The Discussion: Identity, Audiences and Avatars - Episode #21

In this episode with David Boyle and Matthew Kershaw, we set aside the doomerism and explore how Generative AI can help us enhance our skills and communication in an inclusive way

The Discussion: Identity, Audiences and Avatars - Episode #21

In this episode with David Boyle and Matthew Kershaw, we set aside the doomerism and explore how Generative AI can help us enhance our skills and communication in an inclusive way

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Let’s dump the doomerism and take a positive look at AI. In this episode I’m speaking with audience expert David Boyle. As co-author of ‘Prompt’ David has quite literally written the book on how AI can be used to enhance the creation of all types of content across a variety of sectors. I also chat with Matthew Kershaw, VP of commercial strategy at, about the rise in the creation of digital avatars, the anthropomorphism of digital assistance and what it means for our future digital selves.

Tracey's book 'The Future of You: Can Your Identity Survive 21st Century Technology?' available in the UK and US

David and Richard’s website

David’s book

Audience Strategies website

Matthew is at’s website on linkedin

TF14 was built by


In this episode of The Future of You, we're going to get away from all this doomerism and take a positive view of AI. So we're going to look at some ways in which AI can potentially level the playing field. Now, I can't look at all the ways it could possibly do this, but I am going to focus on two, prompting, and well, what should we call it avatar-ing. So in the first part, you'll hear from David Boyle, the author of prompt, he's got a series of books that teach prompt engineering across many different sectors. David has worked in audience insight across entertainment brands for years. And as you're here, he's now turned his attentions to helping organisations get to grips with their audiences. In order to understand how to better tailor AI for their own uses. You'll hear how he believes this technology can democratise creativity and strategy. No matter how marginalised people have been in the past. Links will be in the show notes to all his Prompt books and also to some of his writings more widely on the subject area. In the second part, I'll explore the creation of digital people. My favourite topic with's. Matthew Kershaw is the VP of commercial strategy at Again, all info's in the show notes, we chat about what D-id does and why and where it's all going in the future. The anthropomorphism of what are essentially bots, how avatars and multiple identities through avatars are going to change human to human communication and human to machine communication too and we even ponder communications world of performative AI politicians. Perhaps they're already here [laughs]. Over to David and Matthew, enjoy.

Tracey Follows  2:11

David, Hello, welcome to The Future of You podcast. Thank you for joining me today. I wonder if first you could introduce yourself to the audience and tell us a little bit about your background and how you got here. What you do?

David Boyle  2:23

Thanks. Yeah, I think the most important part of my background is that almost none of it involves AI. Almost everything I've done has been working with brands and sometimes that's artists in the music industry like Snoop Dogg or David Guetta. And sometimes that's been TV shows that the BBC or sometimes that's been startups, like, masterclass, or luxury goods like Harrods. But starting by working in brands, and helping them to understand their audiences, and help them to work out what to do differently. And that's what I brought to the AI conversation. So when Chat-GPT came along, in early December, a colleague and I obsessed over it, because it was practically useful in helping us do all the things we've been doing for 20 years. And so we obsessed over it, we thought we might be a little crazy, although we look less crazy now. And we wrote a book to try and help everybody else to work that out as well.

Tracey Follows  3:18

So tell me, what's the first thing you did with GPT? Be honest, what did you do with it? Or ask it or whatever?

David Boyle  3:27

I asked it - what are all the different ways that companies could segment audiences? And what are the pros and cons of different methods? It's really nerdy. In the early days, it was absolutely explaining concepts to me in the style of Snoop Dogg explained quantum physics and the style of Snoop Dogg or another one I remember as a supplier repeatedly hadn't paid an invoice. And I was tired of writing emails. So I got it to write a poem, a really, really sad poem about how small businesses really struggle, if they don't get their invoices paid on time and it's kind of up to Christmas, you know, it's important. It wrote this heartbreaking poem for me. I sent that to the supplier and got my invoice paid. So being silly, but also practically useful and some nice combination of the two.

Tracey Follows  4:11

So from sort of discovering it, or discovering that it had a use for you, how did you get from that to thinking that you could advise other people or create like the programme for successful product engineering, or however you think about it, maybe you can tell us what your philosophy is, and how you got from that to this?

David Boyle  4:30

So that's a great question. And, I think it comes down to having subject matter expertise and the thing that you're trying to do in the first place. This is a real lesson for all generative AI, like I'm really good at understanding audiences and knowing what brands should do differently, and so I'm qualified to know, ‘Is this helpful?’ and ‘how can I make it as helpful as possible?’ For example, I'm not a songwriter. I've never written a song and I shouldn't - I'm not a good judge of songs. So when I try and use it to write a song, I get garbage because I don't know what I'm doing. But songwriters when I tell them how to use Chat-GPT, and when they use the language they have around how to write a song, it turns out, they can find it very helpful to help them to write a song. So actually, all the lessons I've learned in the areas where I'm a subject matter expert, can be applied to new areas. This is the journey we've been on working with songwriters, and then script writers in Hollywood, and then real estate marketers. I've never marketed real estate in my life, but I know how to use Chat-GPT from my area, they know how to market real estate. And when the two forces are combined, it turns out to be very helpful in real estate marketing. So I'm on this constant journey to test the lessons that we've learned in our area in new domains, and therefore, refine the lessons and help more people in more areas, it just seems like a fun thing to do to me.

Tracey Follows  5:47

So in terms of audiences, then what have you found that the main areas are where you can use these tools to help clients or customers improve? What kinds of questions or areas are they looking to better investigate or perform in?

