The time to fight back against AI is now

It seems as if all we’ve been talking about since Chat-GPT emerged into the public consciousness last autumn is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it may or may not be coming for our livelihoods. At the one extreme we have pessimists sharing their dire warnings of AIs coming to take our jobs away and at the other extreme the optimists are telling us AIs/robots will augment people and usher in a new workplace paradise. My guess is that it will prove to be somewhere in between. The challenge is that we need time to work through how to take advantage of AI, time that we won’t have if we don’t fight back now.

The Guild Fights Back

One such example of fighting back can be found in the movie industry. On March 22nd The Hollywood Reporter shared that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is pushing back against the use of AI in its negotiations with studios and streamers. Their position is that AI has no role in guild-covered work, nor does it have any claim on IP rights, nor should it be given credit for any such work.  They’re taking this position to protect their members because they’re already seeing AI making inroads into their space.  One such example is the Deep Learning South Park episode, that aired on March 8th. This episode explores the potential societal impact of AI in their own unique South Park way and credits Chat-GPT as one of the writers of the episode.

The WGA is fully aware of the potential threat that AI has for creatives, including the writers under their protection. Regardless of the claims of AI optimists, generative AI is having an impact on the ability of creatives to earn a living, and now that GPT-4 has arrived that will only get harder. We’ve seen how platforms such as Chat-GPT offer the potential for AI-assisted writing (I did not leverage AI in the writing of this article), platforms such as MidJourney and DALL-E to produce artwork (I used DALL-E to produce the artwork for this article), and platforms such as Amper Music and Soundful to generate music. The AI industry clearly has creatives in their sights, and the creatives have taken notice.  Luckily this group of writers has someone to fight for them, but many others don’t.


But… AI Clearly Has A Role

In practice people within the movie industry seems perfectly fine with applying AI to augment their efforts.  The computer generated graphics (CGI) in many of my favourite films certainly use AI and have been doing so for years. One of the feel-good stories of 2022, and rightfully so, was that Val Kilmer worked with Sonantic to create an AI-generated voice for him for Top Gun 2.  Similarly James Earl Jones has provided the rights to early recordings of his voice for AI generation, enabling Darth Vader to live on. In both cases the actors chose to do this and benefited from doing so.  The point is that AI clearly is playing a role in the movie industry and always will. The primary questions are what will the level of augmentation be, and how will that augmentation be allowed to increase over time (and you can take it to the bank that it will).


People Need Time to Understand the Impact of AI

I think it is an incredibly smart move for the WGA to make a stand now, while they have the opportunity to do so. Their members need time to explore and absorb these new technologies, and eventually to find a balance with this wonderful set of tools that they’re being provided. They won’t be able to avoid AI, but they will hopefully survive it. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a member of the WGA, nor have I been one in the past, nor to I expect to be one in the future.  I do wish them well though.

Lee Child once wrote “hope for the best, plan for the worst”.  So let’s hope for this augmented paradise but do everything that we can to prevent our jobs from being eliminated through automation in the mean time. The time to start fighting back is now. Taking a stand before you’ve been replaced is far easier than taking a stand after you’ve been replaced. If you’re unionized, engage in discussions with your union representative about what they’re doing to help you navigate the coming changes from AI adoption. If you’re not unionized, now may be the time to consider doing so.  Failing that, start learning about AI and how to apply it to augment your own work practices – get ahead of the curve.



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