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Why Everyone in Hollywood Is Fretting About AI

Actors and screenwriters may have earned a level of protection from AI’s creeping interference. But what exactly does that grant them—and what other issues lie ahead?

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Now that the WGA and SAG strikes have finally come to an end, it's clear the conversation they started on AI's impact on labor is a big one. With so many people experiencing agita about what impacts AI might have on their own careers—are the robots coming for your job?—the wins and setbacks the Hollywood unions experienced as part of their negotiations will have ripple effects through other industries.

In this collection, you’ll find explainers for why writers and actors wanted AI stipulations in their contracts, some history about previous fights against automation, and some ideas about what the future of AI in Hollywood might look like.

Image by WIRED Staff

The Problems Lurking in Hollywood’s Historic AI Deal

Will Bedingfield

AW: “Even though the agreement between SAG and AMPTP brought an amicable end to a strike that all but shuttered Hollywood, it wasn’t universally beloved. Critics remain worried that the deal’s AI provisions don’t go far enough, and allow for digital replicas of actors and synthetic performers that could reduce the number of gigs available to actors and crew members. After the strike ended, but before SAG members finished voting on ratification (the deadline is December 5), I asked Will to look at what its long-term implications might be.”

The Bruce Willis Deepfake Is Everyone’s Problem

Will Bedingfield

“Nearly a year ago, long before SAG went on strike, ‘Bruce Willis’ appeared in a Russian telecom ad. The performance was a deepfake, and it got a lot of people, actors especially, wondering what kind of performances AI could make all on its own. I asked my colleague Will Bedingfield to look into it, and was fascinated by the results.” - Angela Watercutter

AI, the WGA Strike, and What Luddites Got Right

Angela Watercutter

AW: “Prior to WGA members walking off the job, I had been thinking a lot about Luddites. When you work at a place like WIRED, you get used to the term referring to someone not quite hip to the latest in technology, but in reality Luddites just wanted to be trained to use the new weaving machines that were threatening their livelihoods. When the writers went on strike, it became clear they didn’t want to sh*tcan AI, they just wanted to learn how to use it—before it learned how to use them. I wrote this edition of my Monitor column to draw those comparisons.”

Why Hollywood Really Fears Generative AI

Will Bedingfield

AW: "Once SAG joined the WGA on the picket lines, I once again asked Will to look into what they might be after. What he uncovered were a lot of laws and copyright disputes that make regulating words and performances very very different. "

Hollywood’s Slo-Mo Self-Sabotage

Inkoo Kang
The New Yorker

AW: “‘To survey the film and television industry today is to witness multiple existential crises.’ This Inkoo Kang piece for The New Yorker was about more than the strikes, but put them in a context that was spot-on.”

Angela Watercutter

Angela Watercutter is WIRED’s senior editor for culture. She writes a weekly column, The Monitor, dedicated to the intersection of tech and entertainment.