Hollywood vs. AI: Why their fight could be our own

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 425 views 

On May 2, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) ceased negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Chief among their concerns was the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in the creative process, particularly with generative AI tools like ChatGPT.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) followed suit on July 14, adding 160,000 more creative professionals to the picket lines.

Turns out, there’s more to fear than simple text generators, with tools like Runway Gen-2 already capable of taking an image and turning it into an impressive video. It’s not inconceivable, given the rate at which technology progresses, that feature films might be entirely AI-generated in the next five years from a simple prompt.

This leads to the two big fears driving Hollywood right now.

Replacing live actors isn’t quite ready for primetime. Despite the impressive de-aging of Harrison Ford in this summer’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the technique had to rely on clever lighting and stunt performers to work as well as it did for the 20 minutes audiences witnessed it. Powering an entirely new Indiana Jones adventure with a young Ford would be an insurmountable task at this stage of AI development.

But if you’ve played with ChatGPT, then you know it’s capable of producing some pretty strong ideas and text generations on its own. It may require a human to guide it, but a first draft on paper happens a lot faster using it than not. Writers are concerned that they will be paid less to become glorified editors for what a machine wrote. Hence, devaluation.

If you’re not in Hollywood, it can be difficult to empathize. I’ve spoken to several people where I am based in Arkansas who see AI as an overdue comeuppance of sorts for the actors and writers on the picket lines. The perception of Hollywood as being out of touch with the average American is not a new phenomenon.

A survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League found that a majority of Americans believe Hollywood doesn’t share their moral values, with 59% agreeing that “the people who run the TV networks and the major movie studios do not share the religious and moral values of most Americans.” This perception, coupled with the belief that Hollywood is a highly paid and privileged industry, could be what’s driving the collective shrug among the apathetic.

However, the WGA/SAG-AFTRA arguments playing out this time should not be dismissed as a Hollywood spectacle. The concerns raised are relevant to workers across various sectors. AI replacing human jobs, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has assured us, will happen.

These strikes offer a window into the broader implications of AI on the job market. While it’s easy to dismiss the concerns of those we perceive as privileged, it’s important to remember that the impact of AI on jobs will not discriminate based on industry or income level. The automation of tasks and the potential for job displacement is a reality that workers in all sectors are going to face.

That said, AI’s impact on the job market is a complex issue. On one hand, AI has the potential to automate many tasks, leading to job displacement. A report by Brookings suggests that AI’s machine learning capabilities could affect a range of tasks and occupations, particularly those involving better-paid, better-educated workers. The report uses a novel technique to establish job exposure levels by analyzing the overlap between AI-related patents and job descriptions.

On the other hand, AI is also projected to create new jobs. According to a Price WaterhouseCoopers Global Artificial Intelligence Study, the tech will ultimately lead to long-term job growth. By 2030, that growth culminates in an estimated $15.7 trillion, or 26% increase, in global GDP. Getting there, the World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs may be displaced but 97 million will be created across 26 countries by the year 2025.

But this does not address the short-term pains that could arise in the interim. Being suddenly replaced at your once-stable job and having to learn new skills costs money and time that you can’t get back. Considering that only 37% of Americans have enough money to handle a $500-$1,000 emergency expense, these new hurdles could lead to more significant setbacks.

All that said, I’m an optimist when it comes to AI, and I do believe we will arrive at a better society as a result of it. But there will be growing pains to get there, and how we handle the balance between safe regulation and the ability to innovate will be critical to how severe those pains will be.

Businesses both in and out of the AI realm can help by taking action now. This includes investing in education, training, and policies that help workers transition into new jobs or become more valuable and take greater ownership of their existing roles. In the end, this may be the only way of ensuring that the benefits of AI are available to everyone.

So the next time you hear a friend, family member, or colleague speaking out about those brats in Hollywood finally getting theirs, remember that the strikes are not just about the future of the entertainment industry. They are a call to action for workers, employers, and policymakers to engage in a balanced and informed discussion about the future of work in the age of AI.

It’s a conversation that needs to involve not just Hollywood, but also middle America and beyond.

Editor’s note: Aric Mitchell is an AI consultant and communications strategist, and produces the AI-focused newsletter, Innovation Dispatch. The opinions expressed are those of the author.