Attack new opportunities and protect the organization from volatility.
CIOs must be prepared for a volatile business environment in 2023, mitigating risks while simultaneously pursuing new growth opportunities with the right strategies and tactics.
CIOs need to adopt technological trends that help the organization deliver value better and faster to compete in the digital economy.
CIOs must build a structure to protect the organization from volatility and lay the foundation to thrive.
Like a chess grandmaster, CIOs must play both sides of the board. Emerging technologies present opportunities to attack while protecting from a volatile board state is a requirement.
It’s the role of the CIO to push the organization harder. While maintaining existing technology, they must set goals for technology to support the business to move faster and perform better. To enhance existing capabilities and create new ones.
Impact and Result
Use the data and analysis from Info-Tech's 2023 Tech Trends report to inform your digital strategy.
Discover the seven trends shaping IT's path in 2023 and explore use cases for emerging technologies.
Hear directly from leading subject matter experts on each trend with in-depth case study interviews.
Tech Trends 2023 Research & Tools
1. Tech Trends 2023 – Use this report to consider how technology leaders can attack opportunities while protecting the organization from the risks posed.
Last year’s Tech Trends report focused on the capabilities organizations would need to compete in a digital economy. We are continuing that theme this year with four trends that are focused on helping the organization deliver value faster and better. At the same time, we're considering the volatility of a world dealing with several major crises simultaneously. Organizations need to protect themselves from that volatility to thrive. So, we have three trends focused on the risks all organizations will face in the year ahead.
Understand the seven trends shaping IT’s landscape in 2023:
- The Metaverse - Generative AI - Industry-Led Data Models - Sustained Digital Processes
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Excellent discussion. It heled crystalize thinking around areas of use cases that could prove ML application in a central bank
Tech Trends 2023
Thinking like a chess grandmaster
Upon being defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue computer in a multi-game chess match in 1996, reigning world-champion and highest-ranked chess player in history Gary Kasparov cried foul. He accused the IBM team of cheating, saying that Deep Blue was in fact a Mechanical Turk of sorts, that humans were performing the job and not a machine. A documentary, Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine, was made detailing Kasparov’s accusations in 2003. But more than a decade later, Kasparov reflected on his experience differently in his 2017 book Deep Thinking. He retracts the cheating accusation and instead asserts that the moment was a watershed for artificial intelligence. In choosing to not reject technology’s capacity to beat him, he also embraces its potential to augment his capabilities when used as a tool.
“If we feel like we are being surpassed by our own technology it’s because we aren’t pushing ourselves hard enough, aren’t being ambitious enough in our goals and dreams,” Kasparov writes in the book. “Instead of worrying about what machines can do, we should worry more about what they still cannot do” (MIT Technology Review, 2017).
Technology leaders can sympathize. Like chess grandmasters, CIOs must strategize to defeat their opponents. Emerging technologies present opportunities to attack. Move your pieces the right way and you might establish a dominant position to support a victory. Defending the king is a constant concern, as the competition is constantly threatening to defeat you. Protecting from a volatile board state is a requirement.
Move the right pieces in the right way and win the day. Make a mistake and you risk toppling the king. Tech leaders must be prepared to respond to a range of different scenarios in a volatile business environment.
It’s the role of the CIO to push the organization harder. While maintaining existing technology, they must set goals for technology to support the business to move faster and perform better. To enhance existing capabilities and create new ones. They must test the limits of what machines still cannot do.
Make your move
Last year’s Tech Trends report focused on the capabilities organizations would need to compete in a digital economy. We are continuing that theme this year with four trends that are focused on helping the organization deliver value faster and better. At the same time, we’re considering the volatility of a world dealing with several major crises simultaneously. Organizations need to protect themselves from that volatility in order to thrive. So, we have three trends focused on the risks all organizations will face in the year ahead.
In Tech Trends 2023, we consider how technology leaders can attack opportunities while protecting the organization from the risks posed. We’ll consider which capabilities will help organizations respond to each trend in our CIO Priorities 2023 report to be published later this year.
CIOs would do well to heed Kasparov’s advice. If they fail to protect their organizations, crying foul play won’t help lessen the impacts of defeat. Better to focus instead on how to work with the machines and push harder toward achieving goals in collaboration. CIOs need to be ambitious and ready to make their move to push their organizations ahead.