David Boyle  6:02

Yeah, well, my experience working with so many different brands is that they're either not as clear as they could be about who their audience is, or they're somehow not able to translate that clarity into decision. So in my experience, most brands could do with a bit of help on understanding audiences. And our philosophy has always been that to understand an audience, you have to look at their deep underlying needs. What's really driving them to behave in a certain way, or what a certain product or not want a certain product. And as it turns out, Chat-GPT has a very, very good grasp of deep underlying human needs. And it's very able to apply concepts from one area to another. So if I ask about deep underlying needs around making phone calls, then it's very capable of teasing out all the reasons in novels that people have made phone calls over the years, all the academic studies on the uses of phones, or the philosophical discussions and the nature of phone calls, it's very able to synthesise all of that into a very, very thoughtful list of different fundamental needs that drive you to use a phone, very good at thinking through different personas. And it's very good at thinking through the implications of those for how you might market that, or how you might advertise it, or how you might make that product more efficient or effective to meet their needs. They're very good use cases, as it turns out.

Tracey Follows  7:23

So what's gonna stop us from reaching a sort of homogeneity? If you take one sector, for example, let's say every company or organisation in that sector, is using generative AI or GPT in the similar ways, or are in fact asking similar questions is, are they all going to get the same output? Are we going to get a homogeneity over time, of content?

David Boyle  7:47

Yeah, great question. And it's a big concern of a lot of people. Let me tell you a story, which illustrates why that's not the case. So we had one client, I really loved them, they read the book very early, and tried it out for themselves. They were quite excited about the results. That's great. And then I did a project for them for one of their brands. And I came up with these audiences, these audience needs. And these marketing suggestions are a lot better than the ones that they'd come up with. And even when I gave them my prompts, they still weren't able to get output that they thought was as good as what I'd done. And I think that therein lies the lesson and that kind of answers your question. Which is, if you didn't really deeply have expertise in the area, you know, what you want, there's a lot of very subtle things you do differently subtle wording changes to prompt subtle changes in the sequencing of the province, giving chat GPT feedback at every step of the process. And it should be lots of steps in the process, you shouldn't ask for the final answer in just one prompt, which means by the end of it, although the text was literally written by Chat-GPT is very, very much created by you and is unique to you. And so there's 100 different ways you would guide it towards that answer that's yours that you want. And then at the end of that as well, I would also say, You never should just take GPS output and just use it. You always should then reword it to make it yours and truly yours.

Tracey Follows  9:12

So the way you're describing it there, I don't see that there's a massive substitution there for certain job roles. I mean, I know some tasks will swap in and out. But there's still an awful lot of human interaction with these tools right, from what you've just described there.

David Boyle  9:28

Yeah, and I think the challenge is that it's most substitutive or most helpful for very experienced quite senior people. Lots of other technologies have replaced like workers at the low end, this actually is challenging to the most senior most creatives, but they're challenging in that they should learn to adopt it because it will help them to be better, not challenging because it will replace them. So you're absolutely right there. The only replacement will be the people who don't use it will be replaced by people who do and for all things being even know that's really the real worry. I see it as an accelerator of your inherent abilities. So like I say, I've got no songwriting abilities whatsoever. So it's accelerating from nothing to nothing. But I'm pretty good at audiences. And so it's accelerated me from being pretty good to really very good. I would say my simple phrase here is like - any thinking or communicating task, that's really vague, and sounds really extreme. But I'm yet to find good examples where that's false. I'm really looking for them. I say in the books, we've worked on five different industries with experienced professionals and industries now from screenwriters, to songwriters, to marketing professionals and, and chief executives, of large corporations, you know, we're yet to find an example of a thinking or communicating task that it can't be helpful to. So I really think it's that broad and that vague, which makes it very hard for people to know what to do. And so that's why I think the books are really helpful, which is a step by step walkthrough specific example, which might be useful to you.

Tracey Follows  11:01

Yeah, because you've got some great... I've got the one for brands, I think, which is, you know, as you break down the chapters, obviously, there's exploring audiences and markets, but you're then into sort of go to market strategies, innovation, having fun with Chat-GPT. That's great. Why did you put that in there?

David Boyle  11:20

Well, a couple of reasons. I think one is that it's not restricted to your professional life. This is helpful in having fun with the kids. So I write bedtime stories with the kids every night and they're custom to that night using standard prompts. And every night I say to the kids, pick three things that you want in today's story, they each pick three. And then we get this totally custom bedtime story, which includes all these elements from their day, but woven together in really wacky fun ways. I'm not creative enough to do that myself. I wish I was. But now I've got that ability to have this weird fun with my kids at night time. So it's not just about professional use. Personal use is good as well. So that's one reason. The other reason is and this is pointed out to me by a friend and an ex colleague, I used to work on the BBC Earth TV shows with me, I actually made a joke on Twitter about why is everyone being silly with Chat-GPT? Don't you know, this, it has really serious applications to it as well. And she said, you know that don't forget, David, that's how we all learn and that's how animals learn. So chimpanzees play with tools, and then eventually work out there practically useful. Children play with knives and forks, and eventually work out they're practically useful, you know. And so that's how we learn new things, have fun with it, and be proud of that, actually. And then eventually, you'll work out how to use it professionally,

Tracey Follows  12:37

It's a great point. I remember when Apple first came out with some of its best innovations, people were describing them as toys, which I didn't think was a bad thing actually. Turned out not to be of course. You've got also in the appendix how AI helped write this book, which is fascinating. And I wonder if you can tell us a little bit more about that. But also brings me on to ask you a question about authorship, you know, in this new emergent world, who are what is the author?

