AI is Entertaining, Not Entertainment

Julia Anderson
4 min readSep 25, 2023

In Los Angeles, the picket signs in support of The Writers Guild of America strike are unwavering. Four months in and counting, there seems to be no end in sight. While there are several reasons why a bulk of the entertainment industry is striking, artificial intelligence remains a wild card in the negotiations with production studios.

Sign next to Culver Studios saying “If you want to know how it all ends, PAY US!”

With the rise of creative technologies coinciding with the entertainment industry strike, to what extent does one movement affect the other? At the time of this publication, there are few regulations around how writers can use AI, let alone the mountain of different use cases coming to light every week.

Strikers know that AI will make it into the creative process of production studios, but not to what extent. There are ways, however, for AI and entertainment to coexist. To do so, we must understand what makes AI entertaining and how artists can use it without devaluing their work.

How It Started

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) raises concerns among Hollywood crew members, from actors to animators to lighting technicians. This new AI industry is valued at around $48B, ensuring that many want in on the action.

AI-generated content concerns animators and visual effects artists with examples such as the background art in Dog and Boy or scenes in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Digital replicas of background actors and models are also becoming more popular, which reduces the need for costume, hair, makeup artists, and management personnel. It is also possible to create pre-production models of set lighting instead of time-consuming diagrams drawn by hand.

A far more sinister use case could evolve without regulations in place. Studios could forever own actors’ likenesses (voice, image) in a practice dubbed “performance cloning.” This practice introduces copyright issues about who owns what content, how to train machines, and whether or not AI can take credit for creations.

Why You Should Care

1. Repetitive content

AI is excellent at categorizing data. While this formulaic approach is terrific for creating the structure for a cover letter, it may produce something too familiar. Since these generative technologies are trained on past content, its outputs may be predictable, showing “a lack of originality.” There can only be so many sequels, so many ways to repurpose the same content (which may happen as the strike lingers) until it is no longer entertaining.

2. Labor & Economic Loss

Regarding the strikes, entertainment adjacent industries such as restaurants, real estate, and drivers feel a devastating ripple effect. For generative technology, several companies have sprung up trying to be the next best thing, only to be found using cheap human labor. The future of work and how much will be automated is somewhat unknown, but what is happening in the entertainment industry is as good a test case as any.

WGA striker holding up sign saying “Alexa will not replace us!”

3. Devaluing Creativity

Distinguishing between AI as a tool rather than a creator will be necessary to give credit where credit is due and ensure that human work is not devalued. If AI models are trained on past content, perhaps without permission, people may be reluctant to share their work online, fearing somebody would modify it without their consent. The pursuit of art may become a reserved privilege for the wealthy, which would disproportionately “harm the development of artists from marginalized communities, like disabled artists, and artists with dependents.”

4. What is Art?

Since the entertainment industry is the source of new ideas, imagery, and talent, how copyright issues and perceptions handle art will set a precedent. Some philosophers and ethicists may argue that a work of art “uses the resources of a culture to embody an experience” and AI, lacking experiences and culture, could never create true art. Expect to see more debates around technological determinism, a reductionist theory that suggests society is powerless in the face of technological change. This theory contrasts the social construction of technology, which believes human action shapes technology. Regardless of your approach, it will be fascinating to see how AI evolves alongside art.

AI generated image showing “central cinema” sign and interior of a movie theater
Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash

What You Can Do

While it should not be on the individual to prove that AI is harmful, that is the industry’s current state. Here are some resources to decide how much you should incorporate AI into your creative process, where you draw the line, and where somebody may introduce harm.

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Julia Anderson

UX designer exploring how technology can make us better humans