster and simpler to implement.

“It’s going to have a significant impact and presence on the creative industries in general and the television, film and videogames industries.”

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The SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild strikes combined cost the industry more than $6.5 billion, but now an agreement has been reached, Crabtree-Ireland hopes other companies and industries can learn from it.

“It’s so important for us to remember that the decisions about the implementation of AI are not being made by AI, they’re being made by humans. It doesn't have to just be corporate executives, these are decisions we should all make together, workers and society should have an important role in participating in that decision-making.”

“The creative industries are one example of an area where, if we don't have that kind of human-centred approach to the implementation of AI, we run the risk of losing the heart and soul of the creative industries, their whole raison d'être.”

Generative AI and the music industry

Legendary producer Nile Rodgers was at Davos to receive the Crystal Award for his contribution to music, his commitment to fighting systemic racism, inequality and injustice, and for championing young voices.

In an interview for Radio Davos, he said his view of AI was formed over a lunch discussion with the author Deepak Chopra, who told him: “Technology can be beautiful and diabolical, just like people”.

Although he hasn’t yet used generative AI in his creative process, he said he “assumes” he will in future, adding: “Any tool that allows an artist to create is an amazing thing…”.

But he stipulated that he “certainly wouldn't use it to imitate somebody else”.

Nile Rodgers at Davos: 'Any tool that allows an artist to create is an amazing thing.' Image: World Economic Forum

An entire Davos session was dedicated to the subject of AI’s impact on the creative industries. Gen AI: Boon or Bane for Creativity? featured YouTube CEO Neal Mohan and Daren Tang, the Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Tang used to be a semi-professional jazz pianist while training at law school and said while he understood the challenges for musicians and creators around AI, “musicians have always embraced technology and used whatever tools they can to find new forms of expression”.

In April 2023, the Canadian singer Grimes said she would split royalties with any musician creating AI-generated tracks using her voice – and launched AI software Elf.Tech that allows other people to sing with her voice.

In November 2023, The Beatles released the single “Now and Then”, 45 years after the first bars were written, with John Lennon’s vocals ‘extricated’ from a demo cassette using AI.

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“Musicians are already beginning to react to AI and use AI as a way of enhancing, augmenting, their creative capabilities,” said Tang. “And I think this is just the beginning.”

Mohan views AI as a “revolution” that will help to “democratize” the creative process – and thinks it’s purely there to augment human creativity.

“Our mantra at YouTube is that AI should not be a replacement for human creativity. It should be a tool used to enhance all of our creativity.”

In August 2023, the platform launched its AI Music incubator, a collaboration between YouTube and Google DeepMind, which allows artists to experiment with new AI tools, giving prompts to create different sounds.

“It's like a supercharger for their creativity and what artists tell me every single time is, ‘Wow, I can create this music that a week ago I wouldn't have even thought humanly possible’.”

Wherever AI takes the creative industries from here, Tang said much greater collaboration was needed between artists and regulators to agree on best practice around AI: “We will probably need some form of regulatory convergence or interoperability”.

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How is the World Economic Forum creating guardrails for Artificial Intelligence?

And he reminded the Davos audience that 2.6 billion people still do not have access to the internet. Of those that do, 90% don’t have the computing power to use AI, Tang said.

“In our excitement about AI, we need to make sure we bring those people on board … With music becoming more diverse, we have to make sure we are much more inclusive.”

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