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AI Is Coming for Our Work. That’s a Good Thing.

Adobe’s Scott Belsky digs into what the proliferation of AI tools means for human workers.

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By
Carter Reum
Carter Reum
By M13 Team
Link copied.
June 7, 2023
|

3 min

Key takeaways

We're entering an era where we can no longer believe our eyes. Instead of ‘trust but verify,’ it's going to become ‘verify then trust.’ You’ll want to verify exactly where and how an asset was made before you determine whether you can trust it.

—Scott Belsky, Adobe Chief Strategy Officer

Generative AI tools will enhance creative work, not replace it.

AI tools will unlock personalized experiences at scale like we’ve never seen them before.

We may move from hiring talent to licensing likenesses.

Automation will free up humans to focus on the things that only humans can do.

AI and the future of everything

Future Perfect is M13’s thought leadership series, where we convene investors and founders to reflect on the lessons and innovations that inform how we will build the future. In May, we gathered in New York City to hear from the vanguards of technology, innovation, and investing.

One vital topic of the moment is the generative AI tools overhauling the ways we work. In the coming years—or months—or maybe just minutes—these models will create a profound sea change in how we plan, execute, and respond to creative work.

Adobe Chief of Strategy Scott Belsky, whose career has long focused on the intersection of technology and creativity, sat down with M13 Partner and Co-founder Carter Reum to talk about the impact of these new AI tools.

Four waves of transformation

Scott sees four major waves of transformation that will be brought on by emerging AI tools, especially in the realms of media and creativity.

1. Creative confidence will rise. “For most of us, creative confidence probably peaked at age six, when we could draw anything and our parents or teachers would put it on the fridge,” Scott explains. “Generative AI has really restored creative confidence for all. Anyone with an idea can come in with prompts and start to get something that looks somewhat like whatever's in their mind. That's pretty powerful.”

AI tools will help creative thinkers bring their visions to life where they previously may have lacked the skill set or time to do so. We’re entering a new era of creativity.

2. Professional opportunities for creators will grow, not disappear. While rote creative work might become increasingly automated, AI tools will free up time for creators to explore new questions and find new answers. Scott says, “Every great designer I know says the more time they have to explore more areas of possibility, the better solutions they come up with.”

3. Consumers will crave scarcity, story, and process more than ever. The story behind an art piece, film, or even a marketing campaign will become more important.

“When you look at a piece of fine art in a gallery, you're not paying for the paint or the canvas,” Scott explains. “You're paying for the story. It’s story that makes creativity effective, and effective creativity is creativity that moves us. And I don’t think what comes out of models necessarily moves us.”

4. We will expect personalization from every app, experience, and product. Every digital experience will know users by name and preferences. “The fact that we go to e-commerce sites today and have to sort by ‘men’s shoes’ or ‘women’s shoes’ makes no sense,” says Scott. “Why is every digital experience we have treating us like a generalized audience? The next generation of marketing tools will bring a mass move to personalization.”

This final wave, he explains, could look like using a model (like Adobe Firefly, a generative AI for creators) as a basis to develop a proprietary, brand-specific model to create branded content. For example, a furniture brand might use generative AI to create highly personalized marketing collateral for every geographic area where they want to sell. Their marketing images might feature different AI-generated foods on a table, or different backgrounds through a window, based on the location and demographic of the different groups they’re targeting.

According to Scott, “This technology enables that personalization at scale.”

Licensing a likeness: AI-generated ‘talent’

Generative AI will also have huge implications when it comes to using a creator’s likeness—their image, their voice—without them necessarily being in the room. When a person’s likeness can be easily mimicked by AI tools, we’ll see a shift in where real people spend their time.

“For example, think about an actor in a scotch ad. Actors are at their best when they’re on set acting. It’s not necessarily a good use of their time to sit around smiling while someone is sprucing up a glass of scotch,” Scott explains. “I think we’ll enter a time where it’ll be an actor’s likeness that is licensed, but they won’t actually be there.”

Beyond advertisements, there may also be a rise of what Scott terms “the unauthorized sequel”: high-fidelity, unauthorized franchise content created using generative AI tools. IP holders will have to decide: will they help distribute those projects to try to make money off them? Will they ignore them? Or will they try to squash them?

Freeing up humans to be human

There’s been much hand-wringing about how AI tools will take human workers’ jobs. Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has notably said he believes AI will be capable of doing 80% of all jobs in the next 25 years, and concerns about how chatGPT will displace the human workforce has been a hot topic in recent news cycles.

