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Why technology executive Brady Brim-DeForest believes the future of creative lies with AI

An alternate vision for how artificial intelligence might actually save the human race

By Maria Williams

Brady Brim-DeForest at the Formula.Monks offices in Venice, CA. (Photo courtesy of Three Moons Imaging)

When you think about the biggest threats facing humanity, what comes to mind? The climate crisis? Another global pandemic? Nuclear bombs? And maybe, just maybe, something else—something that seems much more immediate: artificial intelligence (AI).

The Rising Fear of AI Among Creatives

Luckily, society is still a long way from evil AI overlords taking over the world. But there’s no denying that AI technology has surged to prominence in recent years. And for many people, its rise has led to one resounding question: is AI going to take my job away from me?

This fear looms especially large in the hearts and minds of content creators. Talk to writers, filmmakers, song writers, publishers, or graphic designers, and you’ll hear about how AI is the biggest threat creatives have ever faced…and as the technology advances, things are only going to get worse.

Are they right? Conventional wisdom seems to suggest so. Over and over, the media, co-workers, and even friends speak about AI’s ability to generate content—whether it’s visual art, books, scripted narratives, or music compositions—will soon overshadow human creativity and originality (and destroy jobs, to boot).

Industry insiders are buying into this perspective, too. Remember the Hollywood writers’ strike? And the SAG-AFTRA strike? They were both spurred by concerns over AI and the impact it would wreak on creatives’ jobs. And Tyler Perry put his planned studio expansion on hold because he didn’t think it would be able to compete with the AI platform Sora.

When you look around, it seems like everyone has an opinion about AI, and most of the time, that opinion is negative. But what if, instead of being a threat to people’s livelihoods (and, by extension, their lives), AI enables a renaissance of human productivity and creativity? What if, used properly, it could level the playing field between individual creatives—the very people most frightened of it—and the corporations that currently employ them?

A Visionary’s Perspective on AI: Enabling a Creative Renaissance

Brady Brim-DeForest, CEO of Formula.Monks, believes AI can do all of this and more—if society moves quickly to harness its power. The bestselling author of Smaller is Better: Using Small Autonomous Teams to Drive the Future of Enterprise, Brim-DeForest has co-founded six successful start-ups and helped global, monolithic organizations reorganize for innovation. As a creative himself—he’s spent more than twenty years working in product design, brand strategy, and start-up management—he understands the fears most people have about AI. But far from dreading a world where AI plays a prominent role in everyday life, he’s excited about the technology’s potential.

A Tool for Empowerment, Not Replacement

After helping countless large-scale organizations (like AT&T, Bloomberg, Caterpillar, Google and Microsoft) and the people who work at them become more agile and nimble, Brim-DeForest has an optimistic vision for what an AI-driven future might look like. “AI can put power back in the hands of individual creatives,” Brim-DeForest said. “Rather than removing opportunity and destroying jobs, AI has the capability to manifest an explosion of highly personalized, highly tailored content for new audiences that individual creatives currently can’t achieve at scale. In just a few years’ time, for example, it will enable an individual person to create and produce a studio-quality feature film without a hundred-million-dollar budget. For individual creatives, this is an incredibly exciting time.”

Despite his excitement about AI, he’s not blind to the very real fears surrounding this technology. He concedes that at first glance, it’s easy to believe that businesses will leverage AI to replace creatives. But that’s only because most people tend to imagine that the future will look and feel a lot like the present. Brim-DeForest foresees a completely new paradigm. “We are on the cusp of a truly transformational moment in time. Traditional models of how we work and create are going to be upended. The rules are going to be rewritten. And AI will be at the forefront of it all, helping make individual content creators wildly successful at competing against the large-scale organizations.”

Embracing the Paradigm Shift

“Historically,” he pointed out, “individuals have struggled to compete with corporations because, unlike individuals, corporations are remarkably good at leveraging and deploying capital at scale. That requires a lot of infrastructure, not to mention large investments of money and other resources into decision-making, forecasting, and reporting. That’s what corporations, because of their size, have been able to deliver. Investors want to earn a reliable return on their capital, and corporations are structured to provide just that.”

But now, with the advent of AI, all that is changing. “Individual people don’t have the massive machine behind them that’s required to actually make the investment into the infrastructure work,” he said. “But AI is flipping all of that on its head. We’re starting to see glimpses of that future right now, in fact. With the help of AI, individual content creators can build businesses without any assistance from traditional gatekeepers—the major publishers, studios, record labels, and so on—because the actual cost to manage the infrastructure of distribution collapsed in a massive way with the advent of pure digital consumption.”

How AI Will Reshape Corporate Structures

Brim-DeForest thinks it won’t be long before this aspirational vision becomes reality. And when it does, it will level the playing field in a way that’s hard to fathom. “It sounds crazy and also maybe a little overwhelming, but individual content creators will be able to compete with the Time Warners, the Disney, and the Simon & Schusters. Why? Because they will have, at their disposal, the same infrastructure that the modern enterprise has spent the last one hundred years creating…to the tune of billions of dollars. But individuals will have it all for the cost of a subscription to an AI service.”

