Facing the Future of Culture, the Creative and Performing Arts TOGETHER
In a world characterized by rapid technological advancements, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a topic of great interest and debate. On Monday 18th September 2023 Queen’s Hall held a comprehensive, one-day symposium focused on Artificial Intelligence and the impact on the Performance Arts. This event featured discussions with artists, theorists, educators and industry professionals reflecting on the recent explosion of interest, use and questions surrounding AI and the Creative Sector.
The event began with a warm welcome from Board Chairman Helmer Hilwig, who expressed gratitude to General Manager Garfield George for his leadership, aptly describing him as “the right man at the right time.” This recognition set the tone for a thoughtful discussion on the role of AI in various domains.
Panel One: Artificial Intelligence and the Performing Arts:
The Caribbean Paradigm
In the first panel, moderated by media personality Ainka Williams, Vishnu Balroop, CEO of Balroop’s Sound Systems Ltd. shared his opinions on the applications of AI in the performing art, particularly in his field. Balroop suggested that overreliance on AI tools, that cannot not adequately comprehend human emotions and respond to them, would result in a loss of critical thinking. He also explained that while his industry is reliant on AI solutions, human input will continue to be necessary in order to mitigate against unforeseen technological downtime or any other difficulties. Additionally, Balroop expects that increased capacity and skillsets in tech would be required from staff but doesn’t anticipate that jobs in his industry would eventually be completely erased by AI.
Panelist Keith Laban, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert / Developer, further emphasized Balroop’s point by advocating for the integration of AI in classrooms, enabling project-based learning and ethical uses to support education. However, he cautioned against overuse of AI, in business reiterating that while it can be a shortcut to reduce costs, it also requires a higher level of technical capacity in staff to manage automated solutions. To learn more about AI, various online courses on platforms like Coursera, Edx, and Udemy were recommended with prompt engineering was stressed as a crucial field of study in AI.
Another significant challenge highlighted by Laban was the absence of data trained on Caribbean cultures, resulting in AI-generated content that does not accurately reflect the region’s identity and traditions. However, it was also noted that this lack of data can be an advantage for Caribbean creatives, allowing them to maintain the authenticity of their cultural exports.
A strong consensus emerged against training AI on ritual, cultural, and religious practices, following a contribution made by Creative Director and Folk Arts Researcher Rayshawn Pierre-Kerr that cautioned fellow panelists, and the audience alike, against this citing the potential conflation of caribbean and local indigenous practices with those of other cultures and the resultant erosion of the uniqueness of Caribbean identity. Pierre-Kerr underscored the need for Cultural preservation which she deemed was essential.
The discussions in Panel One also briefly raised the question of regulating AI use and protecting intellectual property. It was suggested that models like that of the one adopted by American stock media provider Shutterstock, which offers monetary rewards to contributors that agree to have their work (stock photography, graphics, video and music) used to train data models, could be a direction used by creatives to control AI usage and be compensated fairly. Impressing upon the audience, as panelist, famed Music Producer Carl “Beaver” Henderson quipped “AI is just a tool to be used by humans” The panel which also included, accomplished choreographer and Modern Dance Professor, La Shaun Prescott, concluded by highlighting the current era, known in the technological industry as the age of “Narrow AI” and speculated about the future phases, “General AI,” where AI would appear human, and “Super AI,” where AI might surpass human intelligence. The advice given was to embrace AI, “understand it, form individual opinions, and hold consultations on its utilization”
The first half of the programme ended with a dance piece entitled “AIMFMFMF” choreographed by Dave Williams and CHAT GPT.
Panel 2 : The Potential Impact of Artificial Intelligence
on Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
The second half of the programme began with the Keynote Address by Leslie Lee Fook, Director of INCUS Services who shared information on AI-driven Chatbots and AI-driven Costume Design. He also highlighted software tools that can be used for Crowd Management and Safety, Predictive Analytics for Attendance and Resource Planning and Intelligent Event Scheduling.
Panel Two began with a reiteration of the concerns raised in the previous panel about the potential loss of critical thinking skills with excessive reliance on AI, which Dr. Kela Francis, Professor Carnival Studies noted was already happening. The discussion also returned to the importance of cultural preservation, emphasizing that the lack of documentation of Caribbean culture on the internet could limit AI’s applicability in certain domains, such as Carnival. Taking the time to educate the audience on the ancestral spiritual and symbolic ritual of our Carnival – Carnival tells the story of a funeral into a rebirth. The ritual begins with the setting sun which is representative of dying: the funeral, participants then traverse the underworld. The rebirth takes place at dawn with its climax at the Queens Park Savannah.– Indicating that the result is the feeling of euphoria as a result of experiencing the transition from death to rebirth, Dr. Francis illustrated quite clearly the type of information that AI can neither capture nor replicate. Her contribution underscored that while AI can provide data and insights, it cannot replicate the feeling and spiritual significance of cultural events such as crossing the Savannah Stage during Carnival
Noting that in our Caribbean culture use of AI is commonplace in the Event Management space, the conversation then shifted to the practical application of AI in Event Management. Panelist Jules Sobion, “Commander in Chief” of regional events company Caesar’s Army, shared insights into how AI can improve event efficiency by streamlining business operations, marketing, and venue design, sharing that in his opinion that is currently where AI’s “true power” lies.
Carnival Band Leader Valmiki Maraj further elaborated providing specific examples of using AI in event planning during the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, where AI technologies were employed due to staffing challenges. Maraj also highlighted the need to adapt to change
Alvern Porter Technical Director at local video production company Advance Dynamic, who also formed part of the panel lamented that fact that Trinidad is not a digital country, echoing the sentiments shared in the first panel that little to no digital record keeping is done. He highlighted the importance of informed decision-making and knowledge in harnessing the potential of AI. a sentiment shared by Dr. Francis who emphasized the need to break down generational and cultural barriers when it comes to the sharing of culture as this would help with current gatekeeping of our practices. She noted that cultural confidence is crucial for leveraging AI effectively in the Caribbean context.
Porter also discussed autonomous apps such as Chat GPT and Jasper among others. He shared that just by typing the words “Mango Juice” and requesting that the AI produce an Ad, he was able to almost instantaneously have an advertisement, a script and a digital Ad generated. This he believes raises questions about what the future of advertising agencies would look like. Porter predicted that in 5 to 10 years it will be necessary for AI to be leveraged to make companies better, otherwise otherwise many persons will find themselves unemployed.
On the topic of regulation and intellectual property, panelist Carla Parris, Entertainment and Sports Lawyer highlighted the ongoing global discussions surrounding AI and intellectual property rights. In her contribution she referenced The World Intellectual Property Organization’s upcoming symposium on AI and IP law which seeks to address questions about ownership and human intervention in AI-created devices and AI autonomous applications. According to Parris we are living in a time where we have to figure out who or what owns the intellectual property rights to creations.
Produced by Queen’s Hall, the Queen’s Hall TOGETHER AI symposium succeeded in leading the charge in the exchange of information and in sparking dialogue amongst industry experts on the topic of AI. Overall panels were able to highlight its applications in the performing arts, advocate for its inclusion in classrooms, the importance of education, its implications for businesses and the potential effect it can have on Caribbean culture.