How would you describe what you do at R/GA to someone you’re meeting for the first time?

Push technology to its limit.

In 2018, R/GA Singapore launched a unit dedicated to working on artificial intelligence projects. Five years on, what lessons has R/GA gleaned from being one of the pioneer organisation and creative agencies to regard AI more seriously?

R/GA’s involvement with data and AI started in 2015 with the opening of our Data Science Studio offering out of New York. Today, we have that offering across the globe. One of the most interesting things is that innovation in the AI space becomes very accessible to anyone who makes an investment in following the AI community. The more you tap into that space, the further you’ll be able to see into the future. 

We also learned that prototyping and trying the technologies give us compelling indications as to where we see AI evolving. Lastly, be flexible with your AI strategy. AI is a tool that can be applied as surgically or generally as needed, but not every use case needs to be solved end-to-end with AI.

There has been a tremendous amount of debate about AI being a threat to creativity. Should creatives be worried, or is there light at the end of this tunnel?

First, most things shared on social media are already heavily curated. For a single piece of work shared, users of Generative AI tools create tens to hundreds of iterations. Still, to pilot and coordinate these technologies requires a different skill set, but they don’t change the fundamentals of design or creativity. The creative still needs to pilot, coordinate, and direct these outputs to achieve something of credible quality. 

I also believe that these tools foster an environment where creatives don’t actually need to stick to conventional industries. I see creatives being able to move into UX and product design. I see story lore writers using AI to help validate any logical fallacies in their writing or understand timelines in the worlds that they create.

With AI, creatives don’t need to stick to conventional industries.

Rollen Gomes, Group Technology Director of R/GA Singapore

What would a world of AI-powered solutions look like today, and how do you imagine it looking five years from now? Would there be a regression or a progression?

AI is already here and has been for at least a decade. What we’re seeing today, however, is the inflection point of a slightly different kind of AI, and what we now know as Generative AI. 

Generative AI moves AI from being buried under the hood to a much more visible and tangible layer. Since we’re already at an inflection point, it’s impossible to predict what will happen five years from now, but I’d say in a couple of years, we’ll be looking at experiences that touch a larger number of modalities, such as audio, chat, and 3D. 

We’ll be looking at many rote tasks that can be automated. In healthcare, for instance, I expect to see the scheduling of a patient’s journey completely powered by AI, without intervention from staff. 

Related: Artificial intelligence: are machines capable of creativity?

When AI and creativity intersect

AI Singapore

The ability to be creative has always been a big part of what separates human beings from machines. With the rise of AI, what does being creative mean to you today?

Individuality. Up until today, everything around us has been pushing people towards statistical means. We’ve gone from tailored clothes to fast fashion, and even design processes focus on the persona to drive the development of products and services. 

AI provides us an opportunity to put the individual front and centre of the experience again. From personalised experiences to the types of machinery we build to support them, this is our chance to rethink systems we have put in place.

An example of this could be personalised digital experiences for users that have been diagnosed with colour blindness conditions, where the design system adjusts itself to the specific characteristics of the user’s colour blindness — not the type of colour blindness he has.

When you look at the state of the world today, what is the one thing that gives you hope?

I look back at where we came from and use that as a launchpad to move forward. I daresay that building a time machine and going back to any point in time is going to be a significant step back in standard of living.

Millions of people have moved out of poverty; medicine is constantly getting better, and through economic collaboration, we’re breaking down boundaries. 

Having said that, I feel the one problem to solve before we are truly able to move into the future is energy. The last few technological waves — crypto, metaverses, and AI — have all started knocking at the door, and we’ll need to figure out a much more robust and sustainable energy roadmap into the future.