The research effort for Tech Trends 2023 is driven by our Trends and Priorities survey receiving 813 total responses from IT professionals between August 9 and September 9, 2022. See our methodology section for a full demographic breakdown of the survey. Each trend features a case study with an expert that is on the cutting edge of the trend, with Info-Tech conducting the interviews directly.
Info-Tech’s design team created the visual elements of this report using AI-image generator Midjourney. See our generative AI trend to learn more about the creative potential of this emerging technology.
“Like a chess grandmaster, CIOs must play both sides of the board. Emerging technologies present opportunities to attack, while protecting from a volatile board state is a requirement.”
A platform that combines multiple technologies to enable social and economic activity in a digital world that is connected to the physical world.
A metaverse by any other name
In science fiction, the metaverse is envisioned as a unified and singular immersive digital platform that is separate but parallel to the real world. For next year, value is more likely to be found in less holistic expressions of the metaverse. Info-Tech views the metaverse as best understood from a technological perspective. A convergence of mixed reality, artificial intelligence, immersive digital space, and real-time communications stack together to create metaverse experiences. Depending on the use case, not all technologies may be necessary to produce value.
The term “metaverse” exploded into buzzword territory in November 2021 when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook was renaming to Meta, making its future ambitions clear. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft used its Ignite conference to recast several of its product lines as metaverse technologies, including Microsoft Mesh, a mixed reality collaboration platform that includes 3D avatars and object models. Neither Facebook nor Microsoft explicitly defined the metaverse as a concept. But their demonstrations of people interacting through digital identities in an immersive virtual world that’s connected to the real world harken back to the vision of Neal Stephenson, who coined the term in his 1992 novel Snow Crash.
In 2022, many technology firms adopted the term or amplified their use of the term. Builders of decentralized virtual worlds such as Decentraland and Sandbox had been talking about their “metaverse” even before Zuckerberg’s announcement. Their use of the term conflates the concept with “Web3,” which describes the next generation of the internet that’s built on blockchain. Other major vendors are relating to the term, most notably NVIDIA with its Omniverse product line, which it calls “the metaverse for engineers.” Ireland-based ENGAGE XR Holdings bills itself as “the professional VR platform for leading Fortune 500 companies globally,” and has clients including BMW, 3M, and HTC.
“For next year, value is more likely to be found in less holistic expressions of the metaverse. Info-Tech views the metaverse as best understood from a technological perspective. A convergence of mixed reality, artificial intelligence, immersive digital space, and real-time communications stack together to create metaverse experiences.”
While it continues to escape definition, an effort to create open standards around the metaverse is underway. The Metaverse Standards Forum combines standards organizations with industry players. The work is necessary if Stephenson’s vision of a truly universal metaverse is to ever be realized. Today, the early metaverse is fractured across multiple different private and public platforms, with limited portability between the worlds.
THE METAVERSE MADE BY MICROSOFT AND META
Marketing pitches and media headlines leave IT leaders wondering if they should be running a proof of concept on VR collaboration in 2023 or perhaps staking a claim to virtual real estate. For this reason, Info-Tech projects that value in the metaverse will more likely be found in less holistic versions of itself, allowing for customization and adaptability for companies based on each use case to produce value.
Despite renaming the company to Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook isn’t seen as defining the metaverse space by IT professionals. Instead, Microsoft and industry analysts were trusted to give an accurate picture of what’s coming in five years’ time.
When it comes to envisioning what the metaverse will look like five years from now, whom do you most look to for an accurate picture?
Industry analysts or consultants
Meta (formerly Facebook)
Creators of blockchain-based virtual worlds
Authors of science fiction
Signals Let’s just stick to Zoom
The metaverse as a solution to hybrid work is still a far-off concept for most firms, with 63% of organizations having no plans to collaborate in virtual reality (using headsets that totally block out the real world). Only one quarter of firms are conducting a proof of concept or planning to do so. Slightly more than one in ten say they're either scaling up or already seeing widespread organizational adoption.
When survey takers were asked individually about their interest in collaborating in VR, about one in four said they were interested. That’s equal to the number of organizations that are at least planning a proof of concept, showing that on average, organizations are demonstrating the right amount of enthusiasm for the metaverse.
Organizations show slightly more interest in adopting augmented reality headsets (which are transparent, allowing the real world to be seen) over virtual reality. Thirty-five percent of organizations are at least planning a proof of concept or are more advanced in using AR headsets, compared to 32% that can say the same of VR headsets.
