It’s a very contemporary conjurer’s trick: Use generative AI to conjure up a SXSW talk out of thin air. Whurley carried out that action in Austin this year. Whurley, a stalwart of the Austin tech industry, needed nine weeks to prepare for and deliver a keynote at SXSW 2018 where he would introduce Strangeworks, a quantum computing business he co-founded and currently heads. In just a few hours, generative AI would finish the assignment five years later.
And that was pretty excellent, actually. The thorough, compelling, and whurley-like 45-minute speech had a strong message. The audience chuckled at a few jokes, two of which involved lawyers, and one swear word (fuck). Reading the script the AI had given him off of his tablet seemed to be the trickiest part, at least while he was on stage. (Whurley is a regular performer at SXSW and is known for his loose manner on stage.)
He began his lecture onstage by saying, “Generative AI built everything today, from the slides to the speech I’m reading right now. Hundreds of SXSW guests were present in the room, which was buzzing with whispers, wows, and giggles.
The first startup to use generative AI for all of its on- and off-stage material at SXSW may be Strangeworks. While the experiment is new and entertaining, it also demonstrates the adaptability of AI tools and their rising popularity.
The experiment began, like many others do, with a modest goal. In order to create a description for his SXSW session titled “Quantum AI: Why Your Future Depends on Quantum Computing & Artificial Intelligence,” Whurley employed generative AI back in October 2022. He didn’t, however, inform the SXSW organizers.
“The greatest age of technical advancement in human history is about to begin. I believe that people are not only unprepared for this, but also unaware that it is taking place. I wanted to draw attention to it,” he declared. “The next ten years will bring about more changes than the previous one hundred have. Regardless of what people say, the impending technological shift cannot be halted. For scientific growth and discovery, the convergence of quantum computing with AI will be a step function, if not multiple step functions.
He said on stage, “This all started with a prompt. “I instructed you to create an 800 word South by Southwest abstract. Everything of the content you saw on the South by Southwest website was produced by ChatGPT. Here is the idea, the title I gave it, and a few key elements. And I turned it in.”
The AI model ChatGPT, created by OpenAI and driven by GPT 3.5, can comprehend both text and images. The underlying engine, GPT-4, received an update on March 14.
Write an 800 word abstract for a SXSW keynote titled “QuantumAI: Why Your Future Depends on the Convergence of Quantum Computing & Artificial Intelligence,” in which the speaker discusses the developments in quantum computing and artificial intelligence, the problems facing our species, and the likely converging that could result in a quantum super intelligence that will change our world forever. Whurley made the decision to go further just a few days prior to the SXSW highlighted session. He instructed the AI to utilize the abstract to generate a possible presentation plan. The outline was approved after a few adjustments, or “reprompting,” as he prefers to call it.
This is fantastic; I need to create enough slides to talk about this subject for an hour. Could you provide a possible outline for a one-hour discussion on this? As Whurley discussed it with his Strangeworks team, they jointly agreed to go all in. At that time, he informed them that work will begin on all necessary components for the keynote tomorrow at 11:30 a.m.
The presentation’s slides and images were created by Casey Barthels, Nicole Majeske, and Ada Onyiuke of Strangeworks using the AI generative art program Midjourney. Then they increased the stakes even further by commissioning Midjourney to write the narrative and design the graphics for a seven-page printed booklet that featured the Strangeworks mascot Schrody Cat. The book was distributed to the audience. But, he continued, “The night before last, I wondered why we couldn’t just put words in my mouth too if we already created an outline, the abstract, and all the slides. Whurley fed GPT-4, which was made available on Tuesday, all of his previous prompts.
In order to make room for another project that went live on Thursday, their blogs were removed. The CEO of Strangeworks ran the prompt through ChatGPT once more, this time requesting that it publish the website and blogs in ten different languages, such as Spanish, Chinese, Italian, and Arabic. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. He said that while some opponents of artificial intelligence and technology have used social media to make sarcastic remarks or covert threats, “again the detractors are few and far between.”
Whurley’s personal website, which launched on Wednesday and has hundreds of blogs written in Whurley’s voice, was also made using generative AI. With the blog project, he collaborated with Big Human’s David Hudson. In other words, the script, images, and slides that would ultimately be used for the keynote were developed the morning before the speech. They also made a tight cut. “I took the final version of the script and cut and pasted it into the teleprompter software I had downloaded to my iPad as we pulled into the hotel at almost 11 am on the dot,” he texted TechCrunch after the performance.