Hollywood, Are You Team Human or Team AI? It’s Time to Choose | PRO Insight
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The WGA strike hangs over all of Hollywood and the entire creative community. But as I wrote last week, one issue quietly towers above it all: artificial intelligence. AI represents a direct, existential threat to writers, and to all creatives. So it’s time right now to make a fundamental choice that will determine our industry’s path forward — yes, forever.
Here it is: Are we, as an industry, Team Human or Team AI? That question isn’t meant to be alarmist, anti-tech or overly simplistic. It’s just our collective reality, thanks to AI’s ceaselessly accelerating sophistication in a world that unleashed ChatGPT less than six months ago.
I’ve continuously raised a red warning flag about AI in my weekly columns since that time. But I’ve also tried to stay sober and optimistic through it all to point out AI’s positive impacts — examples of how artists can harness AI and its immense power to serve as a revolutionary new tool for their benefit. Contradictory? Not at all. Different contexts lead to different conclusions.
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Creators with fandom are positioned well, like the musician Grimes, who invited people last week to use a new tool, Elf.tech, to generate synthetic versions of her voice. Those behind the scenes, like Hollywood writers, are not. Where we place the human in the equation drives all of it, and we can’t wait for time to pass to answer that question.
With that prologue in mind, here is my three-act script outline that should guide every industry decision — including resolution of the writers’ strike — along this exciting, yet daunting, AI journey.
We, as an industry, must choose whether we are or are not Team Human and believe that human creativity is divine — that true originality and inspiration is unattainable by artificial intelligence acting alone. Team Human compels us to resist the urge to cede superiority of imagination to the providence of machines. No offense to the tech world in which I’ve spent my career. But it is “artificial intelligence,” after all, which means AI provides artificial creativity.
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We as a society have been trained to feel insecure about our place in the world next to increasingly sophisticated, productivity-prioritizing machines. Perhaps instead we flip the script and celebrate the fact that human minds fire in mystical and frequently unpredictable ways. To err is human, right? And that human quality, that nonreplicable weirdness, is precisely what opens the door to new possibilities.
AI, on the other hand, is powered by predictive models that inevitably lean towards the banal in its ceaseless iteration on existing works. That method might prove helpful in objective scientific endeavors like curing cancer, where AI-assisted research has already paid dividends, but not so much in breaking new ground in the subjective, frequently inexplicable world of the arts. As an example, yes, I could have told an AI to write this article in my style. But it can’t predict precisely the exact words I might choose next. (I’ve already changed them, in fact.) That’s part of the craft of it all, and there will always be a home for it.
If we choose to be on Team Human, then we must be unwavering in our commitment to keep humans at the center of the creative and entertainment universe. If we don’t make that choice now, AI inevitably will. Geoffrey Hinton, dubbed “the godfather of AI,” just left Google precisely to sound this alarm.
This doesn’t mean we reject AI or become paralyzed with fear. In fact, the recently launched Human Artistry Campaign’s first principle (out of seven) is that “technology has long empowered human expression, and AI will be no different.” We are realists and pragmatists. We understand that the world in which we create is forever transformed.
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But we also believe AI is here to empower our creative endeavors, not overtake them. AI expands the artist’s palette and canvas of possibilities. AI also democratizes art, much like synthesizers democratized music four decades ago. Synths empowered humans with creative ideas but no formal music training to bring those ideas to life. Hence ’80s New Wave. But we called these new, “synthetic” sound-producing instruments “synthesizers” for a reason.
If we accept that AI’s threat to the creative community is real, then we must back up that resolve with real teeth. That means we must define our incentive structures and the rules of the game accordingly. Our legal and business framework and guardrails must reflect this Team Human commitment.
The U.S. Copyright Office has made its choice to embrace Team Human, at least for now. It recently reiterated its policy to reject copyright protection for works “without any creative input or intervention from a human author.” This is a big deal. The government’s choice to require humanity in the equation lessens commercial incentives to create purely AI-generated works, because no single person can claim to be the ”originator” who deserves a monopoly to monetize them. AI-only generative art is for us all, in the public domain — something for IP-exploiting studio chiefs to keep in mind.
Putting humans first
Taking these three acts together and applying them to the Hollywood’s writers’ strike, how the studios choose to respond to the AI threat on fundamental issues of payment, credit and overall inclusion reflects a choice about which team they’re playing on. If that choice is Team Human, and AI is treated as an exciting new tool to support writers in their craft, then the right answer is simple. The priority position of human writers must be locked in.
At a minimum, Team Human calls for Hollywood to respect the writers’ position for at least six months (a pause similar to a recent call to arms by tech luminaries) and revisit the state of the AI revolution afterwards. Why would the studios embrace anything else? Ultimately, signing on with Team Human saves everyone in Hollywood, including the executives. It’s a fast slope down from calling shots to obeying bots. If they want to play the long game for their jobs, it’s the only answer.
For those of you interested in learning more, visit Peter’s firm Creative Media at creativemedia.biz and follow him on Twitter @pcsathy.
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