Two industries are showing more interest than others in collaborating in VR. The media, information, telecom, and technology industry (n=75) is most enthusiastic with 34% at least already conducting a proof of concept. The professional services industry (n=93) is the next-most interested, with 29% already conducting a proof of concept or an initiative that’s progressed even further.
What best describes your organization’s current approach for collaborating in a virtual reality environment?
How interested are you in using a virtual reality headset to collaborate with your colleagues?
Drivers Meeting on equal footing
“...tech firms focused on digital collaboration solutions see interaction in a mixed reality environment, involving avatars and shared virtual spaces, as a way that everyone can collaborate on equal footing in a more natural way.”
Metaverse collaboration is a response to the challenges experienced around remote work during the pandemic
The concept of “Zoom fatigue” describes the exhaustion due to the mental effects of engaging in videoconferences all day long (IFRI, 2022). With most organizations moving to a hybrid model of work, it can be difficult to facilitate meetings between employees who are in the office and those working remotely. Colleagues limited to participating through a screen tend to be ignored. For this reason, tech firms focused on digital collaboration solutions see interaction in a mixed reality environment, involving avatars and shared virtual spaces, as a way that everyone can collaborate on equal footing in a more natural way.
The pandemic also disrupted business travel
Industries that rely on specialized experts to travel to different locations to maintain complex machinery had to find ways to adapt. Rather than having the skilled technician travel to the location, they can connect with an onsite employee wearing an augmented reality headset like Microsoft HoloLens. Using the camera and speakers on the device, the expert can effectively see through the eyes of the non-skilled employee and give them step-by-step instructions on how to complete a task. This type of interaction is being enhanced with recorded sessions, digital models and animations of complex machinery, and even digital twins of entire environments.
While friction in the workplace is being resolved, the last couple of years have seen a boom of time spent on digital entertainment
Meta is estimated to have sold 8.7 million Quest 2 VR headsets in 2021, rising to 15 million by mid-2022 (Android Central, March and June 2022). Meanwhile, gaming platforms that invite users to build their own experiences, such as Roblox and Fortnite, are demonstrating the viability of business models that allow free access to a virtual world and drive revenue through microtransactions.
Attack opportunity – protect from risk Pursue digital twins, avoid vendor lock-in
Enhance field worker productivity
Workers that typically work with their hands can benefit from accessing an enterprise knowledgebase and collaborating with experts through an augmented reality headset. This type of solution is more mature than full-on virtual reality use cases for the enterprise. There are a variety of manufacturers making headsets at different price points, solution providers to deploy them to your workforce, and systems integrators to tie them into enterprise systems.
Plan complex logistics better
Digital twins are proving useful to plan out changes to manufacturing lines, airports, and warehouse facilities. If you operate an environment with a lot of moving pieces and a lot can be gained from optimizing it, building digital twins is a capability worth pursuing.
Early platform providers have paid lip service to the idea of portability across metaverse environments, meaning you can take your data from one vendor’s platform to another’s. But how interoperability will work is unclear. A company could build out a customized metaverse experience on a private platform, only to later have the terms changed.
Initial revenue-sharing schemes released by Meta for Horizon Worlds have been aggressive, claiming almost half of the pie from developers (Ars Technica, April 2022).
If a harassment lawsuit is filed based on an interaction that took place in the metaverse, in what jurisdiction should it be brought to court? What rights does one have to virtual real estate or digital goods registered to the blockchain? There are many opinions to be found on these questions but not a lot of clarity. The early metaverse experience may feel a bit like the Wild West, with platform providers playing the role of sheriff.
case study Moots in the metaverse
“We’re looking into 3D recreations of a crime scene. Can we transport the judge and jury virtually to the scene of the crime?” Ritesh Kotak Juris Doctor Graduate University of Ottawa
The University of Ottawa’s Common Law Section holds a moot competition for its students annually, requiring teams to prepare written submissions on a legal point and then argue their case in front of a panel of judges. It’s meant to simulate the feeling of being in a courtroom and is typically hosted in a real physical courtroom. Pandemic restrictions made that impossible and the competition was to be held using Zoom videoconference. Seeking to improve upon the virtual experience, third-year Juris Doctor student Ritesh Kotak worked with peers, Tech Fellows Ayushi Dave and Ryan Mosoff, on a metaverse moot initiative.