David Boyle  13:04

Yeah, well, although I think our book was the first book on Chat-GPT, published late last year, there are now hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. And it does feel like it looks like it seems like most of them were actually written by Chat-GPT. We kind of guessed this was going to be the case. And we wanted to just be really, really clear with people, partly because we wrote the book, Chat-GPT helped, but partly because the ways in which it can and can't help are real important lessons of people. So every time Chat-GPT wrote a paragraph and it's the paragraph here and there, we write a little footnote saying, Yep, Chat-GPT read this paragraph. And here's why. Here's why that paragraph was better from Chat-GPT than it was from us. Like if I'm just trying to define a basic concept, that's much easier to just ask Chat-GPT to find this concept for the reader than it is for me to do. It's much easier. And it frees me up to be able to do the really difficult stuff, which is deciding what goes in and what doesn't go in when we run Chat-GPT examples deciding if it's a good output, or it's a bad output and deciding how it needs to be improved. So using  Chat-GPT for the things that it's helpful for but making sure you reserve human creativity for the things that it's not helpful for. I would say that, there's a lot of other things other than writing that it was very helpful for. So when we first had the idea to write the book, we wrote four or five bullet points about what we thought it might include. And then we pasted in the section from our website about who we are and what we care about. And we said, hey, write an outline of a book that covers roughly these topics maybe, but picks on our interests, and it wrote a really thoughtful, suggested outline and vision and purpose for the book, which we then edited heavily, of course, but it really accelerated our process of thinking through what the book was going to be. But yeah, the core of the book is just real world examples of practical problems that we're actually working on and our judgement about whether it's useful or not, and then our advice on how to make it even more useful in the future. So yeah, very, very helpful. But don't get it to do your work for you. We didn't. And it's not how to use it.

Tracey Follows  15:08

I wanted to ask you about how if we were to extrapolate that out into the future, because one of the things I'm very interested in, particularly because this podcast is about the future of identity in a digital world, how GPT and the like, can really be harnessed by an individual to become almost part of their persona, their personality. And you're obviously at the forefront of this so you're probably thinking ahead in terms of the ways in which this is going to go over the next five to 10 years. Is that feasible and desirable? Do you think that we take these tools, and we take generative AI, etc, and we apply them to ourselves, so they're almost an extension to the self and express us when we are in communication or information transfer?

David Boyle  15:50

That's a much better way of saying what I've been trying to say, Absolutely, yeah, thank you, I'm gonna write that down. And that's all about both prompt and method and judgement. So, for example, when I said we pasted in some of the website, we yeah, we did, but what's on the website, what's on the website is an honest and heartfelt overview of who we are and what we value, we talk about the things that we value, we talk about our philosophy, we talk about, you know, our experiences and the things we love doing, it's a really heartfelt expression of who we are, which happens to be well written to train an AI to know who we are, and therefore, give us the kind of things we want to that are going to work for us, they're going to make sense for us. So if I paste my website in and say, 'Please write a proposal for a client', then it will uniquely tailor it to the kind of projects I like doing, the kind of ways I think, it'd be very different from anybody else's. My prompt for my bedtime story to the kids reflects my values and the right amount of humour and the right amount of sarcasm and the right amount of, you know, science.

Tracey Follows  16:54

That's what I was going to say, the tone of voice, it's the tone of voice, isn't it that people engage with? So how personal can one get? Do you think?

David Boyle  17:03

Oh, incredibly, incredibly personal. So let's take me as an example. Yeah, maybe slightly sarcastic, overly honest, mathematician at heart really cares about helping people deeply believes in the value of evidence, I mentioned deep underlying human needs. If I just string that together into a sentence, that means Chat -GPT behaves very, very differently to me than it would for you. Maybe you've got four out of those five, and you've got two extra ones. That's, that's very, very different. And so part of this is, understanding who you are, and what tone of voice you value, but also what things you value. I value evidence and truth and logic, other people that you creativity and innovation, and that's fine. But I want my responses to be grounded in evidence and truth and logic that they don't and that's okay. Yeah, but we have the ability to guide it in all these ways, we have to be clear who we are, what we want, in order to do that.

Tracey Follows  17:57

And I'm really interested in these personality aligned outputs if you like with profiling on different platforms. You know, the way in which we represent yourself or re-present yourself on Facebook is different to LinkedIn, it's different to Discord, if anybody can work that out! And I'm interested in all of these different profiles or selves, or identities, we've got these multiple selves or identities - to stretch the point. And where do those reside? Do they still reside within us? Or did they reside in the data that is, you know, kept somewhere? I don't know, is it on a server? It's, it's GPT. Is it in, you know, Open AI's databanks? I'm not sure where my personality maybe resides. Now, maybe it's in all those places. I don't know. I would love your sort of point of view on this. Because one of the things I've been talking about a lot is this move from authenticity to profilicity, a phrase coined by Hans Georg Muller, and this idea of profilicity, and that's the main mode that we're in now, because we're communicating into digital rather than a physical environment is fascinating to me. And it feels to me like it's going to be absolutely fueled by these generative AI tools.

David Boyle  19:07

Yeah. And I'd say it's, it's easier and easier to have multiple profiles. So I have something going on in my life right now, which involves some legal issues. And I would say my emails on that topic are firmer and clearer and more thoughtfully laid out. My legal profile is clearer than it would have been if I didn't have Chat-GPT to help me and so accentuates my ability to play a profile I wanted to play but wasn't very good at, I posted a tweet earlier, which as I said, quite a grumpy mood. And I wrote, I wrote a little grumpy tweet and before I sent it, I said, that's not really me be positive, and I don't know how so I put it into Chat-GPT reword this to be more positive, reframe it positively instead of being negative. And it did that for me. So just makes it easier for you to express yourself and in the way in which you want to express yourself because you can focus more on the idea that you want to communicate - those legal notes are very much my ideas and the things I want to communicate, but it helps you to stylistically present it in the right tone, the right, you know, framing. So you just just that alone means you've got more ability to communicate in more ways to more people and more platforms.

Tracey Follows  20:17

I think I've heard you talk before about how that might open up greater access for people who have maybe struggled to express themselves or they found themselves I don't know, underestimated or looked down on in certain work environments. This could be a huge positive that nobody's really latched on to yet. You're the only one I really heard talking about that.

