Interview with Matthew our Cyber Futures 2023 Winner
Congratulations on winning the 2023 What’s Your Story? overall prize of 500 EUR in the Trend Micro video competition in collaboration with Cyberskills.ie. _______________________________________________________________________________
- Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Matthew, I’m just finished Fourth Year. I’ve spent my TY Year trying to figure out what it is that I want to do. I did a couple of courses and learned a lot of new things, but now I’ve realized that I’ve a wider choice of options and found a lot of new things that I could see a career in, whereas before I had restricted my career ideas to purely coding.
I’d describe myself more as Maths and Science inclined rather than the humanities like Geography or History. But at the same time, I’m also doing Art and might even say it’s my favourite subject. I also play piano and guitar, so it’s difficult to plan a future that uses both aspects. I try a lot of things in the creative field, teaching myself a lot to do with graphic design, film, and music.
With that broad range of options that I like, it’s been tough to figure out where I want to end up, since I also do love coding and everything in that area. I just see myself ending up somewhere where I can create things, whatever that’ll be. I’m also a lifeguard and enjoy anything to do with the water, going for sea swims whenever I get the chance, or going out on rivers and lakes on my paddleboard or kayak.
- How was the Cyber Security Academy last week? We would love to hear about your experience, what the course was all about and what you liked most.
The Cyber Security Academy was very good. I had spent time in MTU for my work experience in the Computer Science department, so it wasn’t the first time I’d been on the campus or met the people there. But cybersecurity is another area I can see myself ending up in, which just complicates my dilemma further. A future in cybersecurity is an interesting back and forth between the blue and red team, of penetration testing and then detection and prevention that most jobs don’t have. I think that it would be a fun career choice if I ended up going with it.
- What encouraged you to enter What’s Your Story?
The prize was very convincing but mainly I find AI and Machine Learning so fascinating. As an avid watcher of sci-fi, it’s similar to something you’d see in ‘Black Mirror’, but I don’t think its anywhere near as bleak of a future as that show portrays. I love to learn new things, whether that’s an instrument, a new hobby or a program, and I’ve really availed of AI’s many capabilities. I’ve always enjoyed teaching myself things, never really opting for classes or things like that.
So for me, AI has helped me with learning new things. For coding, if ever I have a problem, I’ll ask ChatGPT and learn from the mistake. While making the film, I had to teach myself Da Vinci Resolve in one night, so AI helped me with learning anything I was struggling with. I never liked video tutorials, I find they drag on and never go at the pace I need them to, so having an AI talk you through something at whatever pace you ask them to go at was a big help for me. I owe a lot of what I’ve learnt to AI, so I wanted to do it justice in my video.
- Was else was involved in making the video (if any)?
There was a good amount of work that went into it. I had seen videos using AI voices to voiceover, and I found it fascinating, so I wrote up the script and fed it into one that I found online. I did have to speed it up to fit it into the 2-minute mark, and I layered it 6 times at different pitches to give it that robotic feel to it. The final line of “You have nothing to worry about” was about 100 different voices saying it, chopped up, and pitched up and down. I wanted to make it sound like a robot glitching or malfunctioning, which I thought gave it that eerie feel.
- Where did you get your inspiration and ideas from?
Like most people I know, I spend a lot of time on TikTok, and recently there’s been a few videos I’ve seen talking about some topic or another but utilising an AI voice similar to the one that I used. It’s so realistic that it’s scary to think that the voice doesn’t belong to a person. So, I thought it would be something unique to use in my video, to blur that line and showcase what AI can do. I wanted to convey the good and bad side of AI. The video is voiced by this menacing, almost demonic type voice, yet the video is assuring the viewer that AI isn’t bad. That’s what I was going for, I want the viewer to think about the video, and I wanted it to seem like it was an AI that they were listening to. Like it was the AI trying to tell people that it’s okay. This is reinforced in the final line of “You have nothing to worry about”.
- How long did it take to make the video? Tell us about the process you went through to get the video to its final edit.
It took about five hours. It was Tuesday night, 1am and I was about to go to sleep. I decided to check out the competition they had been talking about in the course and I realised it was something I wanted to do. The deadline was the next morning, so I had to get to it if I wanted to enter into the competition. I downloaded DaVinci Resolve and got to work. I wrote up my script and fed it into the most realistic AI voice generator that I could find, to keep up that AI effect. I then filmed the background footage, at about 3am (hence it being pitch black outside). After it was all filmed, I drew up the title screen and my signature on Figma. Once I added in the music, it was ready to submit.
Then, as I’m on the entry page, I realise that it’s nearly four minutes long and has a copyrighted song in the background, which breaks nearly all the requirements. So back I go to rewrite a shorter script. I speed up the voice to fit it in and layer it 6 times at different pitches to add that robotic, unearthly feel to it. I also added the reprise of the voice at the end, with it glitching. I think that made it much more unsettling. At around 5am, I find some non-copyrighted music for the background and finally submitted it, after countless tweaks since I’m too much of a perfectionist with things like this.
- Would you recommend What’s Your Story to others?
I would. I know that most people wouldn’t want to put themselves out there like that, and I’m that type of person. But I think it’s important to do things you wouldn’t usually do. It’s nice to give your input about things too, I enjoyed it more because it was about something I could talk about for ages. And I must say, for most, the prize money should be enough of an encouragement to say what you have to say.
- Any plans yet for the prize money?
Not yet really. But I did lose my Airpods a couple of days before the competition, so maybe it’s a sign for me to get myself a new pair. I’ve also been using my sister’s laptop for a good while, so it might be time to get myself my own one.
- So, what’s next in your future? (Are you interested in a career in Cyber Security?)
That’s a great question with a not-so-great answer. I still don’t know. I have an idea, which is more than most people my age, but since I’m so indecisive, I really can’t make up my mind. I like such a broad range of things I like, and my favourite changes daily, so I really can’t decide yet which to choose. I could go either way really, I see myself ending up in a creative industry like design or film, but at the same time I can see myself in coding and cybersecurity which are polar opposite industries.
- Any suggestions for what question we should ask kids and teens in September, when we launch again? (In September we launch the annual video competition run by Trend Micro)
I think AI is a very interesting talking point, as is other modern-day worries such as climate change. I think tying climate change to technology could be something that people could talk about and encourage people to get more involved in these big issues for the next generation. I think there’d be many different angles that people could talk about, positive and negative, and it’s something that the new generation is passionate about.