With funding from LeClair and Associates, the students engaged Ireland-based ENGAGE XR to help create a virtual courtroom. Using the company’s virtual reality platform, an existing American courtroom was modified to suit the moot competition style of three judges and no jury. After initial rounds of the moot were completed over Zoom, the finalists held their moot contest on the VR platform in March 2022. A former Supreme Court justice and a current Ontario Court justice helped judge the event. Participants were shipped Meta Quest 2 headsets to use for the experience. They uploaded photos of themselves to create avatars with their likeness. “It felt real, it felt like we were in a courtroom,” Kotak says. “No one thought we would ever do trials over Zoom until the pandemic happened. To me, that was a bandage approach to create some continuity. It wasn’t the be-all and end-all.” An in-world videographer created a recording of the virtual event that was suitable to stream on YouTube.
Funding from LeClair and Associates for the project lasts through 2026. Even though the moot competitions can now be held in person again, Kotak says there are plans to take a hybrid approach to them and still include a VR component. Kotak has now graduated but plans to volunteer his time for the project. Their aim is to introduce a new element that hasn’t previously been done in a trial every year. For next year, they are looking at introducing a recreation of a crime scene to serve as evidence in a trial. “Can we transport the judge and jury, virtually, to the scene of a crime?” Kotak says. “They could walk around and see that scene virtually, with real evidence.” Also of interest is to expand on open court principles, to allow the public to have access to trials that are taking place. Kotak says some members of the public were invited to sit in the virtual gallery at this year’s moot competition.
what’s next? A metaverse that moves you
Holographic communications systems are being created by several vendors. With enterprises already testing prototype products, we could see some of these solutions come to the market in general availability in 2023. These solutions focus on projecting photorealistic 3D images of people into a remote environment. Users wear augmented reality headsets to see the holographic content and interact with it. Capturing the hologram-quality 3D image also requires special equipment and cloud-based rendering of multiple video feeds.
Some solutions in this space use volumetric video to capture the holograms. Cisco is developing a light field capture method with Webex Hologram that it says offers a more realistic representation of people and objects. “We bring a glass of water into the scene, and you can see the reflections bounce off the water,” says Edel Joyce, product manager for Webex Hologram at Cisco. “Our goal is to make it as real as possible so you can get that emotional feeling of the presence.”
It’s still in prototype mode, but Cisco has several early customers testing out Webex Hologram across different industries. McLaren Racing is the one publicly stated partner, but other users include two hospitals, two universities, a manufacturer, an apparel design firm, a medical device maker, and other technology firms. Companies investing in the system are seeing value in a few different scenarios, Joyce says. Companies that require expert trainers to travel onsite to demonstrate complex equipment can save on the airfare for their trainer and instead have them do several sessions a day in different locations by appearing holographically. Companies that want to accelerate a design process around a physical object find the technology brings them to consensus more quickly. And then there’s the mental health benefits of feeling the presence of another person despite their distance. Cisco is talking to defense forces about arranging for deployed overseas troops to have a holographic family visit, Joyce says.
Cisco is learning how to refine its product from its early customers. Improvements to the interface are made iteratively and paring back the requirements for the capture system will help bring down the cost. “People don’t need to see the back of your head during a meeting,” Joyce says. “So, we’ve narrowed down the number of cameras we need on a device.” Cisco is not sharing any pricing or roadmap information on Webex Hologram at this time.
“We’re tricking the brain to make you think the person is present. It’s as real as you can get.” Edel Joyce Product Manager for Webex Hologram Cisco
What will be the HTML of the metaverse?
Hypertext markup language (HTML) made the web possible by setting a standard for how web browsers rendered content. If a future metaverse is going to be equally seamless and accessible, a similar standard is necessary. NVIDIA and Pixar are championing the Universal Scene Description (USD) standard developed by Pixar and released to open source in 2016. It defines not only the visual characteristics of an object in 3D but its behavioral attributes as well, such as weight, density, and whether it has an interactive component (NVIDIA, 2022).
Recommendations Manage 3D content and improve hybrid engagement
Watch and wait as the metaverse develops
The vision of the metaverse as a universal digital space where people interact at scale and spend money is still a distant vision. It’s OK to stay in learning mode for now and not rush into a proof of concept using virtual reality headsets or blockchain-based digital real estate.
Consider how to manage 3D objects
Digital 3D objects are becoming more useful in a number of different work settings to facilitate collaboration around complex machinery or environments. Consider how you will create the digital twin of your environment and how you will manage the inventory of 3D objects.