David Boyle  20:36

Thanks. That really means a lot. Yeah, our books are dedicated to people who have traditionally been marginalised or disempowered in some way and they're free to anybody who feels like they're a benefit to them. And they don't have the cash right now or don't want to spend the cash. So, and they're $1 in all of Asia, Africa, and South America, for example. So we really want to help people with these books. And I think, yeah, in theory, this means that a student in Africa, has the same ability to think through, let's say, audiences and strategies as the CEO of a major corporation in the US - that's absolutely possible by reading our books in theory, yeah. Or if you have bad English or, or you're not been trained to think as clearly as you might otherwise have been. Because you're not at that ability, then bad English and bad jumbled thoughts can be reorganised into beautifully coherent and thoughtful emails, or reports or documents by Chat-GPT very, very easily. So I think this is incredibly empowering to people, if they have guidance for how to do that, incredibly empowering. I hope that it really shifts the balance of power and brings much more diverse opinions, to companies and boardrooms and entertainment, everything else.

Tracey Follows  21:54

Because there are some communities who don't really use the written words as much as they do sort of oral storytelling or whatnot. Are we on a journey towards a sort of verbal version of this rather than the written version, do you think?

David Boyle  22:08

Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of technology that's progressing in that area. So I strongly suspect that's next but let me sell those communities on the benefits of Chat-GPT. Because I said earlier, any communicating or thinking task, if you have a story, that's that's oral around the nub of a story that you're interested in, or at least thought you've got in your head, if you put it into Chat-GPT, which you can do using voice on the app. These days, if you put it into Chat-GPT and ask it to elaborate, ask it to challenge your thinking, ask it to bring it to life or Congress analogies that would help you to tell that story. It really, really helps. So you don't have to give it much in order for it to massively amplify or accelerate the way you are going or challenge you. It's a great use case as well. Like, here's a story I think is great critique it for me. And it might say, well, that character is a bit weak. And that was a bit unexpected. Do you really mean that to happen? And we might have expected this and we thought about these options. instead? You might say no, but at least it's helped you think it through. It's a great thought partner.

Tracey Follows  23:11

So if somebody picks up your book, and we should remind people of all the details in a minute, can they follow it simply themselves? Or do they need the David Boyle tutorial on YouTube or Discord? or somewhere where you literally have walked through it? How difficult is it to become aficionados in this space?

David Boyle  23:29

I would say it's very, very easy to get going. And that's all that's important with any new tool or technology is get started. Preferably have fun with it. And then keep going, know that there's more to know that if you push yourself, you'll get better and better. And it will help you in more and more ways. So I think very, very easy is the answer. The books are all full of very simple, very practical examples. We describe them as cookbooks in the introduction, which is like maybe you want a dessert and go straight to the dessert section. Or maybe you want the main courses - go to that section. But you don't have to read it all the way through. Although you can pick out examples, maybe in the ‘have fun with Chat-GPT’ section, if you pick out examples. And everyone not only is a practical example, you can apply but will teach you a lesson, you can then apply in other areas. So it doesn't matter where you start, get started. And by flipping through and reading examples, even if you don't do the things in the examples, you'll learn things that will help you to apply it and brand new areas. I was working with a very senior entertainment economist who I love, and he told me the story of the day of how he applied Chat-GPT and he just kept going on about how it was thanks to the book, thanks to the book. And the example he gave was absolutely not in the book at all. It was a brilliant example. But it wasn't in the book. But he said I learned this lesson in this section this less than this section that helped me do this thing. That is such a perfect example of this in action. Yeah, absolutely. But I would say as well to anybody - an open offer to anybody, like if you if you have a use and you're trying out and it's not giving you good answers, it's something you're not happy with. First. It's probably you not Chat-GPT. And my challenge is I will help you get to the good answer. So message me, the email's on the website, and I will tell you how I think you could improve it or like work with it better to get a good answer. I'd love that - I;’d learn a lot from it as well.

Tracey Follows  25:23

So one final question, is this the end of Google search, or is Bard going to make a comeback and actually fight off GPT?

David Boyle  25:32

My guess is Google's going nowhere. It's such a great product and such a great company at heart. All the things they do is so beautiful to me and my values. So I don't, I'm not worried about that at all. I think it will change the nature of search, because if I'm looking for help doing something, then probably Chat-GPT could explain that to me and my language more clearly than any other methods. So it will take away some search use cases, but I don't think it will fundamentally replace most of search, no.


Tracey Follows  26:10

You are working in my absolute favourite arena to pontificate about at the minute, which is digital people. But you're an expert. So I would love you to just tell people what you're doing at D-id and how you got there.

Matthew Kershaw  26:25

Sure. So D-id is a platform, the number one platform really for creating digital people. And we allow people to, you know, take that image that they've created through a Midjouney or Stable Diffusion and the script they've made using GPT-3 or perhaps audio, they're made using Eleven Labs, and bring that all together. We think of ourselves as one of these core platforms in this sort of generative AI space. And allow us to bring all those things together and create a digital person from it, get that face talking in the language or you know, getting them saying what you want them saying. The thing that's becoming really interesting, though, apart from that is, we can do it really fast. So we operate at kind of above 60 frames per second 6200 frames a second. So what that's leading to is now kind of an interactive person, not just some content that you're creating, but something you can interact with. And that's, I think, where we're sort of super excited about the future of this space that you suddenly brands and all of us will have digital assistants who are helping us navigate the world and get things done. So that's the space we operate in.

Tracey Follows  27:36

Amazing. So where did you do your PhD in interactive digital people


Matthew Kershaw  27:42

Learning on the job, however, a number of years, I was head of interactive at MTV back in the day. So I've sort of seen, you know, you've had glimpses of this coming through, you know, through the social media revolution, I think that was a place where we were all starting to first play with our identity, that you could have multiple identities online. Yeah, I've definitely witnessed a lot of this space without ever having done a PhD in it.

