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Inside Media and Storytelling with Yves Bergquist

Episode 291
Why do some stories last for centuries and others just fade away? Yves Bergquist is using AI and neuroscience to answer this question.

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“I think we are standing on the cusp of an explosion in creativity around media.” —Yves Bergquist

As the Director of AI & Neuroscience in Media at the Entertainment Technology Center  of the University of Southern California, Yves Bergquist is leading the charge to connect the fields of neuroscience and entertainment. At ETC, Yves and his team are pioneering a new way to test an entertainment project’s narratives, what audiences they will resonate with and why. 

Yves is thinking more broadly than traditional Hollywood studios and asking deeper questions. 

“How do you we understand stories and narrative from a purely cognitive standpoint?” he asks. “And how do we understand what kind of stories resonate in what way with what kind of people to generate what kind of behavior?” 

Yves was exposed to the entertainment industry at an early age thanks to his single mom, who worked in wardrobe on film sets in France. As a boy, he naturally gravitated towards psychology, and has successfully married that passion with his love of entertainment in his work at ETC and his start-up, Corto. Corto is an AI startup which Yves hopes he can utilize to continue his work leveraging A.I. research to understand what attributes of media content resonate with specific audience segments. 

In this episode, Chad and Yves discuss the two types of knowledge — narrative and procedural knowledge — how AI will learn to outpace humans on procedural knowledge, and how we can begin to understand the oldest and most human form of knowledge — storytelling. 

“Building something and selling something are going to be the two skills that are the most valuable in an A.I. or AGI future. Those are the two things that we can be confident are going to be the monopoly of the human mind for a while.”

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Quotes by Yves:

8:40 – “A studio will spend billions of dollars marketing movies. If you make a 10% improvement on that across 5 studios, you can imagine how massive your impact is.”

10:34 – “The product of the media industry is stories and narratives. And you’re telling stories that you are really hoping are going to resonate with audiences. So what you are really selling is brain states.”

10:58 – “I like to tell people that media is neuroscience without neuroscientists because you are making and selling brain states without any neuroscience.”

24:06 – “A story is a set of steps to solve a problem.”

28:27 – [On how machines and AI are advancing in this field] “It’s really going from machine learning to machine understanding. When you have this ability to map low-level data to symbolic representation and really understand how these symbols exist within a narrative, then that will be a really big step towards A.I..”

29:14 – “The capacity to articulate a narrative, which is what Yuval Harari talks about, that ability will be the monopoly of humans for a very long time.”

41:44 – “I think we are standing on the cusp of an explosion in creativity around media.”

43:00 – “We want more films, TV shows, and products that really push the limit, that really tell different stories for different people, that can also create a language that creatives can speak to the people who are funding them.  The risk is not in innovating, the risk is in not innovating.”

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O’Reilly AI Newsletter

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