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February 26, 2024
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February 26, 2024

AI is killing creatives, and we’re only at the beginning

Eva Lycette
A student works on their laptop. Illustration by Eva Lycette (She/Her) / Mass Media Staff.

With programs like ChatGPT and OpenAI gaining traction over the past year, as well as programs like Canva, Grammarly, Spotify and Snapchat all integrating their own versions of AI to varying degrees, it seems the new age of technology has entered into the global sphere. However, as Artificial Intelligence gains popularity, it sets a dangerous precedent for what is to come, especially for creative works.

To begin, what exactly is AI? Merriam Webster defines it as “a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers” or “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” (1) This isn’t inherently a bad thing. After all, we can use AI for good—think about using it in medical research to venture places no human can explore—and help as many people as possible.

This thought process, obviously, is a bit too utopian for modern society. Helping modern medicine or various cultures would be far too mundane for the uber-rich who would rather use it to fill their pockets with even more money like a cartoonish depiction of Uncle Scrooge in “Ducktales” reruns.

I don’t hate AI. I just hate what it’s become.

Between programs that can “create art”—which essentially means they steal a bunch of artists’ work from the internet to form a newer, less obvious form of art—websites that can write an essay for you based on a few prompts and quotes, and now Hollywood studio executives hoping to force their striking writers and actors into submitting to the use of AI.

AI creates a level of plagiarism, false creativity and undeserved ownership over everything we’ve come to know about society. Everything we’ve been warned about since our first papers in grade school has been turned into one easy to use program, now being promoted by every company from Microsoft to Netflix.

Over the past decade, the United States has continuously shied away from focus on arts education in favor of putting money into other sectors. Books are being banned for no reason other than the mere existence of BIPOC or LGBTQ+ characters. We are heading toward a future that is intentionally trying to diminish all forms of creativity and individuality people may try to express.

I am, of course, aware of the irony that I am writing this piece about my distaste for AI while actively using Google Docs—a company that has been notoriously shady about their AI usage. In fact, when creating this document, I received a prompt to join Google Labs to test AI in Google Workspace, a task that would allow Google to potentially harvest my writing to train their AI software.

In addition to writing for the paper, I write creatively and have been doing so as an outlet since middle school. I also use Google Docs for my academic work, because I find its ability to save and archive much easier than Microsoft. This means everything from my terrible middle school poetry to my grad school personal statement and essays on Jane Austen are all stored across various Google Drives throughout various years.

Trying to find something to match my needs is nearly impossible, but I don’t want to use Google Drive more than I have to. While this seems like a first world problem—and it definitely is—it’s just an example of what our bleak future could become. Today, it’s writing programs. Tomorrow, it could be all works of fiction created by typing a few words into a generator to spit out a result.

I don’t mean to be a fear-monger. I want to stay hopeful that we can still have creatives and produce works without the looming threat of Artificial Intelligence casting a dark cloud over us. However, as I watch the writers’ and SAG-AFTRA strikes, I fear we may be taking a one-way, high-speed trip to a “Black Mirror”-esque future.

For those who may be unaware of the current state of Hollywood, both the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have recently elected to go on strike for many reasons, one of which being AI. Both unions had similar concerns surrounding the use of AI, with the WGA expressing concern over the use of AI, stating in their demands to studio executives that they wanted to, “Regulate use of artificial intelligence on MBA covered projects: AI can’t write or rewrite literary material; can’t be used as source material; and MBA-covered material can’t be used to train AI.” (2) The executives rejected this and proposed a meagerly annual meeting about technological advancements.

SAG-AFTRA also expressed worry over AI, with desires to “require that a performer has to consent to any use of their performance to train an AI system. The AMPTP would accept that for AI training used to alter or recreate that performer’s likeness. But according to [SAG-AFTRA executive director Duncan] Crabtree-Ireland, the AMPTP would give studios carte blanche to train AI systems to create ‘synthetic’ performers, or for other purposes.” (3)

Studio executives—all of whom make millions of dollars a year—are so concerned with paying their creatives more than mere pennies that they’d rather photoshop them into a scene and own their face forever. Nevermind writers, who are already attempting to compete with waning writers rooms and quick deadlines, could be completely cut from the picture entirely. These aren’t just stories and characters we can push around like toys, these are real people and their experiences on a screen. Andrea Peterson for MSNBC puts it best:

“But this isn’t just a Hollywood problem. It’s one many workers, especially those in white collar creative roles, are now or will soon be facing: Their past work being used to train their robot replacements.” (4)

That’s the thing with AI. Although it might seem like a fun, quick way to write an essay, get some new music or get a sequel to a long-forgotten favorite movie, there’s hundreds—if not thousands—of people who are put at risk because of it. We can’t continue to have executives complain that no one wants to work when they’re actively replacing people with robots. Our likelihood, from these very articles to academic papers to middle school fanfiction on Wattpad or Tumblr, are all at risk of being harvested for the greed of the uber-elite.

Though Bob Iger, Greg Peters, Ted Sarandos and every other CEO of these companies will be fine without a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, that kind of money is the difference between life and death for the people who keep their companies as the streaming empires we know them as.

I can’t tell you to stop using AI. Hell, even I find myself using fun TikTok filters and Spotify DJ now and again. What can be done, though, is holding people accountable—CEOs and normal college students trying to write papers alike—to not use AI to wipe out creative works. Not to sound like an English professor, but plagiarism, in any form, is a punishable offense, and that won’t go away with AI. It just makes it more annoying.

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/artificial%20intelligence
  2. https://www.wgaeast.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2023/05/WGA_proposals.pdf?link_id=1&can_id=a09a8f649a17770eaee0da640da3fdc0&source=email-wga-on-strike-2&email_referrer=email_1901631&email_subject=wga-on-strike
  3. https://variety.com/2023/biz/news/sag-actor-strike-contract-sticking-points-1235670826/
  4. https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/wga-sag-aftra-strike-writers-actors-ai-hollywood-rcna94318
About the Contributor
Katrina Sanville, Editor-In-Chief