Expanding Human Creativity with AI 

Hilmar Koch


“Three guys walk into a bar…”

This is a common set up for a joke. In our case, though, against the backdrop of a sparsely lit, cold Tuesday evening in January, it sets up a uniquely San Francisco event. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t just three guys but creatives, technologists, and entrepreneurs of all sorts of “other” stripes that assembled in that bar. They came to rub elbows and to ponder how generative AI might expand human creativity. After some time socializing and opening remarks from the organizer, Mike Chen of Reason Future Tech, the show got underway…and the audience gathered around the bar, or leaned over the second-floor railing, craning to get a better view.

The presentations reflected the diversity of the crowd. Through cold calls and charm attacks, Mike assembled an art curator, a cloud computing engineer, a machine learning researcher, a computational photography artist, and me, an entertainment researcher. The presenters spoke in front of a 3×3 video wall, as well as hundreds of bottles of adult and NA beverages. The topics were surprising and enlightening, and, at other times controversial, intimate, or complex.

Karl spoke about spaceships losing weight, Heather about curating multi-species art, Daniel about finding structures in megapixels that cannot be unseen, and Han about computing with machines – he even had equations on screen, too! 

As for me, the topic was 2022. That year was the most consequential year of all my years making commercials, movies, and interactive experiences. Sure, digitization of the entertainment industry was as impactful, but it was more gradual. It took 10, maybe 20 years, depending on when you care to start counting. In 2022, however, every job in entertainment, or rather, every job came face-to-face with an existential threat, paired with the opportunity of a lifetime. It was a year of digital book-burning. Imagination, Design and Making will never be the same again. And the resulting economy will have changed for good. And, so I believe, will the rules of ownership – digital artifact ownership to be more precise. They will have to be rewritten, and for once everyone must participate in authoring the next chapter.  

All my friends and colleagues are experimenting with generative AI and researching new workflows while venture capitalists create new opportunities. We may never have lived in more interesting times than these. Something feels different from what we saw during other times of change and disruption. What’s different this time is the entirety of the system responding at once. When every job is changing, and the economy itself is changing, we need to be prepared for unusual events to upend business and economic models. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity – VUCA is in the air.  

Strategic Foresight demands that we then look at all the possible outcomes and decipher which elements of our paths forward are intersecting. And at all the intersections that I have been considering, ownership is key. It is in the hands of the individual to lay out their personal strategy for how to succeed. I believe we all need personal business plans that protect our precious work. And that was my call to action for the creative minds in that bar. It is my battle cry today.  

In the end, I don’t know if the joke landed, but I do remember that one energetic young entrepreneur from Hong Kong walked up and said: “You know, I flew here for this. You just cannot get this anywhere else. Even in Hong Kong.”  

I am grateful to live in a place where the mindset creates space for learning. A mindset, in which a diverse group of people are willing to learn from one another on a chilly winter Tuesday evening.  

In a bar.  

Hilmar Koch is Director of Media and Entertainment Research at Autodesk. 

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