Improve the hybrid work experience
The metaverse is proposed as a way to facilitate more engaged collaboration between colleagues who are split between working in the office and working in remote locations. But it’s not the only way. Think about how to improve your conferencing facilities and procedures to get the most out of hybrid meetings.
Understand what digital twin is, including the unique characteristics of this transformative technology. Articulate both the value and constraints of digital twin technology. Formulate a use case and validate its alignment with your organization.
Make the case for your communications infrastructure modernization project and be prepared to support it.
AI can be trained by feeding content into generative adversarial networks, transformers, and variational autoencoders to create new content that’s meaningful to people.
AI investment on the rise
Generative AI is a type of semi-supervised machine learning that uses neural networks to create new content or interpret complex signal information. By training the models with a large amount of content, they can be made to generate new works like what people would create.
The uses for generative AI go beyond creating imagery. It could help businesses with predictive maintenance or improving cybersecurity analytics. It could help generate new ideas for drugs or assist in quality analysis and medical diagnoses.
AI is picking up steam with more organizations adopting it in 2023. According to our survey, AI will receive the most net-new investment by organizations by the end of 2023. While 35% of organizations say they have already invested in it, 44% of organizations say they plan to invest in it next year. With a 9% change between committed investment and planned investment, AI leads all technologies, followed by data lake at 5% and data mesh at 5%.
The change between organizations that are planning to invest in an emerging technology and those who have already invested in it.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine LearningData Lake / LakehouseData Mesh / Data FabricBlockchainQuantum ComputingNext-Gen CybersecurityMixed Reality (Augmented or Virtual Reality)5GRobotics
Internet of Things (IoT)BiometricsEdge ComputingNo-Code/Low-Code PlatformsESG Metrics ReportingWorkforce Management SolutionsApplication Programming Interfaces (APIs)Cloud Computing
signals AI used to unearth insights and handle repetitive tasks
By the end of 2023, most businesses plan to use AI for business analytics or intelligence, with 65% saying they will do so. Also, 63% of businesses say they will use AI to automate repetitive and low-level tasks. Other uses feature a clear drop-off after that, but the next-most popular use for AI is to identify risks and improve security.
By the end of 2023, which of the following tasks will involve AI at your organization?
Business analytics or intelligence
Automate repetitive, low-level tasks
Identify risks and improve security
Monitoring and governance
Conversational AI or virtual assistants
Augment operational staff in their decision making
Sensor data analysis
Financial planning and analysis
Define business strategy
Generative AI can play a role in enhancing each of the top three use cases of AI. Many businesses struggle with making use of unstructured data for analysis. Generative AI can interpret that data and transform it into structured data. That not only renders it usable in analytics but trainable for robotic process automation (RPA). Generative AI can also detect anomalies in network and application behavior, aiding security systems in identifying threats.
We also asked what AI governance steps organizations have in place today. New legislation in various jurisdictions, including Canada and Europe, are defining new rules around when and how AI can be applied. Organizations that are using AI in situations that governments determine to be high risk will be required to do more to mitigate risks. Yet today, 55% of organizations are doing nothing to govern AI. As more organizations invest in AI and start applying it to more decision-making processes, IT leaders should be putting governance structures in place before they’re made to do so by new regulations.
drivers Data needs to be collected and synthesized
The NEED TO MANAGE UNSTRUCTURED DATA
In the age of data collection in hope of becoming more data-driven in their processes, organizations are grappling with how to manage unstructured data. Unstructured data is the majority of data collected, describing everything from written communications to images to presentation decks. Basically, everything that’s not in a database or spreadsheet. Without AI to make sense of it, businesses can’t search this information and turn it into actionable insights.
NOT ENOUGH DATA
In some areas of business, the problem is a lack of the specific data they need to train an algorithm. The medical field often faces this problem because of the sensitivity of patient data. One solution to this problem is to create synthetic data: data that is generated by AI that closely approximates a real example of that data. Synthetic data is being used today to train various AI algorithms, from models that will detect brain tumors on an MRI scan to self-driving cars.
DESIRE TO COMPETE
Organizations are increasing their spending on AI because of the potential benefits it offers. It can augment workers to do more work more quickly, reducing costs by automating away more tasks. It can help discover new products more quickly and increase revenues. With more commercialized options available to deploy generative AI and more organizations investing, those that don’t invest may fall behind.
