I can’t tell how serious writers and actors are about their concerns with AI. They’re asking for some unspecified safeguards on the use of AI, or regulations, or something. In general, some language to assure them that their jobs will not be taken over by “AI.”
I think it’s ridiculous, but perhaps I’m attributing to the writers and actors things that have been overblown by the media or by the general public’s hysterical reaction to anything that somebody calls “AI.” Or algorithms in general. As far as all too many people are concerned, any “algorithm” is automatically evil and out to do us harm.
I base my ridicule on three things. First, people have been protesting new technology since the dawn of new technology. Two hundred years ago, the original Luddites destroyed equipment in textile mills in protest of automation, but they weren’t the first to protest automation. Strangely enough, the machines didn’t put them out of work. And yet protests against automation were common throughout the industrial revolution and continue to this day. Computers, for example, were going to put armies of clerical workers out of a job. But now, 70 years into the computer revolution, there are more clerical jobs than ever. There are cases in which automation has made certain jobs irrelevant, but it doesn’t happen overnight. And there continues to be need of the replaced skill for some time.
Second, the idea of artificial intelligence replacing a journalist, screenwriter, actor, programmer, or any other skilled human is laughable. As I’ve mentioned before, ChatGPT (which I think is what has gotten everybody up in arms) and similar tools are just mimics: they rearrange words in a blender and spit them out semi-randomly, following rules that dictate the form, but with no regard to substance. And that’s just regurgitating stuff that’s already known. Attempts at AI creativity–having the computer create something novel–are comically terrible. The idea of a generative AI replacing a human writer just isn’t realistic. Certainly not within my lifetime, and likely not within the lifetime of anybody born today.
Third, if somebody does develop an AI that can produce objectively better news stories, movie scripts, novels, acting performances, computer programs, etc. than a human, then more power to them! As long as I’m informed or entertained, I don’t particularly care who or what created the article or the performance. We all benefit from better expression of ideas, and those whose skills are better performed by artificial intelligence will either find something else to do that is not yet AI-dominated, or will be able to peddle their skills in a smaller and often more lucrative market. For certain, any actor who’s pushed out of the big studios by this future fanciful AI will have plenty of opportunity in smaller studios that can’t afford or don’t want to use AI technologies.
Yes, there is some justifiable concern that studios will use currently available techniques, and new techniques going forward, to unscrupulously manipulate an actor’s voice, image, or performance to say things that the actor never intended or agreed to. We’ve all seen those agreements that allow the companies to use our likeness in any way, shape, or form, in perpetuity. Those types of clauses should have been eliminated from contracts decades ago, and I support those who are trying to address that situation now. But beyond that, the fears about AI replacing skilled workers, especially skilled creatives, are unfounded.