Tuesday, August 15, 2023

How Star Trek Sixty years ago shows a vision of AI use into the future we've now caught up with

The use of Generative AI in education seems alarmist, even dangerous, but is it? And what might you make of this glimpse of its future in Star Trek in the 1960s. Trekers knew this all along.

Finding answers,  compound and complex ones will be the shift. For too long learning has sought to attach singular or dominant responses to answers. If you've done hacks or ran labs you'll know from systems thinking that simple is ne'er the outcome. Simplicity maybe? 

So watch in this scene how Cpt. Kirk arrives at a solution. He's in charge of strategy prompting the Computer (AI). The AI returns answers. Kirk's cognition is in finding the next response to move towards his end goal. This approach mirrors Gary Kasparov playing Centaur Chess ( Advance Chess (1998) with AI).

Knowing the answer is one thing. Knowing how to get to a cogent answer is another. This will be helpful in delineating between simple to complex problems - and about time too.

Furthermore, the problem-solution needn't be stated. The finder arrives at the end goal by a series of logical propositions and deductive questions

CHAIRMAN — Kickstarting AI Community films


AI Generated image of The Chairman

Prologue: An article underpinning specific and underdiscussed use of AI and new story styles particularly for specific audiences — by Dr David Dunkley Gyimah.

They’re a great band with an international touring reputation playing to huge audiences in Japan, Australasia, India, and across Africa and their single, “Sunshine Day” was a banger reaching number 17 on the UK Singles Chart.

Yet years back the mighty Osibisa played in a small town (some twenty miles) from Ghana’s second capital Kumasi called Asokore. The venue, a smallish dance-bar that could house less than 100 people, in what was at the time the only storeyed residential building in the town.

Clearly I’d forgotten this when my sisters sent me this whatsapp of the passing of band member Vico Mensah.

Osibisa played a set that went deep into the morning as punters in their torso-hung bell bottoms , Kente-skirts and platform shoes or charlie wote (sandals) raucously drank Star beer, and kept neighbours 200 metre either side awake. Having Osibisa play was the equivalent of Maze or Cameo playing in a small pub in London.


Our father, ever ambitious, ne’er afraid, and the music lover he was staged many groups like Osibisa. Others he tried to hire like Fela Kuti eluded him. Some twenty years later I would interview Kuti on BBC Black London that I co-hosted. I wondered what dad would have thought?

Mr Edward Yaw Gyimah was one of the “ones” in 1955 before Ghana, then called The Gold Coast, attained independence. He was a copper — a policeman dedicated to his job, earning a scholarship from Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah’s newish government to travel abroad and acquire new skills from its soon-to-be ex-colonial ruler, Britain. Like many he found his way to the UK with his unique Gold Coast passport as a British subject.

Air travel by then was already established. Several ships too like the MV Accra made the journey between Accra and London. No news reel crew captured the arrival of Ghanaians who arrived first as a trickle.

Courtesy of the Daily Graphic

The eminent historian Professor Hakim Adi writes in West Africans in Britain 1900–1960 how most of the West Africans travelling to the UK were mostly from Nigeria and the Gold Coast. West African student numbers gradually increased to a thousand in the UK in 1948. More recently (2021), the national census shows there are more Black Africans in the UK than Caribbeans; 1.5 million compared with 0.6 respectfully.

In the UK father abandoned the idea of building on his police credentials. He took up a business diploma and some. Yet his potential was never fully realised in the UK. When later with mum they started a family, the absence of extended networks took its toll. This photo, of my sister and I looking our Sunday best bookended a day out before we would end up with a series of foster parents.


Seventies Ghana was not the fulfilment of its Independence legacy. There seem to be one coup attempt after another, but father had enough of the UK. It was time to head back home.

And that journey was accompanied by his children two sisters, a brother and myself. In Ghana, his fortunes seem to change; music venues, the serious potential for heading a political party and presidential run, CEO offerings, and then a slew of business ventures — some more successful than others. And then Rawling’s government ceasing all his assets.

Father seemed to be building on the moniker he’d attracted amongst Ghanaians in South London. A sort or quasi abusia panin — someone who appeared to have all the answers. If you’re Ghanaian and have a problem, go see Edward was the refrain within the community, particularly for new arrivals.

His endeavours epitomised that Ghanaian can-do. A brief post yielded a stream of contributions from social media with users sharing thoughts and powerful stories about their parents and the difficulties in telling their stories.


That’s how we came to frame his promo when first released — The Ghanaian. Some later screen testing though revealed insights into the title’s social cognitive awareness.

