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The Artist & The Machine: Interview with Rehab’s Creative Technologist, George Walker

As AI progress continuous to grow exponentially, we talk to a key member of our team who is right at the intersection between the creative and tech worlds. 

Image generated by Midjourney, Article copy by Rehab AI Consultancy

tl;dr: In this article, I interview George Walker, Creative Technologist at Rehab Agency. We discuss the AI Proof of Concept George built during his interview process that helped him stand out, how he defines the terms ‘creative technologist’ and ‘applied AI’, some of the biggest misconceptions about AI, and how more should be done to ensure that the incredible benefits of AI are filtered down to individuals.

Interview with George Walker

Can you please introduce yourself and share a bit about your background in creative tech?

I’ve always been an early adopter and interested in emerging technologies, stuck somewhere between Arts and Sciences. I studied Music and Computer science and then worked in higher education before joining the family business, which in my case was an educational robotics start-up called Ohbot focused on building robots to help people learn to code. 

From there I got sucked into the world of web3 development working on the tech for NFTs with some great artists before discovering ‘applied AI’ which is how I describe building tools with the amazing AI services we now have access to. When I first saw the job description for a Creative Technologist, I discovered it was what I had been for years without realising it!

What attracted you to join Team Rehab?

From my first meeting with the team at Rehab, I knew I was in the right place. I found kindred spirits here - a lot of people interested in similar things to me, embracing new technology and finding creative, interesting ways to apply it. 

It seemed like a brilliant place to learn with all the internal hack weeks and the experimental nature of many of the projects. It was also an opportunity to work with some awesome clients who are ahead of the curve. I’ve always relished opportunities to take ideas and turn them into reality and this was a chance to do the same in a new, more challenging environment.

During your interview process, you were challenged to create an AI-based application, can you tell us about your creation?

I built a proof-of-concept app called Open Animals. At the time GPT-3 had just started to make an impact and DALLE2 had also just been released. I decided to use a combination of these services to build a collectable card generator, inspired by my time working with NFTs. 

The idea was that users would receive a randomly generated, collectable OpenAnimal card based on the species they requested. The card included a name, image, weapon and Pokemon-style attack moves. I had a lot of fun building a demo of it, and I got the job so it must have gone down okay!

In 2023 AI became a bit of a buzzword, what do you think is the biggest misconception about AI technology?

You hear a lot of people saying AI is simply predicting the next word. While this is technically true on the surface, I think it misses an important point. While the problem they were trained on is indeed predicting the next word in a sequence, in searching for an efficient way to do this something deeper has emerged, understanding. 

Somewhere in the neural networks of these LLMs is an abstracted and compressed model of the world and many of the things and concepts within it. While it is difficult to understand exactly how the internals of neural networks have evolved, to me the magic is that they are approximating, in a rudimentary way, how intelligence is developed in biological systems. Intelligence is not designed specifically but instead appears to be an emergent property of these complex systems.

Is there an AI use case or example that you think really shows the value it can bring?

There are loads of ways brands can use AI for good, at its core it’s a brilliant tool for democratising access to information. AI can give people the confidence to try things they may not have before, empowering them to be more technical, more creative and of course, more productive.

Another area where AI will have a huge impact is in accessibility. For example, it can be used to describe the world for visually impaired people or assist autonomous wheelchairs in navigating complex environments. This in turn can help reduce some of their reliance on support from other humans and give them greater independence.

AI is also brilliant at crunching vast amounts of complex data. We have been in the data age for quite some time, AI is the perfect tool to help us analyse and spot patterns within this data. This has profound implications across all industries. We are already starting to see humans, supercharged by AI, making advances in a range of areas such as medicine, materials science, history and language.  

As you work in the creative industry, do you worry about the security of your job, now and in the future?

I think everyone worries from time to time. As technology improves, in theory, the amount of work that needs to be done by humans reduces as well. I’m not sure this is something we should worry about though, I think it can be a good thing! In an ideal world, everyone could work a little less with the slack being picked up by machines. 

I do worry that, as things currently stand, the benefits of increased productivity are rarely passed down to individuals. This is a societal and political problem and not really the fault of technology, AI or otherwise. 

Finally, what are you wanting to see happen? Is it regulation, access to communities or something else?

I think there is some merit in the idea of regulation to try and control the speed of change but ultimately it feels like the genie is out of the bottle now. You can’t uninvent transformer models (the underlying concept behind LLMs). What you can do is focus on how they can be used to enhance humans, not replace them.  

Up to this point, one thing that hasn’t been automated is agency. The power to own and energise an idea, then push it out into the world, for the time being, is still a uniquely human trait. 

Join the conversation

If you are curious about how to integrate AI into your creative process and want to know the actionable use cases that brands are working on today, take a look at Rehab’s new dedicated AI Consultancy page and get in touch to arrange an intro.