Almost unnoticeably, the Hollywood strike drags on.
That’s a problem for the members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA). Their plight is largely unseen.
Yes, the picket lines continue to be manned and the press conferences rage on.
But something very different is going on behind the scenes, and that “something,” may not bode well for human actors.
The current strikes were initially prompted by the usual compensation-related concerns.
However, this time the central issue revolves around the role that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to play in the future creation, production, and marketing of entertainment content.
In terms of the negotiations between labor and management, the situation is truly unprecedented, due to that technological elephant in the room.
Strikers are seeking an agreement that would set up guardrails across the industry in relation to the expanding application of AI technology.
Advances in AI are testing the law, especially when it comes to the manner in which courts are applying, interpreting, and ruling in cases that involve intellectual property.
Comedian Sarah Silverman recently brought a lawsuit in federal court against Meta and OpenAI for copyright infringement.
The case is part of a proposed class action lawsuit.
Silverman in particular alleges that, without having given her consent, books that she had authored were included in the technology’s training data.
No question that actors and writers have legitimate reasons to fear the loss of their livelihoods. After all, AI has the potential to allow studios to simulate the likenesses and voices of actors in perpetuity, without ever having to compensate individuals for the use of their personal identities, characteristics, personas, etc.
Let’s not forget that AI also has the ability to create screenplays, minus the human writers.
In relation to the strike, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, best known for her starring role in the 1990s sitcom “The Nanny,” stated the following, “If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble, we are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines.”
Bob Iger, who is currently a prime target of the unions, is on record as specifically having stated the drawings and videos generated by AI are “something that at some point in the future the company [Disney] will embrace.”
While speaking to a crowd gathered in Times Square, actor Bryan Cranston aimed his comment directly at Disney’s CEO, declaring, “We’ve got a message for Mr. Iger. I know, sir, that you look at things through a different lens.
“We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that to listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots.”
Union workers typically strike in order to increase leverage for negotiations with management.
The sad truth for both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA is that the recent strikes have increased the incentive for Hollywood employers to find ways in which they can actually prevent future strikes.
Despite the rhetoric of studio reps, AI technology equips entertainment employers to potentially avoid future strikes altogether, via drastic reductions or the complete elimination of conventional creative workers.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), i.e., the studios’ organization, has taken the position that AI should be used in what the group calls “a balanced approach based on careful use, not prohibition.”
Judging by actions as opposed to words, it appears that the major studios are tacitly embracing AI.
As a matter of fact, an AI hiring spree is currently taking place and almost every major entertainment company is involved:
—Disney has a number of open positions that focus on AI and machine learning.
—Netflix has similar job offerings, including an AI Product Manager job that promises an annual salary of up to $900,000.
—Sony is looking for what the company refers to as an AI “ethics” engineer.
—Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount, and NBCUniversal have also joined in the AI hiring boom with their own job offerings.
It seems quite significant that Hollywood studios are seeking to fill AI jobs; this in the midst of strikes that have occurred over AI’s use itself.
Tack this on to the fact that workers are having to witness layoffs that may prove to be the largest in the history of the entertainment business, including the firing of about 7,000 Disney employees.
From ancient past to present day, new inventions have historically caused labor displacement.
Again, though, something very different is going on.
And it probably has to do with the philosophical, political, societal, cultural, and ethical transformations that are occurring simultaneously in our country and globally.
The Hollywood strikes are likely to last a long time and may not bring a satisfactory outcome to the unions’ memberships.
So goes Hollywood, so goes the world?
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor.
Original Article: Newsmax