But Scott doesn’t think this disruption has to be all gloom and doom.

First, he points out, engineers have become more productive every year for the last 30 years. And yet, companies have continued to hire more and more engineers. “When you liberate an engineer from doing things that are not ingenuity, you get more of their ingenuity,” he explains. “The more ingenuity per person you can get, the more people you want to hire, because then you can expand to offer new products, services, and features.”

For example, a company that historically offered three products might grow to offer five, as developers’ time is freed up from rote tasks and they can focus on innovating new offerings. This growth can lead to more hiring as the company expands.

“As humans are freed up from all of this paper pushing, productivity-oriented stuff, we're going to be freed up to do things that only humans can do,” Scott says. Right now, many companies can’t afford to invest in expanding their human resources. For example, they can’t afford to manually onboard all new customers or to double in-store staff to offer a better customer experience. As clerical tasks become automated, human workers will have more time to focus more on the human relationship components of their jobs—resulting in more meaningful, personalized, deeper interactions.

As Scott asks, “If we unlock productivity with AI, why wouldn’t there be more human-centric experiences?”

Thank you to our speakers

Scott Belsky is an entrepreneur, author, and early-stage investor. He currently serves as Adobe’s Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of Design & Emerging Products after five years overseeing product for Creative Cloud.

Scott's passion is to make the creative world more productive, connected, and adaptive to new technologies. He founded Behance, the leading online platform for over 40M professionals in the creative industry to showcase and discover creative work, and served as CEO until Adobe acquired Behance in 2012. Scott actively advises and invests in businesses at the intersection of technology and design. He is an early advisor and investor in Pinterest, Uber, Carta, sweetgreen, Ramp, Flexport, and several others at the early stage.

Through his work as a founder and investor, Scott has become an advocate for technology and community initiatives that empower creative people and help businesses leverage the creative potential of their people. He is the author of two national bestselling books, Making Ideas Happen and The Messy Middle. He also founded 99U, a publication and annual conference devoted to productivity in the creative world.

Thank you to our sponsors

Key takeaways

We're entering an era where we can no longer believe our eyes. Instead of ‘trust but verify,’ it's going to become ‘verify then trust.’ You’ll want to verify exactly where and how an asset was made before you determine whether you can trust it.

—Scott Belsky, Adobe Chief Strategy Officer

Generative AI tools will enhance creative work, not replace it.

AI tools will unlock personalized experiences at scale like we’ve never seen them before.

We may move from hiring talent to licensing likenesses.

Automation will free up humans to focus on the things that only humans can do.

AI and the future of everything

Future Perfect is M13’s thought leadership series, where we convene investors and founders to reflect on the lessons and innovations that inform how we will build the future. In May, we gathered in New York City to hear from the vanguards of technology, innovation, and investing.

One vital topic of the moment is the generative AI tools overhauling the ways we work. In the coming years—or months—or maybe just minutes—these models will create a profound sea change in how we plan, execute, and respond to creative work.

Adobe Chief of Strategy Scott Belsky, whose career has long focused on the intersection of technology and creativity, sat down with M13 Partner and Co-founder Carter Reum to talk about the impact of these new AI tools.

Four waves of transformation

Scott sees four major waves of transformation that will be brought on by emerging AI tools, especially in the realms of media and creativity.

1. Creative confidence will rise. “For most of us, creative confidence probably peaked at age six, when we could draw anything and our parents or teachers would put it on the fridge,” Scott explains. “Generative AI has really restored creative confidence for all. Anyone with an idea can come in with prompts and start to get something that looks somewhat like whatever's in their mind. That's pretty powerful.”

AI tools will help creative thinkers bring their visions to life where they previously may have lacked the skill set or time to do so. We’re entering a new era of creativity.

2. Professional opportunities for creators will grow, not disappear. While rote creative work might become increasingly automated, AI tools will free up time for creators to explore new questions and find new answers. Scott says, “Every great designer I know says the more time they have to explore more areas of possibility, the better solutions they come up with.”

3. Consumers will crave scarcity, story, and process more than ever. The story behind an art piece, film, or even a marketing campaign will become more important.

“When you look at a piece of fine art in a gallery, you're not paying for the paint or the canvas,” Scott explains. “You're paying for the story. It’s story that makes creativity effective, and effective creativity is creativity that moves us. And I don’t think what comes out of models necessarily moves us.”

