Yves Bergquist

Machine Intelligence Warlord. CEO of AGI Engineering firm Novamente. Director of the “Data & Analytics” Project at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center. Look here for raw thoughts on AI, startups, politics and society. And cheese.

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Elon Musk’s Intellectual Laziness on AI

Elon is at it again. In a tweet on August 11, he reiterated his thoughts on artificial intelligence by claiming that “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea”. He also called for AI to be regulated, just like “everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc.) that’s a danger to the public”.

This was the latest exposition of his sensationalist thoughts on the topic, which if you are reading this you are familiar with by now.

He’s not the only one, of course: Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have also raised concerns about unbridled AI. But none of them have been more vocal and unsubstantiated than Musk, who recently went as far as saying “we are summoning the demon” by pursuing super-intelligent AI.

Even his most detailed arguments are astonishingly crude.

For example, this one:

“the biggest threat about AI is not that it will develop a...

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From Big Data to Big Knowledge - AI in Entertainment (NAB 2017 Keynote)

My friend and colleague Debra Kauffman at ETCentric wrote up a really nice piece summarizing the keynote I gave at the annual NAB Show last week. Enjoy ! Text below, and here is the link: http://www.etcentric.org/nab-2017-etc-charts-path-from-big-data-to-big-knowledge/more-115151

NAB 2017: ETC Charts Path From Big Data to Big Knowledge

By Debra Kaufman

April 27, 2017

At ETC’s conference on machine learning/AI at NAB, director of data and analytics Yves Bergquist talked about the work ETC@USC is doing to understand AI, storygraphics and audience intelligence. At the heart of the question, he said, is why we like or don’t like a movie or TV show. Getting an audience member to describe why she liked her favorite movie, he responded that the people who made that movie don’t know why she liked it. “Not because they’re stupid, but because it is a very complex, multi-faceted question,” he...

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WE ARE VERY STORY, Part 1: Hollywood’s Narrative Algorithms

by Yves Bergquist

NOTE: over the past 12 months my team and I at the Entertainment Technology Center have done a lot of research on how to measure narrative structures in film, advertising, and marketing. I’ve decided to lift the veil on some of that research in a series of posts as part of a series called “We Are Very Story”.


I believe two things:

(1) Hollywood and Silicon Valley are in the same business: producing algorithms.

(2) To survive and thrive, the media and entertainment industry needs to start thinking algorithmically about stories.

I’ll tell you why.

Everything is story. Your car, your haircut, your job, your cereal, who you love: the entire universe is perceived through the lens of our narrative representation.

Why? Because the reality we live in is too complex for us to process in its entirety, so we need to represent it in a simplified manner. This is...

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How My Team and I Are Trying to Revolutionize Hollywood

A lot of people ask me about what I do at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, and I’m really proud of what my team and I have built in just under one year, so I thought I would share the scope of our work below, and a description of some of the projects we’ve been working on.

ETC is a phenomenal place to approach technology problems in entertainment. Because it is housed within USC’s famous School of Cinematic Arts - without a doubt the best film school in the world- and is chaired by the most senior technology executives in all the studios, it is a very unique forum to discuss tech challenges and quickly prototype and implement industry-wide solutions. I don’t know a single other place where a team like mine can research an industry problem, discuss and architect a solution with all players of that industry, then have that solution built and implemented at an industry level in a...

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Learning vs Thinking Machines

Note: this was first published yesterday, January 8, 2017, in ET Centric. For updates on technology as it relates to the media and entertainment industries, subscribe here: http://www.etcentric.org/

As predicted, artificial intelligence has been one of the key buzzwords of CES 2017. It seems every other vendor here is slapping the “AI” label on its technology. So much so that it inspired us to take a (short) step back and look at what AI is in relation to machine learning.

The reality is: there are still very few applications that can be legitimately labeled as artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars, DeepMind’s AlphaGo, Hanson Robotics’ Sophia robot, and to a lesser extent Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant, are all AI applications. Most of the rest, and certainly most of what we’ve seen here at CES, is robust, well-productized machine learning applications (usually built on...

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In Page & Brin’s Alphabet, S is for “Singularity” … and the Future of the Corporation

Page and Brin did it again. With the rollout of Alphabet, they reminded us they are still the most consistent and visionary leaders in business today. Like it or not, Google’s founders have one central ambition: bringing about the Singularity. And for that purpose, Alphabet isn’t the perfect organizational vehicle to achieve this goal … but it’s very good. And it basically shows us how corporations large and small can restructure to survive and thrive in high-velocity, high-complexity markets.

For those still unfamiliar with the concept of the technological Singularity, it is the point in the future where a set of man-made technologies (with artificial intelligence at their center) will evolve to a level of capacity and sophistication as to transcend our mental and physical capabilities so far beyond our biology that we can no longer call ourselves purely “human”.

Contrary to popular...

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Transhumanisme: Les Titans dans l'Olympe

This was published in the French edition of The Huffington Post on 7/13/15. It’s the base for my keynote at the conference of Les Napoleons in Arles, France, on July 24 2015.

I promise to write an English version very soon.

SOCIÉTÉ - Au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, l'anthropologue Margaret Mead constatait que “tous ceux d'entre nous qui ont grandi avant la guerre sont désormais des immigrés du temps, des migrants venus d'un monde ancien vivant aujourd'hui dans une ère complètement différente de celle que nous connaissions auparavant”.

Au même titre que l'amour, la souffrance, la faim, le plaisir, la honte, etc., cette notion d'immigration dans le temps est désormais l'une des sensations les plus intimes de l'expérience humaine. Nous sommes des immigrés de la complexité, nous rôdons d'un monde complexe vers un monde encore plus complexe, et le rythme de cette migration...

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The Insane World of Blockbuster Economics

Last week, Deadline.com released a small and exceptional dataset: the profit and loss statement for 2014’s Top 20 performers at the global box office, from the latest “Transformers” installment (which grossed more than $1 billion at the box office) to “Interstellar” (which clocked in at almost $673 million).

This is a rare document: these numbers are usually treated as state secrets in Hollywood, so this is the first time in recent memory that actual P&L numbers have surfaced in the open.

And it’s easy to see why. The gospel of blockbuster economics is that inflating production and marketing budgets to churn out “tentpole” movies will breed higher financial returns for studios. But applying simple data analysis models on these numbers reveals a far different story, one of very strange economics and inefficiencies so massive they would never be tolerated in any other industry.


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