Will the next 'successor’ be written by a chatbot?

When the union representing Hollywood screenwriters presented its list goals He added the familiar plea for compensation to studio contract negotiations this spring, which writers say have stalled or declined amid an explosion of new shows.

But, further down the list, the document added a unique 2023 twist. Titled „Professional Standards and Employment Protection for Screenwriters,” the union wrote that its „goal is to regulate the use of products produced by artificial intelligence or the like.” technologies.

Now, it’s a mix of computer programmers, copywriters, and consultants journeysAdvocates and comic book showrunners are alarmed by the growing prowess of artificial intelligence, and screenwriters are there to add to it.

„Before 2026, the next time we’re going to deal with these companies, they might say to us, 'You know what, you don’t have to, we’re fine,'” creator Mike Schur said. Nice place and co-creator Parks and Recreation.

„We don’t need them,” he imagines being told from the other side. „We have some AIs that are creating a lot of entertainment that you can tell people are enjoying.”

In an effort to prevent that situation, writers have something many workers lack: a union.

Shur, who is on the Writers Guild of America’s negotiating team, which has been trying in vain to avoid a strike before the companies’ contracts expire on Monday, said, „Immediately set the limit, and screenwriters are human beings.'”

However, historians note that unions generally failed to control the new technologies that facilitated automation. „I can’t think of any union that has had the courage to fix that problem,” said Jason Resnikoff, an assistant professor of history at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

The immediate future of writers, actors and directors negotiating new contracts this year will tell a lot about whether that pattern will continue in the age of artificial intelligence.

In December, Apple provided a service It also allows publishers to use artificial intelligence to create human-voiced commentators, an innovation that could displace the hundreds of voice actors who narrate audiobooks. The company’s website says the service will benefit independent writers and small publishers.

„I know somebody, some company always has to get there first,” said Chris Ciulla, who has made between $100,000 and $130,000 a year for the past five years detailing the books under union contracts. „But there are people who don’t understand how that ultimately affects the average storyteller, and that’s disappointing.”

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Other players fear studios will use AI to replicate their voices, while excluding them from the process. „We’ve seen it before: websites have popped up with databases of video game character voices and animations,” said Lynsey Russo, an actress who makes a living doing voice work.

Camera operators point out that studios already use motion or performance capture to copy performers’ movements or facial expressions. Blockbuster of 2018 Black Panther He used this technique for scenes showing hundreds of tribesmen on rocks, mimicking the movements of dancers hired to act in the film.

Some actors worry that new versions of technology will allow studios to steal their moves, „creating new shows in the style of a master.” Wushu Or karate and use that person’s style without their permission,” said Zeke Alton, a voice and film actor who sits on the board of his local union, SAG-AFTRA, in Los Angeles.

Hollywood screenwriters are very interested in ChatGPT, which focuses on imitating the style of great writers.

„Early in the union talks, we talked about what I call the Nora Ephron problem,” says John August, who sits on the Writers Guild bargaining panel. „Basically this problem: What if you fed all the Nora Ephron scripts into a computer and created an AI that could create a script that sounded like Nora Ephron?”

Screenwriter for movies like August Charlie’s Angels Y Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryAs artificial intelligence takes a backseat to compensation in Writers Guild negotiations, the organization makes two key demands on the issue of automation.

Union wants to ensure that no scripts, treatments, outlines or specific scenes can be written or rewritten by chatbots. „The worst scene would be: 'Oh, I read your scripts and I didn’t like this scene, so I had ChatGPT rewrite it,'” August said.

The guild also wants to ensure that studios can’t use chatbots to create original material adapted for the screen by humans, like a novel or magazine article.

SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, says more members of the union are reporting contracts for individual jobs in which studios demand the right to use their voices to create new shows.

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A recent Netflix deal sought to grant the company free use of an actor’s voice simulation „using all technologies and processes, now known or hereafter, developed throughout the universe and in perpetuity.”

Netflix said the wording in the contracts already existed for several years and allowed the company to make one actor’s voice sound like another actor’s voice if the cast changed between seasons of an animated production.

The union has Its members said They were not subject to contract clauses that allowed the producer to simulate new performances without compensating the actors, although he sometimes intervened and removed them from their contracts.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief executive of SAG-AFTRA, said these types of contracts pose the greatest risk to non-unionized workers, who may be unwittingly complicit in their own obsolescence. „It’s only one or a few instances where lifetime rights are waived that have a very negative impact on your career prospects,” Crabtree-Ireland said.

The Alliance of Film and Television Producers, an organization that negotiates with various unions representing screenwriters, actors and directors on behalf of major Hollywood studios, declined to comment.

If some unions of professionals manage to prevent obsolescence at the hands of technology, the effect is reflected in the status and prestige of their occupation.

To some extent, that seems to be the case with airline pilots. By the late 1990s, crews on most domestic commercial airlines had dwindled to two, but that has largely leveled off since then, even as automated technology became more sophisticated and the industry explored its potential. New reductions.

„The safety net you have when you’re at high altitude — the one thing that keeps you from accidents — is two well-rested, experienced, highly skilled pilots,” said Dennis Tager, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. American Airlines refers to Air Force pilots. To date, flight times of more than nine hours require at least three pilots.

Some doctors have not been replaced with artificial intelligence, which some experts predict is imminent in fields like radiology. This is partly due to boundaries Honoring technologists and clinicians involved in high-level conversations about the safety and deployment of artificial intelligence. The American College of Radiology was formed Many years ago And Institute of Data Science For this purpose.

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Whether screenwriters achieve similar success depends, at least in part, on whether there are inherent limitations to the machines they think can do their work. Some writers and actors refer to the „uncanny valley” from which algorithms cannot fully escape.

„Artists look at everything created and find a flash of innovation,” said screenwriter and producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach. lost Y The Enchanted Crystal: Age of Resistance. „What the machine does is reconnect.”

No matter how sophisticated the algorithms are, the fate of screenwriters and actors depends on how well they protect their position. To what extent are they able to convince the public that a man is involved?

Journal of Trade Unions. August says the Writers Guild, not the studio, should decide who gets writing credit on a project, and that the union will closely guard this ritual. „We want to make sure that an artificial intelligence is not one of the authors of a project’s topics,” he says.

SAG-AFTRA’s Crabtree-Ireland said unions also have legal letters at their disposal, such as the US Copyright Office ruling. In the month of March Content generated entirely by algorithms is ineligible for copyright protection. It is very difficult to monetize the product if there is no legal prohibition to copy it.

Perhaps most important is what we might call the weekly factor: the general public’s tendency to be as interested in the person behind the character as in the performance. Fans love to hear Hollywood celebrities talk about their style in interviews. They want to see the actors’ fashion sense and know who they are dating.

„If you look at the culture in general, the public is often interested in the real lives of our members,” says Crabtree-Ireland. „Artificial intelligence is not in a position to replace its core components.”

Noam Scheiber is a reporter based in Chicago who writes about workers and the workplace. He worked for The New Republic for nearly 15 years, covering economic politics and three presidential campaigns. He is a teacher Escape artists. @noamscheiber

John Goblin reports on the television industry. He is the co-editor This Is Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO. @goblin


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