Tracey Follows  28:09

I'm finding a lot of people from sort of content, audience backgrounds, I spoke to David Boyle. And he has a similar sort of entertainment background. I think it's really interesting the way that people with all of this wisdom and experience like yourself and him are coming back with this, you know, amazingly innovative technology. But actually, there's some real fundamentals that they understand, that you understand, about audiences and about content. It must be incredibly helpful, because you can do anything potentially with these digital people, right? And the question is are you doing the right thing with them?

Matthew Kershaw 28:46

Yeah, and I think that one of the things that's really interesting, in this space, just generally not outside of just us, is the way that it's leveled the playing field. Suddenly, anyone can create great images, great faces, you know, talking people. And what that does actually is it puts even more onus on the creativity side of it, like your idea how you're going to do it, what you're going to do, how you're going to bring it to the table, We had a kind of recent bit of a hit with a kind of meme online with someone was fusing together, kind of the style of Balenciaga with a Harry Potter and various other IP, and kind of smashed them together in a really funny, interesting, quirky way - tens of millions of views online. But what happened really quickly is there were loads of imitators. But literally by version three seeing this, it's another Balenciaga mash up with another, with the Hulk or... So for me, that tells me that it was the idea that was really the prime thing for that it wasn't... the execution is becoming easier and easier and that puts the onus on us to sort of be more inventive and more creative ourselves. So I think that's one of my key take outs from all of this.

Tracey Follows  29:57

It's very interesting. You're saying that because it resonates with something else that David was saying, you're both expressing a similar belief in that there's a positivity around innovation and democratisation of this new technology that actually is not so much that it's going to replace some of these creative jobs or tasks even, it's going to push us to be even more creative. We've just got more tools at our disposal. And actually, it's about really thinking these things through creatively. So actually, creative thinking could be the benefit of a lot of this automation.

Matthew Kershaw 30:31

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, craft skills will remain but because those craft skills are becoming less important. It's almost like anyone who's a creative is now a creative director, essentially. You don't need people to do stuff for you, the machines will, will do the production for you. So where does that leave the human that? Well, the bit the human does is, you know, coming up with ideas, selecting ideas is actually really important, you know, an AI will spit out hundreds of options, knowing and understanding human culture, and therefore understanding which of those 100 versions is the really interesting one, that itself is an incredible skill, that's part of the job of the creative director to do is selection and understanding where this fits with everything that's gone before, and why it's interesting. So those skills will absolutely remain fact, they'll become paramount. For example, my daughter is studying animation at Bournemouth at the moment. And obviously, she's studying a lot of crafts skills around creating 3d objects and brings life but I've always told her keep focused on storytelling, character creation, these bigger, more high end things, because in the end, a lot of that craft stuff you're going to be learning will be redundant in five to 10 years time, but the stuff that's sort of uniquely human will become even more important.

Tracey Follows  31:48

Do you think that people are going to need some digital watermark or some kind of signal that a lot of the content has been created with these tools? Or do you think we're going to be in a position where, you know, it's for us to pass through it and work out? What's authentic? Original? What's fake, what's real? I don't really like the terms fake and real, because it's all a blend of both now, and and therefore it's all real in the end, but how do you think we're going to sort of work our way through understanding this?

Matthew Kershaw 32:20

Yeah, and it is a really, really important issue for us. As a business tool, there are so many potential hazards out there, it's a very new, very powerful technology, and any powerful technology will have an impact. And the biggest one probably is around transparency and understanding what you're looking at. And that's one of the things we do is we put a little watermark little logo on every single video that gets produced. Because the minute you look at it, and it says AI in the corner, you're like, oh, okay, this isn't really President Biden or you know, whatever, whatever the thing is, you think it is? And it's a bit like, like you said, nothing's real. Nothing's everything's fake. I mean, to a degree. That's right, right. We go into a cinema and we seeing flickering images, still images projected at a certain speed and gives us the impression of people and we weirdly relate to it and cry and laugh at basically some still images strung together. Nothing's real, it's all fake. But the context is critical. Right? So you go into the cinema, you don't think that Tom Hanks has suddenly de-aged by 50 years because you know, it's in a cinema. I think where it gets tricky is where you're in an environment, let's say a news environment. And then you're seeing something brought in, that's been sort of synthesised. So I think, for us, transparency is the critical thing. We really want there to be legislation or regulation in this space, and particularly the industry to come together and create invisible watermarks that aren't that aren't going to ruin the kind of visual experience, but allow the consumer of that content to understand it. A bit like when you go into a supermarket you turn over the packet, you see what the ingredients are, every consumer should have the right to understand what went into a video. And one of the reasons we want regulation is we're already seeing some of our rivals out there boasting that they don't put watermarks on the content. So effectively, we're being penalised at this point for doing the right thing. We want there to be a level playing field. And this sense of transparency that would be created. As soon as you do that, it really gets rid of a lot - I'd say 90% of the potential pitfalls. Once everyone just knows where this came from, what it is, how it was created. So many of those issues fall away.

Tracey Follows  34:38

Who is the creator now? Is it the human? Is it the AI? Is it a con? Is there still authorship and the genius creator now or are we changing the way we think about this?

Matthew Kershaw 34:51

I mean, it's really interesting you say that I I don't know if you have heard Brian Eno talk about how he makes his music but since the 70s, or 80s, he's been letting computers and as it were, make the music. But it's always him that selects the moment. He's the one. He says, it's almost like when you grow flowers, and you kind of hybridise plants, you know, and most of those hybrids are quite boring. But every now and again, there'll be an interesting one, it's called a sport in the jargon, you know, it has nice frilly edges, I don't know does something interesting. And it's for the flower grower to spot that and understand that. And he says it's similar thing with music. He lets the music procedurally make lots of things. And he'll be writing documents in the background or doing something else listening out. And then when he hears a good bit goes, 'Oh, that's the bit. I'm going to take that bit and use that.' And but and I think there's a similar process here it's like I said, early, you're creating the computer is quotes, creating lots of lots of options. But the reality is that what creation is on what art and culture is its gate kept by humans, right? You have to go and sell that idea to ultimately someone else, whether it's a client, a creative director, you know, the world itself, other consumers online. So that process is a really, really important part of culture, and people forget about they just think, Oh, well, if a computer can spit out, you know, this is amazing stuff, therefore jobs done. The reality is the job isn't done. Because this process of gatekeeping, you know, it's part of the culture and part of the process.

