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Introducing our first AI interns, Aiko and Aiden

From the department of non-human resources

January 11, 2023

Headshot of Kyle Monson - Founding partner at Codeword

Kyle Monson

Founding partner at Codeword

This week, Codeword is like many other agencies in welcoming two new interns for our Winter 2023 Internship Class.

We’re unlike other agencies in that our interns aren’t human.

Say hello to Aiko and Aiden (they/them), Codeword’s first AI interns. 👋They’re also the first AI interns in the agency world, as far as weknow.

Aiko will sit with our fabulous design team, reporting to Senior Art Director Emilio Ramos. They’ll be taking on the kinds of design tasks that are appropriate for interns, like editing photos, drafting concept sketches/moodboard imagery, and icon design. Emilio is the ideal manager for our first non-human designer — he’s deeply skeptical, ethically minded, and technically skilled.

Aiden will sit with our world-class editorial team, reporting to Senior Editor Terrence Doyle, another principled curmudgeon, and will be doing voice-and-tone studies, news analysis, and possibly writing some first drafts of internal content. Maybe.

We’re not entirely sure, it depends on what they end up being good at.

A screenshot of a conversation with Chat GPT asking " do you think you'd be a good intern?" and the responding "As an artificial intelligence, I do not have personal experiences or the ability to perform physical tasks. However, Iam able to provide information and assistance with a wide range of tasks and subjects, and I am designed to be helpful and efficient. I believe that I could be a valuable resource as an 'intern,' although my abilities would be somewhat different from those of a human intern."
Our experiment with this level of human-AI collaboration is based on a couple observations from the past few months:

  • The agency world talks constantly about “the future of AI and automation,” but without many details or specifics
  • Our own team has been hesitant to integrate AI into our creative workstreams

Codeword works at the intersection of marketing, technology, and media, so it makes sense for us to experiment with new tools. Our team and our clients expect it of us. And Aiden and Aiko will be integrating into the agency’s tech stack, which already includes all kinds of AI-powered platforms. The difference is, they’ll be focused more on creative output, rather than the insights and analytics we get from more traditional automated marketing technologies.

a screenshot of a conversation with Chat GPT asking " What are names that begin with AI?". The response is "There are a few names that begin with the letters 'AI': Aiden, Aiko, Aileen, Ailish, Ainsley, Aisha. There may be other names that begin with 'AI,' but these are some of the more common ones. it is worth noting that names that begin with 'AI' are not necessarily more common or popular than other names. The popularity of names can vary widely depending on cultural and geographical factors.
Like all interns, Aiko and Aiden will get monthly performance reports, working toward a full-time role if their internship is successful. And it’ll take work from the team to identify their skills and abilities, and nurture them through the internship as they progress to a potential full-time role. We’ll be keeping a close eye on their output.

This article from Noah Smith and roon sketches out a rough model of creative teams and AI working side-by-side:

What’s common to all of these visions is something we call the “sandwich” workflow. This is a three-step process. First, a human has a creative impulse, and gives the AI a prompt. The AI then generates a menu of options. The human then chooses an option, edits it, and adds any touches they like.

The sandwich workflow is very different from how people are used to working.

But it’s not that different at all from a typical agency creative process.

Step 1: The creative team gets briefed on an assignment (the “prompt”)

Step 2: They go away and make some magic, and come back with options

Step 3: The team and managers choose the best options to further refine

Our initial vision is that AI will be incorporated in Step 2. A tool like ChatGPT is incapable of original thought, but it can remix, mimic, and mashup things it finds elsewhere. That can be valuable for our human creative teams, if we figure out how to harness that capability.

The trick will be to figure out what Codeword can do with AI that we couldn’t do without it. And whether we’re able to do our core creative work faster, cheaper, and most importantly, better.

In the meantime, Aiden and Aiko will be full members of the Codeword team. We’re adding them to our employee directory, they’ll create slides for our all-hands meetings, hopefully you’ll even hear from them on this blog.

You can find more details and quotes and official-sounding language in this morning’s press release.

Anticipated questions

How did you come up with the names and avatars?

The interns selected their own names and visual presentation (with prompting from their managers)

Is this just a marketing stunt?

We really hope not. Our aim is to be as transparent about our processes and learnings as possible, so the program has tangible takeaways for our team and our clients. And for you!

Will these interns be paid?

They won’t be paid, but we have a budget set aside to administer the internship program, and we’ll be donating their “intern wages” to the Grace Hopper Celebration.

Are they replacing human team members at Codeword?

No, we have lots of open roles right now, and anyway it’s been a long time since we’ve had a formal intern program.

That’s not very inclusive of up-and-coming talent that you should be nurturing.

Yes, we agree! It’s something we discuss often. As a specialty agency, we haven’t historically been very good at incorporating interns into our day-to-day work.

What tech tools are you using?

A combination of tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, Dall-E 2, and other technologies we’ll pick up along the way. The space is evolving fast.

How do Codeword’s clients feel about this experiment?

A lot of our clients are leaders in AI and ML, and we expect they’ll be supportive. But Aiko and Aiden won’t be doing client-facing work until we’ve figured out what kind of work they can do reliably, and the clients have expressed support. We see it as a potential win-win-win for our clients, our agency, and our team members.

Are you nervous this experiment will fail?

Absolutely. And just as nervous that it will succeed.

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