Attack opportunity – protect from risk Harness unstructured data, stay ahead of regulators
Augment your workforce
Some workers may fear that AI tools will replace them. Send the message that like any other tool, AI is meant to augment the work of people. With the availability of AI tools to consumers through the web, workers will start tapping into them for help with their work whether IT is involved or not. Consider how to help support a plan that is best aligned with the business and avoids potential risks.
Use synthetic data to improve your own AI models
If training specific models could be useful for your business for tasks like quality control or building customized marketing campaigns, then generating synthetic data could help accelerate the training of those models.
Make sense of unstructured data
Turn the volumes of unstructured data you collect and store into a useful asset. Use AI to read data stored in images, communications, and other content and translate it into a format that can be properly deciphered.
Beware of biased results
Society has ingrained biases, and since AI is trained on data from the real world, it will be biased as well. Being intentional about the data sets that train algorithms can help with this, and testing should be employed to uncover biases.
Put governance in place now
New legislation being developed in Canada and the European Union focuses on mitigating risks for high-risk AI applications. Draft legislation suggests requirements to use AI models that are explainable, to monitor deployed AI to ensure it’s behaving as expected, to conduct impact assessments on AI, and to publish clear explanations of how AI is intended to be used and what predictions it makes.
Consider ethical implications
Adopting a commercial AI tool that was trained on data of unknown origin may prove problematic. After image generators became popular in 2022, some artists complained that they’d never given permission to have their art used to train the AI models and that their own work was being devalued as a result of so many people using their style to produce new images. Getty Images banned the sale of AI-generated images on its service due to concerns about the legality of the images and their copyright (Ars Technica, Sept. 2022).
Attack opportunity – protect from risk Harness unstructured data, stay ahead of regulators
Generative AI causes controversy
When considering the risks of adopting AI, consider some of these AI controversies covered by the media in 2022. How could your organization avoid receiving unwanted attention like this?
In April, OpenAI releases its DALL-E 2 image generator, which produces biases that reinforce stereotypes. For example, women were more likely to be depicted as nurses, and men were more likely to be depicted as builders. OpenAI releases a fix to improve its image diversity, but then users find it is less accurate at turning their prompts into useful images (NBC News, 2022).
In June, Google engineer Blake Lemoine claims that chatbot LaMDA is sentient and publishes an existential conversation he had with the bot to the web. He is later fired (Washington Post, 2022).
In August, Jason Allen won Colorado State Fair’s fine arts competition with a piece generated using AI image generator Midjourney, titled Théâtre D’opéra Spatial, stoking controversy among artists (The New York Times, 2022).
case study From existential crisis to exciting collaboration
“I asked myself ‘How can I have authorship in this process when the rendering is done by a computer?’ The answer was that I viewed it as a collaboration with the AI.” Rob Sheridan Art Director, Co-Founder Glitch Goods
on his experience testing AI image-generating bot Midjourney
AI lab Midjourney launched its first product, an image-generating bot only accessible through Discord, to private beta in the first quarter of 2022. Similar to other AI-powered image generators like OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, it took any text prompt and produced an array of images. Midjourney’s illustrative aesthetic made it eye-catching, and it was soon featured on the June cover of The Economist.
While it was in private beta, the Midjourney team reached out to established visual artists to invite them to try the tool. Among them is Rob Sheridan, an American graphic designer best known for his work with the Nine Inch Nails, producing album cover art and other accessories for projects like Year Zero. In his first weekend of using Midjourney, Sheridan found himself in an existential crisis pondering what it meant for his role as an artist. “How can I have authorship in this process when the rendering is done by a computer?” he asked himself.
Sheridan responded by probing the limits of the AI image generator tool, testing the boundaries of where it would take his preferred genre of horror. After sharing some attention-getting results of his efforts to Twitter, Midjourney responded by banning terms like “body horror” from the platform. Sheridan doesn’t agree with the censorship. “Art is not just about beauty, that’s not a unilateral thing,” he says. “Beautiful is horror imagery to me. But it’s their platform so they can decide.”
Despite the disagreement, Sheridan moved on from his initial reaction to Midjourney and used it for a new project, Volstof Institute for Interdimensional Research. A graphic story told on Instagram and Twitter, it’s a found materials narrative that’s firmly in the horror genre, with visuals of dilapidated laboratories, tentacles, and skulls. As Sheridan created more of the work, he began to appreciate the tool. “I love the flawed, messed-up aesthetic of it,” he says.