Tracey Follows  36:29

People are finding that with Chat-GPT, aren't they, the more they engage and have a conversation and share, the more iteration that happens, the better the output is, eventually, because you ask it one question, and then it spits something out, you actually have to guide it and advise it almost - the output's are malleable in that way. And I think people who spend the time on it are getting the best outcomes, right?

Matthew Kershaw 36:56

Yeah, absolutely. I quite often just take it and edit it. I mean, you know, it's doing the job of a junior writer for me. But I'm the editor. And I'm going to find that all that the bits interesting. Get rid of that bit. rephrase this bit. Bingo. And it saves me a huge amount of time, for sure. It's what we talked about with the creative director, it's like, my role has now gone up a level, I'm not the writer anymore. I'm the editor, or I'm the commissioner, you know, and I think it's doing that for all of us. You talked about democratisation, I think that's exactly what it's doing. It's putting writing powers, you know, illustration, powers, photography powers in everyone's hands. But the reality is not all of its going to be good, right? Only the really good bits shine out because they have great ideas behind them in there. They're well executed. And you know, so I think it's done is just the bar has just been massively raised. But our expectations just grow with that bar. So it's kind of a weird, arms race almost.

Tracey Follows  37:56

So somebody wants to develop a digital person, or maybe more than one digital person. I mean, you tell me what people come to use the service for, but where would they start? And how long does it take and explain to people a little bit about, you know, how does this get done.

Matthew Kershaw 38:10

So our process is incredibly simple, you literally, you can upload one image, it could be some face you've generated, it could be a picture of you now, it could be a picture of you, when you were 20 years younger, maybe a little bit slimmer in my case. And and then you either type in text, you tell it the language you want it to speak, it could be 220 different languages, or you can upload audio so it could be audio you've recorded or audio you've created somewhere else, you know, spoken word audio, and that's it, you press a button. And you know, literally a few seconds later a video is generated of that face talking those words. So what it sort of seems to be replacing isn't yet you know, full Hollywood video film production. But what it is doing is allowing people and organisations particularly to create internal content around training, learning and development, marketing content at a fraction of the cost, and, and much, much faster. And that allows you to put video where maybe video wasn't before. What were boring documents now turn into interesting videos and playing out different scenarios maybe. So it's kind of again, it's sort of putting video production into places where it wouldn't have been affordable before because you know, the cost and effort of getting people in a studio and lights in a director and costume or whatever, wouldn't be feasible. So that's where actually we have a massive influx of corporate enterprise level clients at the moment. We're signing a deal every sort of three or four days and that's I'd say, where it's where it's going, it's going to be you know, that's where our interest is - how can this be used in business to make better content, make it more effective? To make training content better understood, more completed, make sales content more clicked on, you know, all this kind of stuff.

Tracey Follows  40:08

What about the difference between a digital person as a presenter and interactive persona, if you like, I mean, say you wanted to move into customer service and you've got each person bit like the neon people from Samsung or something. You've got to have a real time conversation like with the bot, haven't you? How do or can you yet do real time question and answer conversation rather than just presentation of pre-created material?

Matthew Kershaw 40:36

Yeah, so this is the next frontier really, for this technology because we can generate our content at you know, three times real time. What we've done is connected it now to large language models. So if you go to anyone can just go and have a chat with Chat-GPT, but they're just getting texts, you're getting a real person, or what looks like a real person actually talking to you kind of a more or less real time. So that's super interesting, because as humans were just naturally attuned to faces, you know, text is a relatively new part of human evolution. So it stands to reason that a friendly face talking to you in the language you want, you know, you can select your own avatar, so you can, you know, people tend to receive information better from an avatar that kind of looks a bit like them, you know, it's been shown in a number of studies. So suddenly, that kind of really awkward chatbot experience you have on websites, becomes a fully fledged conversation with a digital person. And that's where we think this is, is headed and it's a super exciting space, where it's going to take a massive leap forward, you businesses are going to have that the knowledge that an LLM would have, you know, especially if you train it on your domain, it would know everything about your business, it seen all your customer experience scripts and so on, it's ingested all that. So it knows exactly the right answer to give in the way that the customer wants it in real time, and in a much more friendly way. And also potentially, you know, more two way so it starts to understand and read from your face, you know, are you happy with this response? Are you frustrated? it can hear your tone of voice. So suddenly, you're into a much more dynamic relationship, which we think will massively increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, all those kinds of measures?

Tracey Follows  42:31

Are we going to get to a place where it's avatar to Avatar communication? And actually the human beings are gone off to play tennis or something?

Matthew Kershaw 42:40

I mean, yeah, I do. I do sometimes think about that. Like many people - when this has been recorded, we haven't yet got to the end of Succession - everyone's eagerly awaiting this final episode. But I do look at the lifestyle of the Roys, or these sort of super rich people - they don't hold on the line when they need to renew their insurance, they have a person for that. They have people who go out into the world and do stuff, their PR their, you know, their finances, their buying houses, you know, all the practical, boring stuff of life is done for them. And I feel like, well, that would be great to democratise that. I want to have digital people who, like you say can go out in the world and interact possibly with other digital agents, and negotiate on my behalf and get me the stuff I want. without me having to 'please hold your call is important to us.'

