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Hollywood Strike Is First Battle In AI War
The Hollywood strike highlights how, in a capitalist system, the problems posed by AI don't have easy answers.
The Hollywood writers' strike has brought into the open some of the risks and concerns about AI, making them real and tangible not just to thousands of writers and actors, but to millions of viewers who will be impacted as a result of production on their favorite shows being delayed.
What Is The Strike About?
Writers and actors, represented by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) respectively, have embarked on a joint strike. Their primary concerns revolve around the threat of artificial intelligence (AI) replacing their roles and the need for fair compensation in the era of streaming.
With regards AI, there are legitimate concerns that writers and actors could be made obsolete, or have their roles downgraded, by the new technology. The unions are demanding contractual protections against the replacement of human creativity and performances by AI-driven technologies.
Among the concerns writers have is that AI will be used to create first drafts of scripts, which writers will then be hired to edit and polish—for which they will be paid less. Their creative role may be all but lost.
Actors, meanwhile, are worried that production companies will scan them and use the data to generate characters in scenes forever, without needing the actor themselves. (There is evidence that this is already starting to happen, sometimes without apparent consent.)
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) presented what they called a "groundbreaking" artificial intelligence (AI) proposal, which was harshly criticized by SAG-AFTRA's chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. At a press conference, Crabtree-Ireland highlighted that the proposal suggested background performers would undergo scanning, receive only one day's pay, and grant their companies perpetual ownership of the scan, including their image and likeness. The companies would have the freedom to utilize the scan indefinitely across any future projects, without the performers' consent or compensation.
There are also questions about how AI is trained, with writers complaining that their works are being used without permission or payment.
Is The Threat AI Or Corporations?
The Hollywood strike shows the direction of travel for the way AI will affect society, after months of vague concerns that "AI will take our jobs".
In a capitalist system, corporations will inevitably seek to allocate money as efficiently as possible. AI offers corporations a way to reduce costs, generate scripts and content quickly, and avoid the pitfalls and complexities (including legal ones) of working with real people.
AI does not get tired, have rights, or need to be paid. It's logical that corporations should seek to maintain their competitiveness by using it, increasing their profitability and revenues for shareholders.
This is an old story, with a new twist. While changes like this have occurred throughout history, the rate of change and level of impact that AI will have may be unprecedented in human existence.
The writers' and actors' strike is likely the first of many that will occur as more and more sectors are affected by AI. At present, it's hard to see how this situation can be resolved. Either the use of AI is curtailed by regulation, meaning that countries that do not regulate it will be more competitive (leading to lower revenues and higher unemployment); or else continued use of AI will put employees out of work anyway.
In a global marketplace, there are few clear answers to these problems.
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