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THE ROBOTS THAT ATE HOLLYWOOD – Is AI a threat to creativity?

Moneymagpie Team 14th Aug 2023 2 Comments

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Filmmaker Miles Watts shares his thoughts on artificial intelligence (AI) and chats to other creatives about the potential threat to creativity. Read on, or click on the links below to go straight to that section:

What is AI?

AI seems to mean something different to everyone. Some have an instant recoil from the term, which to them means the replacement of humans by computers, culminating in a Terminator-type world meltdown. To others, AI is an exciting/inevitable new system by which the human race can take leaps and bounds into some kind of promised glowing future.  

Even leading AI experts have been all over the news recently, expressing their concern at the (let’s quote Terminator 2, since we already mentioned it) ‘geometric rate’ at which AI seems to be learning. AI may be taking its first steps into creepy art, where all the people have six fingers on each hand, or three legs (sometimes also on each hand), but how long until it starts to ‘remove human decision from strategic defence,’ has a bad morning and decides to launch all the world’s nuclear missiles at each other?  

We’re not quite there yet… apparently, but a computerised version of some catastrophic world event like Hiroshima in 1945, or even a close call like the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is what jams in a lot of people’s minds. With computers in charge, are we under even more threat than we are from some of the admittedly questionable humans who’ve idly fingered that Doomsday button in past and recent years? 

 

Mostly Harmless

Douglas Adams wrote about the fear of AI “boredom” in Mostly Harmless:

“A robot was programmed to believe that it liked herring sandwiches… whereupon the robot thought to itself: “Ah! A herring sandwich! I like herring sandwiches.” 

“It would then bend over and scoop up the herring sandwich in its herring sandwich scoop, and then straighten up again. Unfortunately for the robot, it was fashioned in such a way that the action of straightening up caused the herring sandwich to slip straight back off its herring sandwich scoop and fall on to the floor in front of the robot. Whereupon the robot thought to itself, “Ah! A herring sandwich…, etc., and repeated the same action over and over and over again.  

“The scientists… realised that what they had actually discovered was ‘boredom’, or rather, the practical function of boredom.” 

 

Society-altering AI

To give it its due, a lot about AI is unknown and potentially exciting: it may for example be able to predict and cure diseases in the near future, by aggregating scientific results and taking huge steps forward in terms of finding solutions.

But what of the aforementioned issue of AI literally taking away human employment, in a time when this seems even less fair than usual since we’re all still recovering from effects of a global pandemic that shut down thousands of businesses and drove up unemployment to 1980s levels? Surely any available jobs should go to us poor humans, rather than the next HAL 900. 

Readers’ opinions

MoneyMagpie asked some of its readers to provide their thoughts on AI, and we got some interesting ones. 

UK-born television and film actor Steven Elder, who will be shortly appearing in the ITVX drama The Winter King, voiced concern over the impact of AI in the film industry given the recent SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America (WGA) strikes: 

Advancing technology can open up great creative possibilities, but unrestricted use of AI can ultimately take the human instinct out of art; and open up all kinds of data abuses.

“AI is not going away, and, not only actors, but we are all going to need legal protections and restrictions in place. It’s time for governments to take this seriously, and act now. The US actors union, SAG-AFTRA, are currently fighting for proper management of AI, and it feels like they are on the frontline for all of us.”    

When it comes to my own career – screenwriting and directing – the mass strikes currently keeping Hollywood on hold are partly in protest of AI, more specifically the studios’ talk of using computers to write scripts to “save money”. And that’s even before we consider AI actors replacing humans (and their subsequent non-payment for their now-digitised services). Screenwriters are facing the very real threat of AI being used to write ‘vomit drafts’ (first drafts) of scripts, which human writers are then engaged to re-draft… or not, since AI could essentially provide its own script notes. 

MoneyMagpie reader Cassie offered this: 

“AI isn’t a threat to creatives who are open-minded and innovative enough to work collaboratively with AI to produce even better results or improve their efficiency. If you don’t jump on you’ll get left behind.

“And whilst AI could make creativity more accessible to some businesses, it needs to be paired with natural talent in order to compete. Think about it, Canva came out 10 years ago, but there are still talented graphic designers in business and terrible home-made graphics on socials!” 