The project helped him come to terms with the implications of AI-generated imagery. He viewed the Volstof project as a collaboration between himself and the AI. He let the boundaries and parameters of Midjourney help guide his process and take the idea in new directions. The project has a modest following on social media but has been covered by the media, and some observers suggested the narrative would be fitting for a video game.
Sheridan also used Midjourney to produce elements for designs he sells on T-shirts and paraphernalia on his e-commerce store. While Sheridan doesn’t allow the AI to design everything on a new t-shirt, he did use it to create some characters that he incorporated into the design. “It’s exciting and I feel I can take some authorship of it,” he says. He points out that having the tool opened the door to him creating the designs on a whim, when otherwise he might not have invested time into following through on the idea.
Sheridan’s advice to other artists is to adapt to the new set of tools. Art directors should be excited because they can now prototype designs more quickly, he says. “I can prototype something like Volstof without having to hire a team of artists or investing the time it would take me to do it manually.”
Illustrators can use the new tools as an extension of their own brains, he says, and eventually even train algorithms to mimic the style of their own work.
Don’t just look at all the problems with the new technology and dismiss it or demonize it, he advises. Film photographers that reacted that way to digital photography and photoshop were quickly pushed out of the market for the new standard that customers expected. While there will no doubt be problems to solve with Midjourney and other similar tools, it’s better to discuss how to solve those problems and work with technology providers. After all, in Sheridan’s view, the medium is not the message. “Having a good vision is more important than owning an expensive piece of equipment,” he says. Likewise, having a good vision will serve artists well as the unimaginative churn out volumes of banal imagery.
what’s next? Every creative field will be impacted by AI
OpenAI’s stated mission is to pursue artificial general intelligence. As a result, it has several types of AI projects in progress. On Sept. 21, 2022, it released to open source Whisper, a neural net that can recognize English speech with human-level robustness and accuracy. It encourages developers to use Whisper to add voice interfaces to their applications (OpenAI, 2022).
Identifying a user through digital data minutiae of how they move a mouse or what network their smartphone is connected to at the moment is now possible with AI-developed fraud prevention algorithms. The smallest details can be added up in an algorithm that predicts the risk of fraud on any given transaction and flags it for further inspection by a human (IT Business Edge, 2022).
Non-technical workers will be aided in creating new applications with AI-powered tools that write the code for them. GENIO is one example, described as a low-code software development program. It can generate code in both modern web architectures and back-office solutions. In a Facebook post, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “It’s much harder to generate video than photos because beyond correctly generating each pixel, the system also has to predict how they’ll change over time.” Currently no one is allowed access to the model outside of Meta (The Verge, Sept. 2022).
“It’s much harder to generate video than photos because beyond correctly generating each pixel, the system also has to predict how they’ll change over time.”
Meta unveiled its Make-A-Video system on Sept. 29, which allows users to type in words to describe a scene to generate a video several seconds long that matches the prompt.
Also important to watch will be the progress of new legislation to regulate AI. Bill C-27 is currently scheduled for a second reading in the House of Commons and could progress into law by the end of 2023. The EU-proposed regulation on artificial intelligence is expected to take longer to pass into law. So Canada may end up being the first jurisdiction to pass AI regulation to law in the world (McCarthy Tétrault, 2022).
recommendations and resources Train your own AI and experiment with it
Experiment with new generative AI tools
Whether it’s using Midjourney to render the art of your entire flagship content piece, as Info-Tech has done with Tech Trends 2023, or using Github Copilot to help you through the next few lines of code that you write, begin building awareness of the different AI-powered content creation tools available. Expect workers outside of IT to start using them on an ad hoc basis and consider how you might support them or mitigate potential risks.
Curate your own data sets to train generative models
Generative AI models come ready to imitate the artistic style of Picasso or the sound of The Beatles, but they won’t be ready to create specific content that is relevant to your organization. Luckily, it can be trained to do so with a robust enough source of input data. Consider what data you currently own that is a value differentiator and think about how to prepare it to train an AI model.
Develop an AI center of excellence
Group together the best AI talent your organization has access to on a centralized team. Have them examine processes and determine where AI can be used to create the most value.
It should come as no surprise that AI has gained traction in the legal professional services industry, as the benefits and return on investment (ROI) of AI is readily apparent. Automation of manual tasks, such as filing, categorization, document creation, and billing, is among the most visible benefits of AI, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Artificial intelligence (AI), as a collection of techniques rather than a singular technique, sits at various levels of expectation and deployment – with some applications commonly deployed in enterprises for years and others just emerging.
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