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SXSW Audiences Loudly Boo Festival Videos Touting the Virtues of AI

SXSW Audiences Loudly Boo Festival Videos Touting the Virtues of AI

Conversations about the future of artificial intelligence can be found all over SXSW this year — and not all of the festival’s attendees are thrilled with the idea. Specifically, the film and TV fans catching screenings of world premieres including “The Fall Guy” and “Immaculate” made their AI displeasure loud and clear on Tuesday at the Paramount Theatre in Austin. (Scroll down to see for yourself.)

The quick-turnaround video editors at SXSW cut a daily sizzle reel highlighting previous panels, premieres and other events, which then runs before festival screenings. On Tuesday, the fourth edition of that daily video focused on the wide variety of keynotes and panelists in town to discuss AI. Those folks sure seem bullish on artificial intelligence, and the audiences at the Paramount — many of whom are likely writers and actors who just spent much of 2023 on the picket line trying to reign in the potentially destructive power of AI — decided to boo the video. Loudly. And frequently.

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Those boos grew the loudest toward the end of the sizzle, when OpenAI’s VP of consumer product and head of ChatGPT Peter Deng declares on camera, “I actually think that AI fundamentally makes us more human.”

That is not a popular opinion. Deng participated in the session “AI and Humanity’s Co-evolution with Open AI’s Head of Chat GPT” on Monday, moderated by Signal Fire’s consumer VC and former TechCrunch editor Josh Constine.

Constine is at the start of the video with another soundbite that drew jeers: “SXSW has always been the digital culture makers, and I think if you look out into this room, you can see that AI is a culture.”

Also appearing in the video: Futurist Amy Webb, CEO of the Future Today Institute and professor at NYU Stern School of Business, who gave her 2024 Emerging Tech Trend Report. (Guess what tech trend is emerging!)

Another speaker: Sandy Carter, author of “The Tiger and the Rabbit: Harnessing the Power of the AI and Blockchain for Business Success.” Carter had books to sell at SXSW and you can pretty much figure out her position: “You know your business is going to be disrupted — and so you need to stop resisting it and start learning,” she told her panel audience.

The groans also grew loud for Magic Leap’s founder Rony Abovitz, who gave this advice during the “Storyworlds, Hour Blue & Amplifying Humanity Ethically with AI” panel: “Be one of those people who leverages AI, don’t be run over by it.”

The future of artificial intelligence is clearly on everyone’s mind, for good reason. We even opened Variety’s “Power of Comedy” with a little fun at the expense of AI — tricking the audience into chanting “Artificial Intelligence” and then chewing them out for doing so. (It was fun.)

Also on Tuesday, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known together as Daniels, expressed their fear at the impact AI may have on storytelling.

That sentiment was definitely shared at the Paramount on Tuesday. Could AI have written “The Fall Guy”? Could it have starred in “Immaculate”? No way. Not yet. But as artificial intelligence gets better every day, so do its practical applications — and the threat that it might replace tasks previously handled by humans.

We used to laugh at some of the sentences that ChatGPT came up with. They’re getting better, and not nearly as funny. It seemed preposterous a year ago that AI could replace actors. Now, Open AI’s Sora is so game changing that it scares Tyler Perry.

And that… may be why the SXSW crowd couldn’t help but boo at the notions that AI is “a culture” or that it “fundamentally makes us more human.”

Here’s the audience on Tuesday night at the Paramount Theatre:

And here are some reactions from festival attendees:

(Photo: Josh Constine and Peter Deng at the “Featured Session: A Conversation with OpenAI’s Head of ChatGPT” as part of SXSW 2024 held at the Austin Convention Center on March 11 in Austin, Texas.)

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