How AI can Really Challenge Movies

Don’t hide AI in writer’s rooms. Make AI the center of the show.

Douglas Rushkoff

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Photo by BoliviaInteligente on Unsplash

Almost everyone I speak with in the entertainment business sees ChatGPT and as-yet undeveloped AI technologies as a new way to write scripts or generate animations, and replace screenwriters and animation artists in the process. That’s dumb, on many levels.

First off, machine-generated writing sucks. It’s a reversion to the mean. Ask ChatGPT to write something, and it will create the most derivative and predictable version of that thing it can muster. That’s its job. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the desire to replace Hollywood’s humans with AI misses the real opportunity. AI is better and more interesting than that.

As Marshall McLuhan once noted, whenever a new medium arises the first thing it does is use the previous medium as its content. The first television shows were just stage plays, with a single camera in the audience capturing the action. It took decades before DesliLu popularized the “swing set” and shot the first three-camera sitcoms.

The first content of the text-only Internet was actually the medium of mail, but the first truly commercial medium it absorbed was television. The main thing we do on the Internet is stream TV. We’re still just in the baby stages of the Internet’s truly native content, such as networked gaming, blockchain, or interactive sports broadcasting (where viewers can select which angle to watch, place bets, and chat with others).

When a new medium arrives, we can’t help but think first about how to use it to do what we already know. This is particularly true for people who are less involved in artistic expression or experimentation than the “culture industry” of commercial entertainment, which is more focused on lowering costs and increasing profits than discovering a new form.

It’s no wonder, then, that entertainment business professionals see AI as a way to write scripts or render special effects. In some cases, they can hide the AI well enough to make it look as if real people created the stuff. But, from a creative media perspective, that’s hiding the very best part: the writer and artist got to play with the AI. All the compelling stories and hubub about AIs and ChatGPT are about…

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Douglas Rushkoff

Author of Survival of the Richest, Team Human, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://teamhuman.fm