Why AI is a central dispute in the ongoing Hollywood strikes – PBS NewsHour

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This Labor Day weekend, Hollywood production remains shut down by writers and actors on strike. At the heart of negotiations is figuring out the role of artificial intelligence in the motion picture industry. Jules Roscoe, a reporter at VICE Motherboard, joins Ali Rogin to discuss the collision of labor and technology.
John Yang:
On this Labor Day weekend, Hollywood production remains shut down by two strikes, and as Ali Rogin reports, one issue is a big factor in both labor disputes.
Ali Rogin:
The screenwriters strike has persisted for more than 120 days with no end in sight. Actors joined the writers on the picket line this July, striking against the alliance of Motion Picture and television producers. It’s the first dual strike of both Hollywood actors and screenwriters in more than six decades and has brought many film and TV productions to a halt.
At the heart of these negotiations is figuring out the role of artificial intelligence in Hollywood. Jules Roscoe is a reporter at VICE Motherboard, specifically focusing on the convergence issues of labor and tech. Jules, thank you so much for joining us. Explain to me how the issue of AI is playing a role in these strikes.
Jules Roscoe, Reporter, VICE Motherboard:
AI is one of the two main issues that these writers and actors are focusing on because it is an absolutely new frontier for them when it comes to negotiations, and they’re asking for better regulation on how it’s used in the entertainment industry so that they don’t get replaced entirely.
Ali Rogin:
What are some of their concerns about the current state of regulation and how their likenesses, their voices might be used in the future if AI goes without additional regulations?
Jules Roscoe:
There are currently no regulations, especially when it comes to the contracts between the writers and the actors and the studios. Currently, studios are looking to push more and more AI into the entertainment industry because it is cheaper for them to use AI than to have actual humans creating this content. And what actors and writers are asking for is regulations for writers in particular how AI interacts with them in the writers room and how it’s monetized by studios.
Ali Rogin:
Right. So let’s talk a little bit more about how AI is currently being used and how are these actors and writers concerned that it might be used in the future?
Jules Roscoe:
Currently, AI, especially in writers’ rooms, is being used to generate new pilot ideas for new shows or to rework a script such that it can be used by a studio without having to have a writer in the room when the script is being filmed.
In relation to actors, a lot of actors have expressed concerns, especially background actors, about having their bodies 3D scanned and having those scans be used and manipulated by artificial intelligence to fill out the backgrounds of scenes and essentially replace them as a workforce.
Ali Rogin:
Another issue that actors and writers have cited is their work being used to train AI. It’s a process called machine learning. Tell us a little more about that and how their concerns play into what they’re asking for now.
Jules Roscoe:
Machine learning is essentially the process when you have a computer program that is designed to track patterns and detect patterns in a large set of information or data. And the way that you train this program is you give it a large set of information and you ask it to detect a certain pattern, and then you grade how accurately it’s detected the pattern you’ve asked it to detect.
The computer program can improve its performance based on number of trials and number of times, hence the machine learning. The crux of this matter when it comes to the writers and actors strike is that the large sets of data come from the content that writers and actors have generated, and they have not been compensated for any AI training that has been done on that data.
Ali Rogin:
It seems like the issues that we’re talking about have a lot of applications in other industries. How is this strike, how is this conversation going to be affecting other industries in the future?
Jules Roscoe:
I think this is absolutely going to set a precedent when it comes to how AI interacts with the workforce on many, many different levels and many different fields. You think about news, you think about media, you think about education. All of those are fields where AI can have a significant impact because it works faster, because it’s able to generate more content. And the regulations that we’re going to see hopefully come out of this strike are going to impact those industries as well. So this absolutely does set a precedent.
Ali Rogin:
And lastly, in the time we have left, what do we know about what the studios are saying about the demands of actors and writers?
Jules Roscoe:
Studios have, for the most part, especially over a long period of this summer, been unresponsive. There was a point where studios told actors and writers that their demands for AI are just unreasonable and that instead of having any sort of regulation, they would propose to have regular meetings to talk about advancements in technology, which is not what the writers have been asking for at all.
Writers understand that AI is unavoidable. It is the next technological frontier. They’re not asking for it to be excluded fully from their writers’ room. What they’re asking for is better regulations on when and how it’s used. And studios were largely unresponsive to that.
But recently, in August, studios have proposed a little bit of a transition where they won’t consider AI material, literary material, which means that AI will not be able to get a writing credit for any material that is used in shows or films. And that means that writers have a better shot at keeping their jobs and getting paid for their work.
Ali Rogin:
Jules Roscoe with VICE Motherboard, thank you so much for joining us.
Jules Roscoe:
Thank you very much.
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Ali Rogin is a correspondent for PBS News Weekend and a foreign affairs producer at the PBS NewsHour.

Andrew Corkery is a national affairs producer at PBS News Weekend.
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