Autodesk and James Cameron discuss how to design and make a better world

Categories: Our Company Business Perspectives
Tags: artificial-intelligence autodesk-life digital-transformation platform
  • Autodesk launched its 2024 State of Design & Make Report to uncover insights from across Design and Make industries.
  • To explore the report’s findings, Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost sat down with filmmaker James Cameron for a conversation about building a better future.
  • The duo discussed how technology can be a force for good across industries to unlock creativity, achieve sustainability goals, and ultimately, do more with less.

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost sits down with filmmaker James Cameron to discuss how going beyond boundaries can help design and make a more prosperous future. Photo Credit: Steven Duarte on behalf of Axios.

This week, Autodesk launched its 2024 State of Design & Make Report – a comprehensive survey from across Design and Make industries – revealing the challenges they are facing as they tackle some of the world’s most complex problems – from building affordable housing faster to manufacturing more sustainable products to producing blockbuster movies on tighter budgets.

To explore the report’s findings, Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost was joined by filmmaker, visionary, and explorer James Cameron for a conversation hosted in New York City at One World Trade Center, an iconic landmark designed and made with Autodesk software.

Anagnost and Cameron explored how designing and making anything – from films to robotics – must have a vision that allows people to get beyond their self-perceived boundaries and ignite their imaginations to do what’s never been done before. Cameron shared his belief that you have to see a project from 10 feet away and 10,000 feet away in order to harness technology and creativity to make something truly groundbreaking.

“I think of almost every project like a fractal,” said Cameron. “There’s the immediate pattern that you can see, and that’s the vision. That’s the thing you go after. As you go down levels of magnitude, you see more and more patterns and you realize that greater pattern. The grand pattern is made up of all these kind of fractal details that need to be there. And this is where I think AI can be helpful, because it can fill in some of those detail levels and allow us as artists to stay at a higher level.”

Learn more about the report

Anagnost and Cameron discuss their perspectives on how humans can work together and with technology to make discoveries and tell stories that inspire – from deep sea submersibles to the next Terminator franchise film. Photo Credit: Steven Duarte on behalf of Axios.

Data from the report validates Cameron’s perspective on emerging technology and indicates trust in AI is on the rise. Today, more than 3 in 4 Design and Make professionals say they trust AI for their industry and believe it will make their industry more creative.

“Most of the technical breakthroughs now are more iterative…It’s about: how do we do it cheaper, faster, more efficiently? How do we have a more direct path from the imagination to the screen? A lot of the tools that Autodesk creates are really right at the heart of how that’s done…,” said Cameron, “The expectation is – I want to be blown away. I want to be transported. I want to see something I couldn’t imagine for myself. People’s imaginations are pretty good, so that threshold keeps moving up, and so we attack that with everything at our disposal – all of the imaging tools, all the software tools, faster compute speeds, and more memory.”

The report also found that designers and makers are embracing AI to advance their sustainability goals, with 69% saying sustainability is good for short-term business success, up 25% from last year’s report. Businesses who don’t meaningfully commit to sustainability risk being left behind by competitors whose values are in line with those of their employees and customers.

“We have to walk the walk. We can’t be making these films that are essentially confronting people with the rapaciousness and the wastefulness of human society,” said Cameron. “From a perspective of nature and balance, we can’t be putting these stories into the marketplace without internalizing it ourselves.”

As new technology helps companies make faster progress against their sustainability goals, the ability to work with AI has emerged as the top skill companies are prioritizing in their hiring decisions. However, these same leaders say a lack of access to skilled talent is impeding their progress and hurting their businesses, with 77% agreeing that upskilling and training will be vital.

Leaders across Design and Make industries, analysts, media, and more gather at ASPIRE at One World Observatory to hear leaders like Anagnost and Cameron discuss their visions of a brighter future. Photo Credit: Steven Duarte on behalf of Axios.

Building an AI-powered workforce

To reflect on these challenges and explore how to prepare the workforce for an AI-powered future, Autodesk hosted a series of follow-up conversations with Design and Make leaders and innovators. While the data indicates that future generations will be required to understand emerging technologies like AI, only 38% of companies have the skills and resources to design internal training programs that can help upskill the workforce.

As part of these discussions, Anagnost joined Axios’s former Editor-in-Chief and current Publisher Nick Johnston to discuss the fundamental role companies like Autodesk must play to bridge this gap.

“What happens in this industry matters to all of you and your lives,” said Anagnost. “Right now, we’re at the height of a lot of changes. Our industries are confronting AI, they’re facing sustainability issues, and they’re addressing building and rebuilding infrastructure. We have to recognize – especially with architects, engineers, construction, manufacturing processionals – that AI is going to change the way they work. There’s no doubt that how they do their jobs is going to get reconfigured in some profound way in the next five to ten years. People are going to have to learn new skills.”

Anagnost and Johnston discussed the fundamental capacity challenges across Design and Make industries. Without enough money, materials, or people to build and rebuild what needs to be built and rebuilt in the world, Anagnost shared his belief that AI can emerge as an unlock for the Design and Make industries. By exploring AI more deeply, people will be able to work alongside technology to do more with less and ultimately, tackle the world’s biggest challenges.

“While capacity and economic constraints have dominated industry conversations, it’s not surprising to see increased trust and optimism in AI, digital transformation, and sustainability, as our customers aim to be more efficient and cost-effective,” said Anagnost. “As the world confronts unprecedented challenges, technology is our most powerful tool for designing and making a better world for all.”

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost in conversation with Nick Johnston, Axios Publisher and former Editor in Chief. Photo Credit: Steven Duarte on behalf of Axios.