Far from being worried about AI’s impact on creative jobs, Brim-DeForest thinks the future is bright for content creators. He’s less sanguine about how corporations will fare. “In the next decade, we’re going to see a future where individuals can compete head-to-head with major corporations. The difference is the individual doesn’t have the same baggage or the massive overhead that the corporations do. I know everyone is worried about what AI will mean to us on an individual level. But I think the transition into an AI world is going to be far more painful for enterprise corporations. In fact, I think they will go through a period of massive disruption not unlike what medieval Europe experienced after the bubonic plague, when power shifted from the feudal overlords to the agrarian working class. Virtually overnight, labor became insanely powerful because there was suddenly such a massive scarcity of it. We’re going to see a similar transition, powered and driven by the massive disruption in markets that have traditionally relied upon and been designed to serve major corporations that operate at global scale.”

Reimagining Creative Production and Distribution

According to Brim-DeForest, this is all just more proof that creatives should look at AI as a tool to help them thrive in their chosen professions. “Most people believe AI is going to devalue creative capability by making it so inexpensive that human creators will no longer be able to extract value from their work. Those fears are accentuated by the existing status quo, where creative output is directly valued in association with the scale of the audience that it can reach. And it makes sense. You could be the world’s best artist; if no one knows about your work, it isn’t financially valuable. The challenge today is that access to an audience is the most expensive part of making art, whether you’re painting or performing or filmmaking. Right now, without an enormously expensive marketing machine behind you, no one can fall in love with the work that you do—at least not at scale. Artificial intelligence will change that model, which means that economically, AI is not going to disintermediate the artist. It’s going to disintermediate the gatekeeper.”

Brim-DeForest is committed to helping the world navigate that transition successfully. In fact, a big part of what he and his team at Formula.Monks are doing is helping organizations to understand how to leverage AI to create a future that empowers creatives. “The amount of content getting created is immense—you literally can’t watch all the content that is uploaded to YouTube every day if you spent your entire life trying to do it. We’re experiencing a veritable Cambrian explosion of content, and that trend isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. We’re going to need tooling, and systems, and technology, that enables the consumer to actually interact with the content in a way that creates a kind of recursively self-improving loop, which is exactly what AI can offer.”

Navigating the Present: How to Adapt to AI Today

As exciting as all this sounds, if you’re a creator, there’s probably one question swirling around your brain right now: “That’s all well and good for the future, but how am I supposed to protect myself from AI right now?” It’s exactly the right question to ask, especially since, as Brim-DeForest points out, this new reality is coming, and coming fast.

To prepare for it, first, accept that a world where AI is commonplace is inevitable. “AI is going to be an incredibly disruptive force,” he acknowledges. “So, whether you’re an individual content creator or part of an organization, recognize that you need to adapt to this new reality. And, if you work in a large corporation, start redesigning the way you do business—whatever that business is—so you can compete effectively with the new generation of cottage industrialists who are going to be able to drive more impactful outcomes for clients at a fraction of the cost.”

The Evolution of Work and Creativity

Next, get used to the fact that new technologies will fundamentally change the way the world does business. With the help of AI, one or two people will be able to accomplish what hundreds couldn’t even five years ago. That means individual creatives will be able to solve problems efficiently, at scale, and with a tremendous amount of velocity. “When I think about my average day, I spend an inordinate amount of time moving a mouse around a screen and typing,” Brim-DeForest said. “That’s probably the reality for most of us. And it’s because we don’t have a really great machine-to-brain interface. That may not be solved immediately, but it will be solved soon—and the distance between idea and execution will collapse.”

The power of generative AI at use in Monks.Flow, the AI-centric managed service that streamlines how humans and machines work together, built by the Product Realization Group at Formula.Monks.

When this occurs, it will fundamentally shift what society values. “Right now, we prioritize execution over ideas. This applies to creatives as well as businesses. The startup ecosystem has a saying: ‘The idea is not important. It’s the execution that matters.’ Well, with AI, the execution is going to become increasingly less complex and less costly. Plus, the expertise required to execute will become democratized. When that happens, the value will be in the idea itself.”

Third, Brim-DeForest recommends finding a way to look at AI as a way to extend your innate capabilities. “Start thinking about how you can take and build a competency in these tools so that you can turbocharge your efforts.” There are so many AI-based tools out there, and more are coming every day. So, consider your average day and what your sticking points are. Then, think through how AI can help you overcome those challenges.

Staying Open-Minded and Informed About AI

Finally, stay open-minded, and keep learning. “In the grand scheme of things, we’re still in the infancy of AI,” he pointed out. “We haven’t yet seen the birth of the first artificial general intelligence. But, that will certainly come within our lifetimes, and most likely within the next decade or two.” Staying aware of the technology—rather than burying your head in the sand—will go a long way towards helping you harness its power.

So, there you have it: AI really isn’t the villain it’s been painted as. Quite the opposite, in fact: with it by their side, content creators are poised to achieve the kind of outsized results that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. And who knows? Maybe, with AI’s help, it might even be possible to solve the real crises facing the world before it’s too late.

Stream Publishing was not involved in the creation of this content