This isn’ t unusual. Take The Irishman (2019). It was originally called I Heard You Paint Houses. And Rachel Boynton’s spell binding documentary Big Menabout the oil finds off Ghana and the politics that followed was originally called Power, Money, Greed & Oil when first aired on BBC’s Storyville.

There are many reasons why film titles change. Big Men perhaps would not have conveyed the semiotic heft that the film delivers to a non- African audience. Big Men, is a familiar term for West Africans. Similarly, whilst the label “Ghanaian” may yield any number of visual cues, to West African and Ghanaians, “Chairman’ carries a particular connotation or respect, without necessary a portfolio. Hence Chairman: The Ghanaian is the title we’ve adopted.

The real creative work though lies in the approach using AI to create media much like a painter would conceive of reality using brushes.

And there’s a bigger takeaway from this project that is emerging. Whilst AI has attracted frightening headline, some legit, it truly stands as a piece of technology which mastered closes the gap between heavily resourced knowledge acquisition cum trade craft and creative talent bereft of resources. AI in Communities is an initiative that examines this bringing together industry, academia and individual talent.

Over the years media creating the first digital international co-production between Ghana and South Africa, the Outernet expressed at Apple Inc, a breakthrough video platform, exhibitions, to mobile phone films shown in cinema like Bass Culture— charting reggae music’s contribution the UK — demonstrate a penchant for innovation being at heart of co-creations at @viewmagazine

made using an IPhone screened at the Regent street cinema

But AI stands to be hugely beneficial for communities, with the caveat of getting it right. The work into the bouquet of projects ahead serves to underline how the future offers promising openings for future storytellers — from artistic impressionism and storyboards to actual scenes in a film.

ideas behind Chairman- The Ghanaian

Not quite on the scale of Hollywood, but a training and leveraging platform to facilitate more people who’ve historically found it difficult to gain resources for their films.

Half of this film’s material is AI generated

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is a Reader/ Associate Professor of Innovation at Cardiff University. He’s a former broadcast journalist and producer and artist in residence at the Southbank Centre. More on background here

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

How AI is used to produce new diverse stories hidden in plain sight.

Astory about a young police officer who travels to the UK in the 1950s from West Africa seeking a new life shows a future of AI evolving filmmaking. And it will particularly benefit communities.

AI was used to recreate half of the visual scenes from researched documents.

The officer Edward Gyimah was 25 years-of-age when he travelled to Britain in 1955 on a government scholarship from what was then called the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast would become Ghana in 1957 — the first African country to achieve independence from Britain.

The story called “Chairman — The Ghanaian”, is just one of the lesser well known narratives of 1000s of West Africans who made Britain their home in the 1900s. Chairman is a term of respect used in Ghana to address a senior figure.

“Chairman — The Ghanaian” is the story of my father. I’ve been finding material (a suitcase of letters, photos and his passports) 17 years since he passed away which paints a vivid picture of his trials and travels.

The photos prompted quite a reaction on social media when I posted resulting in people posting photos of their parents too. Several people, such as Marcus Ryder MBE, Henry Bonsu and Jo Holmes left comments.

The issue I had, which is commonplace is, there was limited archive to expand on his story. But the use of Generative AI has solved that problem. The promo below is a first iteration, and already I can see new improvements and new apps I could use. By 2027, I can’t imagine where we’ll be.

Journalism and AI

I’ve been a journalist for more than thirty years and have worked for outfits such as Channel 4 News, BBC Newsnight and ABC News. And also as a technologist and artist I’ve been involved in several media innovations. The angle I come at with AI is largely different from dominant views. Some of the innovations I’ve championed include:

  • Cinema and video journalism — a study and work showing how a new breed of journalists, some from the BBC, use cinema’s langue to tell stories
  • Mobile journalism and VR — creating a mobile film Bass Culturea 500k Arts and Humanities Council project, which was shown on the big screen at Regents cinema where the Lumieres brothers screened their films
  • Creating platforms that have appeared on Apple’s website — creating one of the first video magazine platforms in 2004 before YouTube which would win a Knight Batten Awards

Innovation tends to be accompanied by apocryphal stories and the “industry-is-dead” themes. So what of AI? What’s so different ?

The impact of the industrial revolution on artisans provides a framing for the future. Not unlike painters who were the news people of their day reconstructing scenes from memory, Gen AI for many practitioners fulfils the same function.

Critics speak about the ethics, and that can’t be ignored, but there were ethics that were overcome with the generation of art, and photography in the 1800s. It resulted in the introduction of broadly agreeable standards. The same will happen with Gen AI.

Industrial manufacturing markedly reduced the work of carpenters, carvers and metallurgists, but in time there was a premium for having worked produced by experts.

