Artificial Intelligence in the Entertainment Industry

Artificial Intelligence in the Entertainment Industry

Artificial Intelligence has been a hot-button topic for decades. Countless films tackle sentient machines and their place among humans, whether that be as a friend or foe, a threat or a benefit. Although we have yet to achieve true artificial intelligence in the way Hollywood portrays it, we still find ourselves up against the machine. They might not take over the world, but they threaten to take the jobs of thousands in the entertainment industry and are a big part of the ongoing writer’s strike. While certainly, humanity should strive to make advancements in technology whenever possible, it's important to be cognizant of their implications on workers in our society. Advancements like those we’re seeing in AI are wonderful, but they shouldn’t come at the cost of human creativity.

A big reason for the current writer’s strike is the ChatGPT bot and others like it. These bots are programmed to write clear responses based on a user request. There are many different types of artificial intelligence, but this article will focus primarily on language models and their role in the workforce. Here’s the response ChatGPT gave when I asked it to explain what exactly it is and how it works:

I am an artificial intelligence (AI) language model based on the GPT-3.5 architecture, which stands for "Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3.5". I've been trained on a diverse range of text from the internet up until September 2021. My training involves processing and understanding vast amounts of text data to learn patterns, relationships, and context in language. This enables me to generate human-like text based on the prompts I receive.

Machine learning is the broader field that encompasses AI, and my functioning relies heavily on machine learning techniques. Specifically, I use a type of machine learning called "transformer architecture" to process and generate text. This architecture enables me to understand and generate coherent and contextually relevant responses to the text prompts I receive. My abilities are a result of the patterns and information I've learned during training, which allows me to answer questions, provide explanations, generate text, and assist with various language-related tasks.

As the reader can no doubt see, these two paragraphs of machine-generated text are not only clear but written in a fairly natural, believable way. This opens the door to using a fun tool we’ve never had before and generating content like we never have before. An issue in the entertainment industry right now is whether or not AI should write scripts for movies, which effectively demotes Hollywood’s writers down to editors. To illustrate another example of current AI capabilities, I asked ChatGPT to write a script for a movie adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Here’s an excerpt from the first scene:

Lord Henry: (smirking) "Basil, my dear fellow, capturing youth and beauty is a futile endeavor. Time's grasp is relentless, and it spares no one."

Basil: (focused) "Perhaps, Henry. But art has the power to preserve moments, to defy time's cruel touch."

[Lord Henry's eyes gleam with amusement as he observes the interaction between Dorian and Basil.]

Lord Henry: "Art may immortalize, but it is the pursuit of pleasure that truly defines our existence. Youth and beauty are fleeting, my friend. To waste them on caution is a tragedy."

[Dorian turns his attention to Lord Henry, a curious expression on his face.]

Dorian: "You speak as though there is no consequence to such a life, Henry."

Lord Henry: (grinning) "Consequences, my dear Dorian, are merely the inventions of the cautious. Embrace life's indulgences, and let the world bear witness to your vibrant spirit."

[Dorian's gaze lingers on Lord Henry, a mixture of fascination and uncertainty in his eyes. As the camera pans back to Basil's painting, the portrait of Dorian begins to take on a life of its own, mirroring the allure and innocence that define him.]

Narrator (V.O.): "Little did Dorian know that his encounter with Lord Henry would mark the beginning of a journey into the depths of desire, temptation, and a darkness that would forever alter the canvas of his soul..."

The reader can see that the script is a bit clunky, even a bit cheesy when the narrator begins speaking. It’s as though ChatGPT became confused about whether it was writing a movie trailer from the 2000s or a proper script. This is where the demotion of Hollywood’s writers comes into play.

What bots like ChatGPT are paving the way for is making language models the writer and planner and our human scriptwriters the editors, cleaning up mistakes that AI is bound to make. They might remove some lines or clarify what the bot meant, even completely overhaul the script, and just use what the bot used as inspiration or a prompt. The reader will no doubt see how this is effectively writing a script from scratch, only with a tool that was not available before now. Changing the role of human writers to editors also means they do not need to be paid as much or be given the same credit and prestige as scriptwriters in the movie's credits. They can be acknowledged instead as lowly editors.

This greed and abuse of current technology has sparked the current strike. Writers picket outside of production companies for a cause that humans have been pushing against for some time, but never in quite so insulting a way. Machines have long robbed humans of jobs or made their work easier and less time-consuming. While this does often displace workers, most would agree that it has an overall positive effect on society. With art and media, however, that can’t be said. ChatGPT itself admitted that its abilities are rooted in detecting patterns and making informed assumptions about what the human user might want to receive in response. This leads to unoriginal stories in the world of fiction, and in the world of AI art, it leads to plagiarism. Many machine-generated images have been found to have warped or slightly altered images of paintings that real artists have done. This happens because machine learning uses thousands of sample images to improve, images that then get regurgitated without any ethical consideration.

The reader may also have heard that actors have recently joined this strike. While it’s true that bots like ChatGPT aren’t threatening their livelihoods, technology still is. CGI has become so advanced that not only can it be used to create the likeness of an actor’s face with impressive accuracy, but it can be used to de-age an actor and make them appear younger, as has been seen both in season four of Stranger Things and in the new Indiana Jones movie. The concern this raises for actors is that they may find a CGI version of themselves in a movie they weren’t given the chance to actually act in. It takes away the actor’s ability to perform something as they see fit and instead gives full creative control to the animators and production companies. Like a big part of the writer’s strike, it also means they won’t be paid as much.

Although AI and technology’s place in the workforce remains a contentious topic, it should be remembered that it has also paved the way for many advancements. Workers in almost all fields have easier jobs thanks to technological advances like computers, and new tools should continue being embraced as they become available. Companies simply need to remember that these advancements cannot act as replacements for human creativity. Language models are a fantastic tool for writers but are not a replacement. Likewise, the use of deepfakes and CGI to create an actor’s likeness is amazing and absolutely has use in certain situations (like those mentioned previously), but it too cannot become a substitute for the real thing.

How we handle and adapt to new technology will color the relationship artists have with the entertainment industry for a very long time, and that’s why these strikes and protests are essential. Technology has both created new jobs and changed the way existing jobs are done, most often in a beneficial way. It’s less beneficial when it’s used to mistreat the workers that have been there since the beginning. Let technology continue being a tool that can inspire and increase productivity, and let human creativity continue to inhabit the spotlight it deserves.