From plot ideation to workflow optimization, the penetration of AI into the media chain continues to throw up the philosophical question about the machine’s potential to create.
In Hollywood, there’s both tremendous appetite for and skepticism about using machine intelligence in general, and especially in the production process.
“The technical community in Hollywood is extremely well informed, extremely dedicated to the final creative product, and extremely resistant to hype,” says Yves Bergquist, Program Director, AI and Neuroscience in Media at the USC’s Entertainment Technology Center.
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Language models like OpenAI’s GPT-3 have raised many questions in the creative community. GPT-3 can assist in automating some content creation tasks (formulaic blog posts, for example). Other algorithms are already used by content commissioning powerhouses like Netflix to filter the sort of show it should be making to target audiences based on data. That’s a long way from using AI just to generate scripts.
Musing on the idea at RedShark News, David Shapton asks whether AI dilutes our ability to write something that no one has penned before.
“The answer depends on the specific role of AI in the process. And what this boils down to is: ‘Is the AI a tool — like a hammer — or is it an artistic collaborator?’”
“Although there are some TV programs out there that already look as though they have been written by machine… AI is completely hopeless at humor. Although AI can come up with (very poor) jokes, what it can’t do is tell you whether they are funny or not. Grammarly may check your style, but can it check your jokes? Although not inconceivable, that seems a very, very long way off. It is only humans who can judge whether that particular AI program has a decent sense of humor or not.”— David Shapton, RedShark News
His starting point is the free online “writing assistant,” Grammarly, an AI-based cloud service for checking grammar “with a surprising degree of sophistication.”
Extrapolating, he ponders if an AI that’s “learned” to be creative by being fed thousands of creative works (books, scripts, TV shows, films) can be original if its ideas come from observations of other people’s works.
“I’m tempted to say that it could be because that’s precisely how we do it,” says Shapton. “So, where does all this lead? Software can ‘learn’ almost anything, at any scale and complexity. AI is improving faster than any technology that has ever existed.”
In the same article, British lighting and camera operator Roland Denning doubts that an AI can effectively simulate human creativity,
“Although there are some TV programs out there that already look as though they have been written by machine… AI is completely hopeless at humor. Although AI can come up with (very poor) jokes, what it can’t do is tell you whether they are funny or not. Grammarly may check your style, but can it check your jokes? Although not inconceivable, that seems a very, very long way off. It is only humans who can judge whether that particular AI program has a decent sense of humor or not.”
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Perhaps that is the real Turing test: Whether an AI can churn out a script for Ted Lasso better than the writer’s room? Seems unlikely.
ETC has done a lot of research and experimentation around extracting structured metrics such as narrative domains, expressed symbols, and emotional journeys of characters in scripts, and that’s already being used by some studios to evaluate and package creative work.
“But we’re not telling the creative what to say or write or shoot,” Bergquist says. “We’re just providing context to how that creative work exists alongside other creative works and seeing how audiences may vibe — or not — with it. And, by the way, we’re doing this in collaboration with creatives, because we want to make sure whatever we do and develop does not hurt the art in media creation.”