”Having a digital version of me to write my own texts? I tremble at the thought of it.”
On why we are launching a new weekly newsletter
August 08, 2023
This is an outtake from our new newsletter Observations. Sign up to get the full newsletter, including behind-the-scenes, reading lists, and more straight to your inbox.
As the summer draws to a close I’ve decided to make a new years resolution. (Yes, we all know that summer is the true new years and that autumn defines the beginning of a new work year, similar to the school seasons).
Having spent the majority of June and July at my cottage in the Stockholm Archipelago, I’ve come to adjust my media intake from mostly podcasts to mostly books and written journalism, i.e. newsletters (reading list at the end of this letter). Inspired by this, and by the recent launch of our first insights newsletter Beauty Innovation, I’ve realised that what Scandinavian MIND needs is a weekly update from its founder and editor-in-chief.
The reasons are four-fold, and the last one is all about the current AI revolution.
For starters, there is just too much going on in the world of Scandinavian MIND — from our recurring Transformation Conference to our weekly podcasts, print issue launch events, trade fair popups, and more – that I simply neglect to document vital parts of our ongoing journey. There are reports I’m reading, people I’m meeting, gossip I’m overhearing, and insights I’m collecting that don’t make it into our news stories or podcasts.
Insights I think would be helpful to anyone interested in the transformation of the industries that we cover and love: fashion, beauty, design, and mobility.
Another reason is that I believe in the newsletter format, and it’s something we want to double down on. Aside from our regular twice-weekly newsletter, where we provide a broad overview of news, interviews, podcasts, event invitations, and more, we are also launching a series of insights verticals, focusing on our core industries. First out: Beauty Innovation (sign up here).
But to be perfectly honest, the real reason for starting this newsletter is that I simply miss writing.
I started my career as a young do-it-yourself editor and writer in Umeå in the late 90s, purely from the passion for interviewing people and writing good stories. That passion has not subsided, even though my mission has changed over the years. From covering the punk scene in northern Sweden to chronicling the world of fashion, design, and architecture in magazines like Residence and Plaza, to running my own lifestyle and technology platform in Scandinavian MIND.
Today, my personal mission is to help the fashion and lifestyle industries transform towards sustainability. That mirrors what we want to achieve with Scandinavian MIND — in our reporting, at our events, and even in the services offered in our Brand and Content Agency. I’ve managed to make interviewing people a core competence, whether it’s on stage or in our podcast, but the number of texts I produce on a regular basis has definitely declined, if not diminished completely.
The AI reason
Hidden in this need for self-expression is also an urge to prepare me for the artificial intelligence revolution that’s about to upend writing and journalism. The past year has been a major milestone for generative AI, starting with the launch of ChatGPT back in November last year, and continuing with new products from Microsoft, Google, and Meta.
Whether this is an apocalypse or salvation for creators is something we have discussed at length in our podcast during the last year, and it’s come up time and again in my media consumption this summer. It’s at the core of the current dual-strike taking place in Hollywood right now, where both writers and actors and asking the studios not to replace them with AI-generated versions of themselves (be it writers or digital replicas of actors).
That anyone is going to be completely replaced by AI seems far away to me, but one perspective that I’m watching closely is the idea of AI as our digital assistant. Mark Zuckerberg talked about this in a lengthy interview with podcaster Lex Fridman recently. He said:
“Any creator will ultimately want an AI that can proxy them and be something that their fans can interact with. This is the common creator problem. Everyone’s trying to build a community and engage with people. But you only have 24 hours in a day. I think having the ability to bottle up your personality and give your fans information of it when you’re performing a concert or something like that. That I think is going to be something super valuable.”
Case in point: Scott Galloway, a much-liked entrepreneur, investor, author, podcaster, and professor of marketing at the New York University Stern School of Business revealed recently that he is working on an AI-powered chatbot that will be able to answer questions in the style of his own irreverent voice and, assumingly, based on the vast knowledge accumulated in his production of books, podcasts, and lectures.
This idea of having something akin to a Jarvis from the Iron Man movies – a robot that knows what you know, is familiar with your tastes and preferences and can make decisions and carry out tasks in the spirit of yourself – is equally fascinating and disturbing. As a creator and entrepreneur, juggling a lot of projects at the same time, I can definitely see the allure of having someone doing my most mundane tasks for me.
I mean, just take my favourite hate tool of all time: e-mail. Having a digital Konrad that can firmly answer e-mails from collaborators and politely decline event invitations would be something of a dream come true.
But someone to write my own texts? I tremble at the thought of it.
The topic came up during my interview with Joel Hellermark, founder of Sana, one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs in the AI space, and our Issue 4 cover star.
Says Joel in our interview:
We’re entering an era where you could change user experiences drastically. […] These models will be connected to all of the tools that we use day to day. It will be able to use Figma, Salesforce, and Slack on your behalf. You will put into the text box what you want to get done. Then your model can act on your behalf in these different systems. Also, you can develop user experiences that anticipate what you need. Then it gets that done before you even ask for it.
He continues to use my own interview with him as an example:
Or you’ve started writing this interview with me. It already has access to the recording from the interview. It’s seen half of your text. It picks up on your tone of voice, and then it uses the same level of writing that you’ve done for the first half, and populates the second half. And then it gives you four different versions so you can select which one you like the best.
Joel’s perspective, which is unsurprisingly optimistic about this development, is that humans will provide the “stochastic element” to the AI models.
We are going to add randomness to these language models. When you’ve written that first section, you’ve written with a specific tone of voice that you’ve learned based on your preferences and experiences. You’ve prompted the model with this, and now it’s picked up on that.
I can’t make up my mind if this is a dream or a doomsday scenario. But what I do know is that I want to be prepared for it. I’ve already instructed my team to experiment with AI as a way of speeding up the process of researching, transcribing, and even drafting the texts that we publish on our platform. We will always be protective of the editorial process, and our own editorial sensibilities are still what makes us unique.
And before the AI writer completely takes over, I wanna make sure that my own voice is protected. And that means increasing the amount of text that I output.
So welcome Observations, my weekly insights newsletter on fashion, technology, media, marketing, and more. A personal dispatch from inside the world of Scandinavian MIND. As of now, completely written by the real physical me.
I will let you know when that changes.
See you next week!
This is an outtake from our new newsletter Observations.