Tracey Follows  43:33

You can already force a whole new ancillary industries and service sectors setting up around that content, you know, testing things, double checking things or passing things for you or aggregating you know, you've got several digital agents going out and somebody might need to aggregate it to come back to you. One can see the whole industry exploding with lots of what might seem quite niche, helpful elements to this now becoming every day I didn't know in like 20 years time,

Matthew Kershaw  44:06

No 100%, is a great example of that helps you negotiate with companies and get you out of your subscription to your cable provider and the like. Yeah. And I think you'll become emotional as well. I think we've talked a lot about the functional stuff of it. I think it'll become quite emotional. That digital assistant, you know, could operate more like a companion. It knows you, it knows your tone of voice. And we're starting to see there was that digital influencer, who made $72,000 Like in a day, because she put a kind of a version of herself online that you could talk to for $1 a minute. I think having a much more emotional relationship with these agents, I think will become a thing as well. And I think there are potential pitfalls and dangers around that as well. But yeah, I mean, certainly we've seen for older people, there again, there are a lot of studies showing that even if they know it's not a real person, older people who tend to suffer from isolation, do better and they thrive more, having someone to talk to even if it's a virtual person. We're just at the start of this really interesting journey.

Tracey Follows  45:13

Yeah, no, I agree with you totally. I think there is that thing of, you might say, it's telically possible. So when we've talked to people before, and researched sort of like resurrection versions of this set of resurrection avatars or whatever, there is exactly that feeling amongst people. And I can feel it in myself anyway, that, you know, it isn't like real real. But it's really enough for you to get value out of it in some way. And actually, to suggest that it has to be as real, as the physical world of somebody really existing next to you is a higher bar. And so these are all complimentary things, right. So we can have all these additional experiences, to the physical experiences, they don't have to be substitutes, I think people always expect them to be substitutes. And I think people recognise that it's telically possible, they're real enough, they're valuable or meaningful enough for us to kind of buy into it. And a whole host of new kinds of relationships will come about, as you say, there's yeah, there's pitfalls as well. But there are with anything, right? There's pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and this is the interesting thing. We're trying to work our way through it as humans.

Matthew Kershaw 46:24

Yes, yes. I mean, you know, we invented cars. And quite shortly after we invented zebra crossings, and traffic lights and airbags, and what we didn't do is just go back to being on horseback. Yeah, I think it's a very similar process that or, you know, the printing press, actually, following the printing press, there was a lot of what we would call fake news now, but very quickly, it became regulated and, you know, trustworthy. And I think we'll be in a very similar space with this kind of technology quite quickly. And I'm glad that people like Sam Altman are going to Congress and petitioning and saying, 'Yeah, we want regulation in this space, we need it, and you're not being quick enough to make it happen.'

Tracey Follows  47:05

What about privacy, Matthew? In terms of the amount of data that's been collected, where does it actually reside? And who has control of it? And is privacy even a thing going forward in this sort of world of synthetic selves and digital people?

Matthew Kershaw 47:20

Yeah, I think so I think, I don't think the regulation needs to change very much, and that we already have quite strong privacy regulation about where your data is stored, your access to it, your ability to view it, and if necessary, delete it. So I don't think that's going to change very much. But you're right, as we talk to these assistants, and digital people more and more, they will get to know us, and they will understand us. But you know, I mean, I have a huge amount of data with Google all my emails for 20 years, 15 years. I don't think this is a new problem. But it is a concern, obviously, and, you know, bad actors coming in using that in a manipulative way. And you know, such and such, but these are problems that we've solved before, and we'll solve again.

Tracey Follows  48:08

Do you think a politician might ever... just thinking about DeSantis launching his presidential candidacy on Twitter the other night...

Matthew Kershaw  48:16

Yeah, not very, not very well?

Tracey Follows  48:17

No, exactly. That was a rather interesting experiment. That wouldn't have been the time to run an experiment in my mind, but anyway. I was just mainly thinking, do you think in the future, a politician will announce their candidacy through their digital persona or, you know, creating slightly different versions of their persona that go out to do different roles in the life of a politician?

Matthew Kershaw 48:41

I don't think so. I think humans are different to digital people. You know, even if we get to some kind of level of intelligence, it will be a different kind of thing to being human. So I actually don't think so I think people would see that as very, very inauthentic. And authenticity is everything in politics, you ultimately you believe in a person making decisions, not them delegating those decisions to some kind of AI.

Tracey Follows  49:14

See, I think they will, I think this is what will happen. It's interesting discussion in a technocratic kind of future. Politicians have the ultimate performance, aren't they? And so they have these personas. It's kind of very, very interesting. Because I mean, one of the things to think about is that is authenticity, still the benchmark? because once one is profiled, and indeed profiling oneself in many, many different ways and has multiple presentations of oneself, kind of authenticity. It's kind of been left behind written and it's almost like the old world benchmark for a new world of communication.

Matthew Kershaw  49:51

I mean, if you would say that about an actor, I would agree if you're saying about many types of people, but I think in the end, I think you're voting for a person, not what an AI might or might not twist their words to be mean. Do I think politician would get advice from an AI? Yeah, absolutely. I think there will be aI advisors, or information that comes from AI and spots patterns early in voter behaviour and can have a view over the political world greater than an individual. Yeah, absolutely. But I think in the end, we want to connect to human beings in terms of our politics, not machines. But I mean, who knows, maybe, you know, maybe at some point in the future, maybe they'll be much cleverer.

Tracey Follows  50:39

It's interesting to probe it because, I think what you're saying to me is that it's very much in the role of assistants. It's not going to take over in terms of personality. And...

Matthew Kershaw  50:49

But yeah this is where you touch on the sentience issue, right? And everyone has a slightly different take on when will we get to Artificial General Intelligence AGI. And I saw Sam Altman slightly moved the goalposts a little bit towards - well, it's just very, very smart at doing very set things. But for me, AGI is about ultimate human flexibility, that one minute I can be digging my garden and next minute I can be maybe doing a zoom call, and then I can be reading a book and then making some food… There's something about the flexibility of human the human mind, human intelligence, which I think is a long, long, long way off for computers to do. So I, I don't think we're gonna get to that point. But I am a big fan of science fiction author, Iain M. Banks. And, you know, he had a lot of the characters in his books are sentient AIs. And they have all the foibles and issues that, you know, we have as people. They have personality, and I'm sure that will be where we will end up. But I think that probably won't be in our lifetime.

