Software is replacing artists and writers who enjoy their work while warehouse staffers pee in bottles to make quota. AI is turning into a shitty anti-utopia.
As I write this, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been on strike for 28 days. In a negotiation with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the WGA is seeking what amounts to four things:
- Better residuals
- Minimum staffing requirements
- Shorter exclusivity periods
- A commitment that AI will not replace them
This article was written for broad syndication, along with links to my other recent work. Since I missed a couple of weeks, I have a few more pieces than normal.
Streaming companies can earn more from an ad supported account than most consumers are willing to pay for the service. Creating a bazar world were everyone wants in on the ads. Offering ad inventory, big data targeting, or AI for an ad tech stack is incredibly profitable. A startup called Telly plans on giving away millions of premium TVs with an attached smaller second TV used to serve ads.
The advertising economy is starting to resemble a collection of interconnected multi-level marketing schemes. Some kind of intermediary firm sits atop each pyramid brokering the serving of ads to eyeballs. Under that are ad agencies, and tech firms that work on sales and bid management. The bottom are ad buyers, perhaps too few to sustain all these pyramids.
Given that the tech industry, in general, and startups, in particular, are full of con artists. It’s hard not to see those who build and market grief tech as startup bros exploiting anguish.
AI’s have simple objectives of satisfying a user. Large language models are prone to sycophancy and sandbagging. AIs will answer subjective questions, flattering their users stated beliefs and endorsing common misconceptions when users appear uneducated.
Grief tech is a use case especially likely to trigger AI sycophancy and sandbagging. After all, the AI is trying to not only pass the Turing test but pass it as someone’s deceased loved one.
The model of running ads against eyeballs creates a disparity between how business people, and writers feel about content. Writers value writing. The business perspective views writing as simply content units. Preventing AI from replacing writers is one of the core reasons for the current writers strike.
It is common for business folks to assume more content units must equate to more money. The business goal becomes creating content units that are good enough, for as low a cost as possible. Shortly before Buzzfeed News shuttered, staff of Buzzfeed’s News division were told to focus on increasing the volume of stories published each day.
The content units mindset makes AI replacing human writers inevitable. This AI future won’t just replace writers, when the goal is churning out more content units, ever cheaper, every creative is on the chopping block. The sword that will cut their jobs is being forged with their work.
The Daily Show used AI to generate Joe Biden’s voice for a satirical 2024 Biden presidential campaign commercial.
The video is clearly labeled as AI; the AI voice even says it’s an AI-generated voice. But what if it was trying to deceive the public?
Back To The Story
AIs start off fed by human works, largely scraped from the internet. But some humans will publish those AI generated works. Eventually the AIs feed off of AI generated content and cyclically regenerate more.
My years-long concern over AI was only momentarily anxiety over an AI superintelligence. Basic machine learning projects already have godlike power to filter information, crowning kings and damning others to the abyss. Software projects that aren’t even generally intelligent are upsetting industries.
ChatGPT and other relatively advanced AI projects are incredible technical achievements. They are also prone to sycophancy and outright making things up. A lawyer learned that the hard way when he used ChatGPT to research a legal brief.
According to The New York Times a lawyer found out what many of us already know, that ChatGPT isn’t a reliable research tool. The legal brief contained at least six citations that the judge in the case believed to be fake.
AI isn’t ready to replace knowledge workers. Furthermore while making up legal citations is “creative,” AI is also hardly ready to write the next great novel or create a TV show. When promoted to write fiction AI tends to spit out a lot of redundant tropes.
Those who reduce writing to content units are the most enthusiastic about using AI to replace creative workers. The mindset that wants AI writers, is the same as the one that launched media companies who used unpaid contributors to meet all content needs. A systematic devaluing of creative work.
For almost my entire life it’s felt like creative work has been reduced to content units. A mental math that, x number of units equates to y number of traffic, all equating to z number of dollars.
For some reason, the wealthy and powerful people who influence how this tech is used are focused on using AI to rapidly power up that very negative path for publishing. AI spam may ruin the internet, it could also ruin the print, radio, TV, and film industries. While that happens humans will still toil in jobs they hate.
Like many I used social sites, mostly as a means of amplifying, and saving interesting articles, and videos. After my unofficial banishment from Twitter I added a section on my personal site where I keep bookmarks and notes for the same function. These are the direct links to a handful of the articles I took note of over the past few weeks, many are linked to within my recent work as well.
- He Helped Train ChatGPT. It Traumatized Him ( Alex Kantrowitz / Big Technology)
- Cop Actually Admits He Was Wrong To Brutalize A Man Who Thought He Was Being Assaulted By Criminals (Tim Cushing / Techdirt)
- This Is Why You Can’t Wait Until Later (Ryan Holiday)
- Montana outright banned TikTok for everyone — is that legal? (Matthew Keys / KnowTechie)
- I Called Everyone in Jeffrey Epstein’s Little Black Book (Leland Nally / Mother Jones)
- Meet the Writers Strike’s Secret Weapon: Hollywood Teamster Boss Lindsay Dougherty (Joy Press / Vanity Fair)
- Texas House names Ken Paxton impeachment managers; Senate trial will start by Aug. 28 (Patrick Svitek & Renzo Downey / The Texas Tribune)