4. We will expect personalization from every app, experience, and product. Every digital experience will know users by name and preferences. “The fact that we go to e-commerce sites today and have to sort by ‘men’s shoes’ or ‘women’s shoes’ makes no sense,” says Scott. “Why is every digital experience we have treating us like a generalized audience? The next generation of marketing tools will bring a mass move to personalization.”

This final wave, he explains, could look like using a model (like Adobe Firefly, a generative AI for creators) as a basis to develop a proprietary, brand-specific model to create branded content. For example, a furniture brand might use generative AI to create highly personalized marketing collateral for every geographic area where they want to sell. Their marketing images might feature different AI-generated foods on a table, or different backgrounds through a window, based on the location and demographic of the different groups they’re targeting.

According to Scott, “This technology enables that personalization at scale.”

Licensing a likeness: AI-generated ‘talent’

Generative AI will also have huge implications when it comes to using a creator’s likeness—their image, their voice—without them necessarily being in the room. When a person’s likeness can be easily mimicked by AI tools, we’ll see a shift in where real people spend their time.

“For example, think about an actor in a scotch ad. Actors are at their best when they’re on set acting. It’s not necessarily a good use of their time to sit around smiling while someone is sprucing up a glass of scotch,” Scott explains. “I think we’ll enter a time where it’ll be an actor’s likeness that is licensed, but they won’t actually be there.”

Beyond advertisements, there may also be a rise of what Scott terms “the unauthorized sequel”: high-fidelity, unauthorized franchise content created using generative AI tools. IP holders will have to decide: will they help distribute those projects to try to make money off them? Will they ignore them? Or will they try to squash them?

Freeing up humans to be human

There’s been much hand-wringing about how AI tools will take human workers’ jobs. Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has notably said he believes AI will be capable of doing 80% of all jobs in the next 25 years, and concerns about how chatGPT will displace the human workforce has been a hot topic in recent news cycles.

But Scott doesn’t think this disruption has to be all gloom and doom.

First, he points out, engineers have become more productive every year for the last 30 years. And yet, companies have continued to hire more and more engineers. “When you liberate an engineer from doing things that are not ingenuity, you get more of their ingenuity,” he explains. “The more ingenuity per person you can get, the more people you want to hire, because then you can expand to offer new products, services, and features.”

For example, a company that historically offered three products might grow to offer five, as developers’ time is freed up from rote tasks and they can focus on innovating new offerings. This growth can lead to more hiring as the company expands.

“As humans are freed up from all of this paper pushing, productivity-oriented stuff, we're going to be freed up to do things that only humans can do,” Scott says. Right now, many companies can’t afford to invest in expanding their human resources. For example, they can’t afford to manually onboard all new customers or to double in-store staff to offer a better customer experience. As clerical tasks become automated, human workers will have more time to focus more on the human relationship components of their jobs—resulting in more meaningful, personalized, deeper interactions.

As Scott asks, “If we unlock productivity with AI, why wouldn’t there be more human-centric experiences?”

Thank you to our speakers

Scott Belsky is an entrepreneur, author, and early-stage investor. He currently serves as Adobe’s Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of Design & Emerging Products after five years overseeing product for Creative Cloud.

Scott's passion is to make the creative world more productive, connected, and adaptive to new technologies. He founded Behance, the leading online platform for over 40M professionals in the creative industry to showcase and discover creative work, and served as CEO until Adobe acquired Behance in 2012. Scott actively advises and invests in businesses at the intersection of technology and design. He is an early advisor and investor in Pinterest, Uber, Carta, sweetgreen, Ramp, Flexport, and several others at the early stage.

Through his work as a founder and investor, Scott has become an advocate for technology and community initiatives that empower creative people and help businesses leverage the creative potential of their people. He is the author of two national bestselling books, Making Ideas Happen and The Messy Middle. He also founded 99U, a publication and annual conference devoted to productivity in the creative world.

Thank you to our sponsors

The views expressed here are those of the individual M13 personnel quoted and are not the views of M13 Holdings Company, LLC (“M13”) or its affiliates. This content is for general informational purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal, business, investment, tax or other advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters and should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this content. This content is not directed to any investors or potential investors, is not an offer or solicitation and may not be used or relied upon in connection with any offer or solicitation with respect to any current or future M13 investment partnership. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Unless otherwise noted, this content is intended to be current only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in funds managed by M13, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by M13 is available at m13.co/portfolio.