Tracey Follows  51:53

No, no, we probably won't. And of course, then that takes you on to whether they are deserving of any rights. You know, not necessarily the same rights that maybe a human intelligence has, but rights that a non biological intelligence might have, in the same way that animals have certain rights. They're not the same as humans, humans rights, but it then opens up again, a whole new aspect and adjacent industry really around these new creations. How's it going to affect us interfacing with machines? Like the human machine interactions?

Matthew Kershaw 52:28

Yeah, I think it's really interesting. When you look at software at the moment, it's, we've kind of reached the end of their graphical user interface, we've had it for 20 years, or maybe a bit longer, and it's starting to reach its end. The capability of our software, so great. And yet, we're still navigating on Salesforce dropdowns, and menus, and it feels awkward, it feels like we're just about to reach point where you just tell a computer and maybe tell your assistant, you know, instead of using Salesforce, you tell them what you want, not not to have to speak the computer language effectively. Okay, yeah, we're not putting in line by line code, but we are still navigating interfaces and programmes in a very old fashioned way. So I think that will be one of the impacts of these digital people will be to allow us to command and get what we need from our software. And I think that will have a big, big, big impact on the world of tech as well.

Tracey Follows  53:26

Do you know that answer is a good answer to a question I've written down here. What does the synthetic media revolution mean? You know, how's it going to change us, because it's a point well made about the old fashionedness of the user interface.

Matthew Kershaw 53:41

Yeah we've had graphical user interface for 20 years, we kind of updated it a bit when we got our touch phones. But fundamentally, we're still doing things and getting the value from our software in quite an old fashioned way. And I think that will be one of the things these digital people do will change the way we interface with everything digital, and everything from computer programmes to how we interface with our banker, and so on, and so on. So, you know, you just want to get what you need from the programme, you want to know what the sales figures are for last quarter, or what are Bob's latest deals, you don't want to have to go into Salesforce and navigate 10 sub menus. So I think that will have a radical shaping effect on the technology industry specifically as well.

Tracey Follows  54:27

And what happens when we haven't got our smartphone devices? And we're in the world of spatial computing and ambient communication. Presumably, these assistants, if they're around, really, surely they'll come into their own where they're not constrained by, you know, like, a screen of a mobile phone or something.

Matthew Kershaw 54:44

Yeah, I mean, I'm dying to see what Apple release in terms of their kind of VR headset type thing. Yeah, I mean, well, you're looking quite far in the future. I think we're going to be screen based for quite a while, personally, but yeah, maybe I'm just a bit old fashioned like that.

Tracey Follows  54:59

No, I'm interested to hear what you say about that...

Matthew Kershaw  55:02

What do you think? How do you imagine it?

Tracey Follows  55:04

I imagine it being much more gesture control and ambient computing environment. Because there's something about the phone device looking at like that, which is quite distracting actually. I'm just drawn to that and I'm distracted from everything else that's going on around me. They're all the things you've just been talking about with the assistant services. They're doing things around me. They're in my world, giving me new perspectives and information. And it just feels like suddenly you have to go {Swipe} and it's all on the phone, I just think that can't hold up. And so I think there'll be much more gesture, voice control, and it'll be more ambient communication.

Matthew Kershaw 55:47

I mean, that's interesting. I was talking to a woman yesterday, who's developing, haptic, gestural. She refused to call them gloves, but far as I can make out, there was sort of something, something wearable on your hand, so I'm calling it a glove. But she was talking about particularly blind people, it could give them a form of Braille, so they can certainly read things or be given information. So yeah, I think all this ambient computing is, is going to be there. But I just feel like it's quite far ahead. I feel like we've been longing for this for a while and been willing it into being but somehow the computing power and the battery power hasn't unleashed.I think the batteries might be the thing that's really holding it back, we our battery technology hasn't kept up anywhere. The pace of battery technology is very slow, compared to development of chips and microprocessors.

Tracey Follows  56:38

Or it could just be vested interests that are going to hold us back. The time frame might be dictated by the profits from certain devices and maybe it's not until they think they've eked it out that we'll move into different formats. No, I think it's gonna be really interesting, because, like, I think I said to you before, years ago, when I looked at Edward Fable's  Lucy character, I knew then, I was like, It's not about social robots and robots going into the home, it's about these characters, they are so engaging, and whether you think they're like an assistant or a extension of you, or whatever the role of the digital persona, or the interactive AI. Just once you anthropomorphize it, it's just so interesting and engaging.

Matthew Kershaw 57:18

This is one of our themes actually, is about anthropomorphism. It's a really interesting thing, because, you know, we see faces in clouds, and we see intention in things that are just random. There's a really famous study from I think the30s or 40s, they just created a random animation of shapes moving around. And when you watch it, people will say, 'Oh, yeah, you know, the triangles, bullying the circle'. You know we seem to be able to project onto objects, inanimate objects, things so imagine how much you're going to project on something that's not only animate, but it's talking back to you in a smart or slash intelligent way. You know, of course, you're gonna start to anthropomorphise. I mean, I say thank you quite regularly, to GPT I mean, I know and I say please, I don't know why.

Tracey Follows  58:09

I think most people do, yeah.

Matthew Kershaw 58:11

You will feel emotional about it. You will connect to them. Even the most logical person you know, GPT, Chat-GPT is not a human. I say please and thank you. Why do I do that? You know, I'm Yeah, it's inevitable.

Tracey Follows  58:34

Thank you for listening to The Future of You hosted by me Tracey Follows check out the show notes. For more info about the topics covered in this episode. Do like and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you know someone you think will enjoy this episode, please do share it with them. Visit for more on the future of identity in a digital world and for the future of everything else. The Future of You podcast is produced by Big Tent Media.


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