 


Influencers and AI

MoneyMagpie spoke to former Made in Chelsea star Stevie Johnson, who is now the managing director of the influencer marketing agency Disrupt. He spoke exclusively about his view on AI and the influencer and content creator industry:

“AI is the biggest thing in digital right now and we are at a point where this new-age tech has seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. From incredibly helpful AI-powered language models like Chat-GPT to the endless wonders of platforms like Midjourney, the benefits of AI technology are vast. 

“It’s an incredibly exciting time for our industry to be embracing this new tech and the doors it will open for content creators now and in the future. But it does come with its issues across the board, which means we need to take action now to prepare ourselves for the future. 

“There is a looming threat within AI that opens up a whole world of trouble for content creators & the influencer marketing industry in its entirety, and that threat comes from deepfakes. Since the dawn of the influencer marketing industry, two crucial pillars have underpinned its success: trust and authenticity. Unfortunately, deepfakes pose perhaps the most significant threat to these essential elements since the industry began. Undermining these key pillars will lead to an inevitable loss of credibility among content creators.  

“While deepfake technologies can offer possibilities for brands to collaborate with celebrities and content creators without having to consume excessive amounts of their time, it is crucial not to overlook the potential harm they can inflict on a brand’s reputation. 

“It is crucial for agencies, brands, influencers, and platforms to collaborate and implement comprehensive measures that preserve the integrity of the industry. As we embrace the technological advancements of AI, we must keep our commitment to maintaining authenticity and trust with consumers that keep the industry thriving.” 

Writing robots

Again in terms of film scripts, what would an AI screenwriting software actually be writing? And how exactly would it save money – which is what the studio heads seem to be most concerned with?

Writers are famously NOT rolling in advances while welcoming huge residuals later down the line: another huge reason for the strikes. As renowned screenwriter Ed Solomon said recently on Twitter, he’s never received any contractual backend money from his work on the 1997 super smash hit Men In Black, because the studio accountants update him every year with the news that technically the film never made a profit. TECHNICALLY.  

No, I don’t understand it either. But either way, clearly no actual money has been lost to writers there, which is what the streaming services are currently under fire for: withholding information about earnings and therefore not having to pay residual fees to the people who did the creative work.

Heloise Laight is a business owner with 25 years’ experience of online marketing and content creation, with a team that includes copywriters, writers and editors plus a graphic designer.  All of these creative roles, while directly affected by AI, are being evolved by the team becoming proactive rather than fighting it.

“On the personal side,’ she said, “my son is currently studying a Fine Art joint Honours at Edinburgh University which also provokes much debate round our family table.” 

Final thoughts on AI creativity

I’ll be the first to admit that not everything creative, and certainly not everything that comes from Hollywood is super original, as the process can be woefully dampened down by the IP-obsessed billionaire elite. But let’s at least not start the process with such dismaying unoriginality.

All the films we love came from someone’s original idea, and what AI seems to be doing, if we go down that road, is creating the perfect copycat IP content, guaranteed to make profit. After all, AI creativity is a bit of a contradiction in terms. Artists may famously steal and homage other artists’ work, but AI literally lifts work from online and jams it all together like a clay ball, reforming it into something it then claims to be the work of the user manipulating it. It’s the kind of thing we were discouraged from doing at school: downright plagiarising.

And scriptwriting itself, though bound by structure, is not merely mathematically connecting Character A to Character B via Storyline C and waiting to reap the rewards of the bottom line: it’s a human thought process, as flimsy and maddening as it is fun. I don’t think any writer, while struggling to fit their story into the three or five-act script structure, wants the dots joined for them by a computer. They’d rather spend days drinking coffee and banging their head against a good solid desk, to come back to Douglas Adams.

To have our creative work done for us – music, art and writing to name but a few – by computers, leaves me thinking, well… to quote Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park: “Where’s the fun in that?”. Or perhaps more apt is Dr. Ian Malcolm’s counter to Grant’s “We’re out of a job”

“Don’t you mean extinct?” 

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Jenny
Jenny
8 months ago

Me and a team of twelve writers were replaced by AI last year. I don’t understand how this helps the economy one bit! It scares me how struggling businesses and small businesses can use it to cut corners … but it scares me even more when big companies are using it … they can afford the humans!

Vicky Parry
Admin
8 months ago
Reply to  Jenny

I am sorry to hear this Jenny. This is something we are hearing more and more and feels scary. I hope you found work.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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