What are we going to do about AI and what’s it going to do about us? Workers and automation: Recommendations (2/2)

You may have noticed that the Script Writers Union and the Screen Actors’ guild of America are on strike [1]. Part of this is their fear that movie producers will be able to replace both with generative AI and Avatars. We used to assume that AI would only take away the repetitive jobs, leading to the value of human endeavour being directed towards the arts and other creative pursuits.

Well, it seems the poets, artists, musicians and videographers are all getting worried about their jobs now too as AI starts to sweep arts competitions [2] and make music in their name [3]. It feels similar to the time that the RCA A&R man looked suspiciously at Spotify before being handed his P45.  

So unlike the lawyers in the previous post who fear that they will no longer be able to “exploit” their juniors to direct concentrated wealth to the partners, the actors and screenwriters fear the opposite – that producers will be able to capture the value because their unique-style and star status lets them earn more than their peers. Two opposite sides of the same coin.

Will this mean we see actors’ sometimes enormous fees also follow a race-to-the-bottom cost curve as those who license their likeness [4] start to suck up the jobs by undercutting the competition (box-office stardom as a passive income stream, anyone)?  We are also seeing large companies like Google [5], Microsoft [6] and Adobe [7] incorporate elements of generative AI into the tools they release. These are no longer esoteric features embedded in the tools used by the professionals who sell creative output; a process that we might call creative-disintermediation. It will do for your graphic designer what Amazon did for your book shop. 

What can you do about this? Well you can’t stop it. Trying will be a bit of a King Canute moment we think. So: 

– Many businesses should try to use GenAI tools to cut costs rapidly in the creation of content. This could include adding more creative content and personal touches to customer interactions; 

– Don’t rely on overcharging for repetitive work. This is likely to be a losing proposition going forward and you should expect juniors undertaking repeatable processes to find ways to automate them (extra warning: here be startups); 

– The apprenticeship model and the assumptions of the elapsed period to become “time served” may change. This might lead to difficulty in hiring junior staff and large lateral career moves that are currently impossible within a normal working life-time; 

– Until AI is “proven in battle” there will be a risk-mitigation premium attached to reassurance from trusted advisors – after all, investment banking still charges a premium; and

– The power of human networks, families, friends and fashionistas will still drive the distribution of power (and wealth) in non-economically rational ways.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2023/jul/15/actors-writer-strike-stop-hollywood-what-movies-tv

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/02/technology/ai-artificial-intelligence-artists.html

[3] AllttA – Savages (YouTube)

[4] https://uk.news.yahoo.com/michael-douglas-plans-license-name-121838765.html

[5] https://workspace.google.com/solutions/ai/

[6] https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2023/03/16/introducing-microsoft-365-copilot-your-copilot-for-work/

[7] https://www.adobe.com/uk/sensei/generative-ai.html

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