- AI is a mainstream topic in Hollywood, but it’s the Big Tech companies that will make the most money and have the most control and power.
- Futurist Peter Csathy says the WGA has been smart to agree to a time limit of three years in its new pact with the studios. This will allow the guild to survey the changing landscape and determine if contracts need to be updated.
- Csathy thinks there are “compelling opportunities” for all players in the Media & Entertainment industry to leverage the power of AI, provided you do your homework and “Get a game plan.”
When it comes to AI, for futurist Peter Csathy, you have to get real: “I understand the fear, but we can’t put our heads in the sand. We need to look at things stoically.”
Csathy is considered a leading expert in Media & Entertainment and in particular where M&E meets future tech. In a new presentation, that you can watch below, he shares his thoughts on the current state of play of generative AI in the overall creative economy, highlights “compelling opportunities” to leverage its power for all players in the entertainment industry, and assesses the sobering risks it poses to artists within the entertainment ecosystem.
“I’m certainly no engineer, but I understand [tech] pretty deeply and I’m not afraid of it,” he says. “But with AI and with all new technologies, we need to be stoic about it, understand not only the possibilities, but also the risks and the impacts on life as we know it today and on the industry that we love so much.”
AI may be a mainstream topic in Hollywood, he says, but it is the Big Tech companies that will make the most money and have most control and power.
“Let’s look at the realities of economics. Big Tech has multitrillion-dollar valuations. Whereas the biggest media company out there, a traditional media company, which is Disney, has $150 billion market valuation. Ultimately, Big Tech is the big winner here. And I would say that Big Tech is the big winner on the backs of creators, artists, musicians.”
Certainly, creators, artists and musicians can learn to leverage AI for their benefit, but ultimately, “the scale of it all really inures to the benefit of Big Tech.”
That said, not even the CEOs of Microsoft, Google or Amazon know precisely how the sausage is made. “They don’t know precisely how a work is created [by generative AI]. They know generally how it’s created but they don’t know precisely how the ultimate output is achieved, when it comes to the black box of generative AI and the inputs that we put into it. Even the smartest minds developing the technology don’t know exactly how it does what it does, or where it’s going to be going.”
While that spreads inevitable confusion, uncertainty and fear, Csathy cautions that Media & Entertainment companies historically tend to “put their heads in the sand.” Ignoring AI is not a sound business strategy.
He advises CEOs to think about what Pixar did to traditional animation. “Before Pixar, Disney artists would be hand-framed, drawing each picture. Now, there’s a beautiful art to that. But imagine the length of time it takes to realize the vision of the film, while Pixar came in with computer generated animation and really disrupted and transformed the industry. Now, for some, it was not welcome because it disrupted their job as traditional animators but, on the flip side, it created an entirely new industry with new jobs,” he explains.
“I don’t want to minimize the human pain of that,” he adds. “It’s akin to what happened with factories on automation.”
Csathy suggests that governments are not equipped to create guardrails or regulation on AI, due to a lack of understanding and “demographic imbalances” in Congress. However, the biggest guardrail for Media & Entertainment companies using generative AI is existing copyright legislation, which in the US prohibits AI-generated works from receiving protection.
“While it’s daunting, just because it creates entirely new creative words doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s cannibalistic. I certainly believe that humans love engaging with cool content and experiences. There may be some cannibalizing because we have limited time in a day, but nonetheless, if I liked this AI generated work, I still may like the song I was listening to that is not AI generated. They’re not mutually exclusive.”
He imagines likeness and voice licensing opportunities for actors like Tom Cruise (“So you can imagine a case where Tom Cruise Mission Impossible 20 is in production, and Tom Cruise is on a beach sipping his margaritas,” while, the script, the actors, etc., are auto-generated) but this doesn’t address the fears of the 99% of talent without Cruise’s star power.
Of course, SAG has yet to agree terms with the studios, with AI royalties being a sticking point. Csathy says the WGA has been smart to agree to a time limit of three years in its new pact with the studios. This will allow the guild to survey the changing landscape and determine if contracts need to be updated.
“You have to learn to understand the language of AI, all of you no matter what role you play in the ecosystem of creativity, M&E, or technology. So you get it yourself. So you can speak the vernacular. So you have credibility. So you can work with other people and collaborate with them. It’s very important and follow developments closely,” he concludes.
“You got to create your game plan. Like I said, you can’t fear AI. This is the reality. This is where we are. Stoicism is key.”