Hollywood isn’t immune to fears that A.I. will soon take away human jobs. The launch of ChatGPT and other A.I. tools that can instantly churn out text, images, music and even film segments has resurfaced age-old fears amongst creatives that they’ll be replaced by computers. But while The Whale director Darren Aronofsky praised new filmmaking tools assisted by artificial intelligence, he doesn’t think it will wipe away human effort.
“I haven’t yet seen machines figure out how to surprise, and how to make special turns and twists,” said Aronofsky during an interview with technologist Eugene Wei at Upfront Summit on Thursday evening. “There’s still all kinds of models that I’ve been playing with where you can have amazing results. But the curation to pull that together into something, there’s still room for us there.”
The filmmaker did praise A.I.’s ability to improve upon existing human efforts. “You see the most incredible images showing up that are better than a lot of…photographs that have been taken in the 20th century,” he said. “And they’re surprising, and they’re different. But converting that into a new type of story, a new type of idea — that step, I don’t think, has happened yet. Or is far away.”
As film studios and record labels continue to grapple with the economics of streaming, many creatives fear these companies will turn to A.I. as a cost-cutting measure. The Writer’s Guild of America issued a pattern of demands last month that included the ability to “regulate the use of artificial intelligence or similar technologies.” Their fears aren’t completely unfounded. Many companies have switched to AI platforms to perform basic customer service tasks, moderate social media, or even identify candidates for a job or a loan.
During the discussion, Wei bought up The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by the literary scholar Walter Benjamin. In the essay — first published in 1936 when photography and film were still nascent art forms — Benjamin argued that original works of art created by humans have an authenticity that reproductions do not possess.
Wei asked Aronofsky if there’s some element of human involvement that audiences will still crave. “You know, if art comes from a computer, like a movie, just knowing that fact, we feel like there’s something, that spark…” said Wei.
Aronofsky interjected, and said that the “spark” in AI-generated works comes from humans. “I think the spark is still in the prompting,” he said. “And it’s just a difference in how you train the model. But right now, it’s not thinking for itself in any way.”
Aronofsky acknowledged that many in Hollywood are “definitely” afraid of A.I. “I don’t think the tools are powerful enough to endanger any real jobs,” he said. While he acknowledged that creatives can use A.I. tools for research, to generate ideas and even to help structure their output. Aronofsky stressed that he doesn’t think the existing technology is “that mind-blowing” yet.
Earlier in the discussion, Aronofsky said that he often makes the analogy of A.I. being a “fifth Beatle who is half as talented as Ringo” and “sitting in the corner” to emphasize its still very limited ability to replace humans in the creative process.
But, the filmmaker added, “it doesn’t work without the Beatles still.”
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