The promo I’ve produced using AI takes the viewer through my father’s ups and downs, and his eventual return to Ghana with us, his children. His motives for coming to the UK, abandoning a career in the police force was to study and return to Ghana. His life mirrored scores of Africans coming to the UK on scholarships. He would return home almost 20 years after his arrival.

Whilst Africans have been in Britain since the 1600s. According to one of the foremost authorities on African history, Professor Hakim Adi author of West Africans in Britain 1900–1960, after 1945 there was a fundamental change which saw the number of West African students, including women, in Britain increase. Professor Adi writes:

By 1945 this figure had risen to over a thousand, about two thirds of whom came from Africa, the vast majority of these West African (mostly from Nigeria and the Gold Coast)… by 1948, divide over 1000 west African students in the country.

Today, Black Africans outnumber Black Caribbeans in the UK. The 2021 census says of England and Wales was 59.6 million:

2.4 million people (4.0%) were from black ethnic groups — 1.5 million of those identified with the black African ethnic group (2.5%), and 0.6 million with the black Caribbean ethnic group (1.0%)

In constructing the promo, amazingly I was able to create photos of dad from AI that my close family did not realise were AI generated. Whilst the impact of AI will be colossal, and will reshape the industry it won’t based on forecasting lead to AI media utterly usurping actual media and people.

They’ll be a secondary workforce burgeoning just as we’ve witnessed with multimedia, but mainstream has not disappeared, anymore than actors will. And if you’re a Trekker, seriously there’s the future writ large in front of us all.

Chairman was one of a number of ideas I took to Ghana in April and was taken to meet the former President of Ghana John Kufuor and several CEOs by one of Ghana’s leading academics Prof Kofi Asare Opoku.

The President took a keen interest in the work and requested I continue to probe.

One of my main aims is to teach a new generation of its efficacy and where it could help in media. Its hugely important that its adoption is wide and absorbed particularly by students from the Global South, where technology and media access has historically been challenging and led to deep chasms in the knowledge economy.

AI will accelerate a new information horizon and its vital data and industry participation towards shaping existing biases, that will be baked into the future alone, are addressed. But what are the odds of this? Media as a business is forever gazing at its bottomline navel, looking to new ways to up its profits. AI is its Sapphire.

Yet by itself is AI is a tool, it’s not sentient yet to think by its own, so it’s the thinking process towards creativity which has huge currency. Systems thinking, design thinking and cinema journalism are a few of the methodologies used to enhance this future filmmaking form.

To that end, I’m in talks with a number of people, academic outfits and bodies, and look forward to inviting AI storytellers, practitioners and academics, to the University of Cardiff where I’m based. We’ll share and publish work. More recently I’m honoured to have been invited to join the Pan African Heritage Museum in Ghana as a member of its academic and curatorial Council. AI storytelling will have much to say in Museums.

I’d like to thank Prof Prof Kofi Asare Opoku, Professor Pash Obeng, and Senior Kojo Yankah founder of the Pan African Heritage Museum for their ongoing suport.

I’m a reader/ Associate Professor at Cardiff University with a specialism in innovation and Story Labs. You can contact me here Gyimahd@Cardiff.ac.uk For more click here

AI will do for filmmaking what Synths did for Music. Liberate creativity!

Created using Gen AI

Creating media using AI will be a boon for creatives, particularly for marginalised, disadvantaged or people unable to meet modern production resources and costs.

Currently and rightly so there’s increasing controversy over the use of AI in the creative industries. For instance the use of faux images and music, copyright and where truth lies. These are being tested.

And yet that does not remove the thinking that AI will be hugely beneficial for some groups, who engage in its practices. It will not as some experts put it entirely replace human endeavour, but enhance creative thinking.

Hence if there is a meme to go forward with it “People with AI skills will replace people without it”.

For creativity, a near enough analogy would be youngsters in their bedrooms in the 80s and 90s generating music from synthesisers, instead of hiring a full ensemble of musicians.

In 1985 Brit Paul Hardcastle released his international smash hit 19 about the age of soldiers fighting in Vietnam.

Today Hardcastle would merely create his track via prompts in Gen AI tools.

19, and the many synths sounds that followed did not obliterate the music industry and that analogy can be assigned to film making. The original process will not disappear. We’ll go to Fatboy slim concerts and Glastonbury. We’ll watch AI generated films, and traditionally made ones.

Yesterday I watched Oppenheimer (2023). Great film. And this line I’ve modified summarises where we’re heading - “the genius of using AI will not replace the wisdom of filmmaking”.

There will be standards to sort out, and just as in previous tech jumps that will sort itself out.

This here is a sample of work, in the guise of personal essay documentary I’m working on. I thank readers and watchers for their feedback. Half of the images are AI generated.

Part Created Using Gen AI