Q&A: will.i.am Talks Masks

    Here’s what he’s been up to during the pandemic

    The singer, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur, inventor and founder of Black Eyed Peas has been busy during the pandemic.

    He’s been making music, exercising more and cooking at home. He also created the XuperMask.

    Here’s what he had to say about what he’s been up to.

    What inspired you to create the XuperMask?    

    When the pandemic broke out, it quickly became clear that masks were going to be a new must-wear item, like shoes or a jacket when it’s cold outside. It’s about common-sense public safety. First the why: Medical experts and scientists have shown that wearing a mask is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of contagion factors. When masks first became a must, there was a shortage situation, so people started making their own. Rather than looking "medical," regular people wanted to keep safe and also try to look a bit styling, a nod to being fashionable and functional. From a functionality standpoint, masks have their issues. Your eyeglasses fog up. Masks are hot and stuffy. Talking on your phone is muffled. Your earpods get dislodged or tangled up. And what do you do to avoid contamination when you must take it off to eat or drink while out in public?

    As a Futurist, how long do you forsee we will be wearing masks while moving around in public?

    It's going to be a long time before the world returns to anything that resembles the old normal. Our new normal, while the world continues to battle the virus and get the majority of people around the globe vaccinated, is to continue to include wearing masks. Gathering in public places, like sports stadiums, movie theaters, concerts and air travel will continue to be "mask up territory."

    How did you get into AI? 

    My interest in all things tech and future tech started in elementary school. Flash forward, the way I make music is intertwined with technology. AI is a newer, more advanced form of computing that is going to change the way we do everything – driving, authenticating identities, education, criminal justice and many jobs in customer service and clerk-type roles that will eventually go away. For every job category that goes away, AI will create a whole class of new roles we don’t even know about yet. One emerging job is teaching computers to recognize the human voice, the tone, the accents and multiple languages. Another role is Bias Prevention – if machines are making decisions, but they are using flawed logic, or contain innate bias, the current state of discriminatory behavior will just perpetuate itself.

    You've been producing, performing and making music during the pandemic. What is that like?

    Music has been my retreat, a place to focus my concerns and express how I feel about what is going on in the world. Making music that Black Eyed Peas can share and help lift people’s spirits and spread happiness is important to us. Not traveling as much has actually been great for productivity in terms of producing the Black Eyed Peas first album in eight years and this album includes five mega hit singles. We’ve gotten really creative and are using technology to perform remotely, and in socially distant safe ways to appear on TV specials and during live events around the world. We are rising up to work around roadblocks that are temporary challenges.

    What things have you been doing to adjust to spending less time traveling, and more time at home?

    Traveling less frequently has given me more time to make music, to focus on running my businesses and also finding new ways to harness technology to work around obstacles presented by not being able to gather, perform before a live audience or travel. I'm also spending more time on my personal fitness, working out every day and riding my bike more often. Since going out to eat in restaurants has been interrupted, I'm cooking more at home and have become my own vegan chef.