Dinosaurs and the Intelligent Assistant

Matthew Weiner describing his show Mad Men:

“The story to me is about the onset of a subversive ethnic point of view that has not yet poked through to Sterling Cooper. They’re dinosaurs.”

Man-Men-secretarial-pool
When was the last time you’ve seen a secretarial pool?

A good secretary can perform a range of functions from typing letters, to booking travel arrangements, and picking up lunch. And it used to be that every middle manager in an office had one. And yet, despite the wide range of “activity flexibility” a secretary offers, how many do you work with today?

The cost of employing a human being was slowly offset by good enough technology: the copy machine, the fax machine, the personal computer, the internet, and the smart phone. Technology isn’t better than a secretary, but it’s good enough and doesn’t require health insurance or a pension!

I believe the role of the Assistant Editor is undergoing a similar change. Fifteen years ago the ratio of Editors to Assistant Editors was 1:1 or 1:2. Today I see production companies that have two or three Assistant Editors spread out over two, three, or four shows! Advances in Machine Learning and Deep Learning are only going to accelerate this trend.

If you only read one thing this week, I highly recommend Philip Hodgett’s post: Maybe 10 Years is Enough for Final Cut Pro X. In it he articulates how machine learning and deep learning are already transforming tools like Premiere; making them “good enough” for hundreds of thousands of editors around the world. These tools are only going to get better and better. At what point is “good enough” going to replace the cost of health insurance and a pension?

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