AT THE start of the 2023 Cannes Lions session Unlocking Everybody’s Innate Creative Potential: The New Era of Collaboration, featuring singer-songwriter and entrepreneur will.i.am, moderator Jonathan Mildenhall dug out a 2010 video showing the Black Eyed Peas legend trying to persuade fellow band member Fergie that the future of music would be defined by AI.
Fergie, like many in the Cannes Lions community, was sceptical. But 13 years on will.i.am is as evangelical as ever. In his words, the potential of AI is “freaking awesome. It’s already changing music and it’s going to change law, finance, education, retail, transport, white-collar jobs, blue-collar jobs, everything.”
He is under no illusions that some jobs will be lost, but is convinced “it will lead to the emergence of new jobs and new industries”. He also expects it to be a democratising force that will benefit “underserved communities. It’s a tool that will liberate creativity in places like Soweto, Nigeria, Brazil and the LA projects where I grew up.”
As an advocate for technology’s positive capabilities, will.i.am has put his money where his mouth is — launching a new tech platform for creatives called FYI. “People who look like me don’t usually get to launch AI-powered platforms. But we’re entering a new era where entertainers can inspire industries. I salute the likes of Rihanna, Jay-Z and Dr Dre who led the way. It was such a pleasure to be in at the start with Dr Dre and Beats — eventually sold to Apple.”
FYI, which has backing from IBM, is designed for artists as a way for them to centralise all of their data in one place — stored safely through the use of encryption. “It came to me during the pandemic when I realised that creators were using about six different platforms for all of their IP, conversations and so on. FYI simplifies that.”
Rather than job losses, will.i.am’s biggest fear around AI is lack of regulation. “You need a permit to drive a car, but not to run an AI platform. You don’t need a moral compass at all. That has to change. The thing we really have to fight for is control of our essence and likeness. Everyone is at jeopardy if we don’t own our stuff.”