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    Don’t crush the potential of AI technology to make our lives better
    • July 9, 2023

    Terminator actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently claimed that the artificial intelligence (AI) in the “Terminator” movies “has become a reality.” While AI has made significant progress, it isn’t Skynet (the fictional AI movie villain in “Terminator”).

    In “Terminator,” a self-aware AI decides to eliminate humanity. The post-Judgment Day Earth is replete with humanoid enforcer robots and drones flying overhead, all looking for humans to exterminate. Fortunately, modern-day America is nothing like what is portrayed in the “Terminator” movies.

    Instead, AI is improving medicine, therapy and dentistry, aiding education, helping find missing children, fighting forced labor, improving 911 response times, preventing cyberbullying, helping paralyzed people walk, preventing suicide, developing new medicines and preventing cyberattacks. It helps change tires faster and take drive-through orders. It can even detect diseases earlier, help teach students to program, and improve dating. None of these applications even remotely resemble “Terminator”’s Skynet — and several have goals opposed to the fictional AI of “Terminator.”

    While AI doesn’t represent a threat to humanity, those in Hollywood may have more to be concerned about. AI technologies are very effective at storytelling (problematically, sometimes generating fiction when asked for the truth) and making television and movies. Big-name actors like Schwarzenegger have little to fear, as their name brings in audiences. However, could the next big name be an AI-generated avatar? One can imagine how this could benefit studios by replacing the salary demands of big-name actors with personas that they own all the rights to and don’t have to pay.

    In fact, a recent “Terminator” movie deep fake, which inserted Silvester Stallone in the place of Schwarzenegger, shows how this could be done right now. A studio could hire unknown actors to play key roles and then use this same technology to replace the actors with personas that it builds over time and owns the rights to. Andrew Niccol predicted just this in his 2002 film “S1m0ne,” which starred Al Pacino as a director who loses his film’s star and replaces her with a computer-generated one. And this isn’t far from reality — Instagram influencer Lil Miquela, who was on the 2018 list of the most influential people on the internet, was also computer-generated.

    While the Screen Actors Guild has delayed their planned strike for a week and a half, such a strike could provide just the impetus that studios need to experiment more with AI actors — just as the writers’ strike may be raising interest in AI writing. New contracts, if reached, may forestall AI use somewhat, as the risk of alienating writers and actors to use AI is significant. In the longer term, though, the benefits of AI writing and acting are substantial. Programs could become more interactive, with viewers playing a role or making key decisions and an AI writer and AI animator-actor generating content in response.

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    Failing to embrace AI content generation would not be wise for movie and TV studios. They may find that video game developers who aren’t as tied to SAG or WGA contracts can produce similar content targeted at a similar audience. A recent change in the credit format used by Warner Brother’s Max service suggests that this may be part of at least that studio’s plans, as it is now calling everyone involved in a show’s production a creator, instead of distinguishing between roles, which would arguably become less important with AIs doing lots of the work.

    Given this, it is little wonder that some in the entertainment industry attempt to stoke fear of AI. However, it is not AI that we need to be afraid of.

    Studios would be well positioned to join those in the medical, music, automotive, construction, accounting, hospitality, farming, education and numerous other industries using or preparing to use AI. Government regulation of technology development or industry pseudo-regulation through contracts serves only to advance the interests of those not constrained by them and to delay humanity’s access to these benefits.

    Jeremy Straub is the director of North Dakota State University’s Institute for Cyber Security Education and Research.

    ​ Orange County Register