Hollywood actors and writers are striking for a number of reasons, including wages and working conditions – but also over concerns about artificial intelligence (AI).
Screenwriters worry about AI control in the scriptwriting process, while actors worry that AI replicas of themselves will be used without adequate compensation.
If this all sounds like something out of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian series Black Mirror, that’s because it is – Joan Is Awful, an episode of the latest series released earlier this year, stars the actress Hollywood Salma Hayek battling a streaming service when she realizes her AI likeness is being used in any way she chooses.
The impending cloud of AI hangs over every industry, but are writers and actors right to worry?
“Legitimate concern, but a bit exaggerated”
Speaking to the Sky News Daily podcast, Dr Alex Connock, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Said Business School who has written a textbook on media and AI, said that while tools such as the ChatGPT language model are already being used to produce content writing elsewhere, Dr. Connock said, there hasn’t been any “really” creative writing produced yet.
“There’s a very good reason for that, and that’s the way it works is that it’s trained on historical documentation that has been fed into the case of ChatGPT from pretty much all over the internet,” did he declare. “So he learned his behaviors, if you will, he learned his language from what’s already been written. Writers fear that something with that ease of doing that can then replicate other writing styles and writing preliminary scripts and so on, which is a legitimate concern.
“The actors, meanwhile, are concerned that some of the contracts, which in particular extras were given, included the rights to have their faces ingested into AI systems…they fear that they will then be reproduced in productions without being paid for it. And that’s probably a legitimate concern.”
However, he said there were nuances in both cases.
“So by taking the actors first, very legalistic Hollywood companies, say Disney, are unlikely to take the risk of using an actor’s likeness in a production if they didn’t explicitly got permission from that actor to be in that production,” Dr. Connock says.
“In any case, if you were doing synthetic faces using AI, you probably wouldn’t train the system on just one person’s face, but you would train it on a million or even a billion of faces. So the ultimate faces that would be used in these projects wouldn’t be, in fact, the likeness of a single actor. So I think the concern may be slightly exaggerated there, although I can see the point of the actors that they want to be very careful to protect their likeness.
“What [writers are] Worryingly, studios could, for example, use AI to write preliminary scripts and then ask writers to polish them, denying them the right, as an initiator, to earn a lot of money. money on the project. So I think that’s probably a legitimate concern. But again, a bit of an exaggeration.
“One of the things about generative AI is, of course, it’s not really original at all. And if we think we like to see original content rather than content that directly represents content of the past, anyone is unlikely to be truly entertained by content that was exceptionally derivative, which is in fact all releases from generative AI systems, so the authors may be a little too worried.
“And in fact, there’s a school of thought that instead of synthetic content taking over, human content will become more and more valuable. The quality of the content decreases as each generation of synthetic content is trained on the latest, and what these systems really need is original human content.
“So if I was trying to reassure writers, I would say that actually, if they’re good writers and they’re writing real human stories based on real experiences, that content could become more and more valuable. in the future rather than less valuable.”
“We want guarantees to be put in place”
TV and theater writer Lisa Holdsworth, who is president of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, said AI was a “hot issue” in the industry.
“We want some safeguards to be in place to make sure that we’re not replaced by an algorithm where our existing work is piped in and then, like a sausage factory, the scripts come out the other side and our work is just to give them a polish,” she told the Daily podcast. “Because it’s not creation – it’s theft, in our opinion.
“So there’s a lot of stuff coming over the hill. We want to be up front. We want to talk about it with businesses, production companies, broadcasters and streamers.”
Currently, “very little” AI is used for writing, Ms Holdsworth said, and it’s still a “pretty brutal instrument” in its current form. This means that strikes today are aimed at anticipating possible future problems.
“But the more of our existing work is integrated into these algorithms, into this system, the more it becomes a concern and a threat,” she said. “It’s used in graphics, on-screen visuals – the recent Secret Invasion, the Marvel series, the opening titles were designed by AI and it made some people very uncomfortable.”
Ms Holdsworth says it’s “laughable” to think that AI can replace human writers and produce the same level of work.
“So there’s a part of me that doesn’t think it’s a risk that way. I think what comes out the other end of any AI system will be incredibly mundane, incredibly poor, and will have need human writers – eventually someone will knock on the door saying, ‘please, can you help us with this?’ But if, in the meantime, people are losing their jobs, losing their status and position in the industry, that’s obviously very concerning.”
While the quality would decline, the power lies in “the people doing the math”, she added.
“People who make money, look at spreadsheets, mostly aren’t creative people, and it’s been a good relationship for a long time. Some people make money and figure out how to pay for it all, and some of us do the creative work.
“Where the balance seems to have shifted over the past few years is that the power lies with the non-creative people within the industry. And if they can find a way to save a dime, we don’t let’s not annoy the creatives by demanding fees and salaries.” and copyright and things like that, so it looks like they will. So actually the threat doesn’t necessarily come from the technology, the threat comes from people who, with this lack of creativity, don’t realize the Pandora’s box that could be opened if we go down this road.”