It’s hard to believe, but generative AI only exploded into the public consciousness with the broad release of ChatGPT last November. Since then, it’s upended so many aspects of life — and threatens to change much more. It’s a central issue in the Hollywood actors’ and writers’ strikes, is being scrutinized by governments around the world and is even drawing parallels to the invention of the nuclear bomb.
Here’s what’s happened just in the last two weeks in the world of AI — brace yourself, it’s a lot.
Top AI news
Seven of the biggest names in AI — Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI — voluntarily agreed last week to certain regulations in response to White House pressure. As the New York Times reported:
As part of the safeguards, the companies agreed to security testing, in part by independent experts; research on bias and privacy concerns; information sharing about risks with governments and other organizations; development of tools to fight societal challenges like climate change; and transparency measures to identify A.I.-generated material.
This is certainly only the first step of AI regulations in the United States; Senate hearings continue even as this article is published, with some industry leaders even advocating for regulation. Additionally, the White House has indicated its intention to limit foreign nations’ (read: China) ability to obtain certain AI technologies, though details on what that executive order would look like have not yet been released, according to the Times.
In other big news, Meta has released its Llama 2 (get it, LLM, llama?) in an “open source” form.
Ars Technica reports that, while the tool can be used in some commercial applications or by hobbyists (or bad actors, for that matter), it has restrictions that make it not truly open source.
Whether Meta’s move will increase transparency or lead to an increase in disinformation, we’ll have to wait and see.
The answer is probably both, though.
Striking actors and writers rally around shared AI concerns
While the Writers Guild of America (WGA) began striking in May, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) joined them a few weeks ago. Both unions have similar demands, asking for streaming residuals, what they consider to be a living wage, and, notably, addressing what SAG-AFTRA calls “the existential threat AI poses to their careers.”
Indeed, these shared concerns over the use of AI in film and TV programs are a sticking point for both unions. While the WGA requests that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) bans the use of AI writing and rewriting outright, SAG-AFTRA is not seeking a prohibition on AI so much as a request “that companies consult with [the union] and get approval before casting a synthetic performer in place of an actor,” according to Reuters:
While the two sides have negotiated over issues ranging from using images and performances as training data for AI systems to digitally altering performances in the editing room, actors are worried entirely AI-generated actors, or “metahumans,” will steal their roles.
“If it wasn’t a big deal to plan on utilizing AI to replace actors, it would be a no-brainer to put in the contract and let us sleep with some peace of mind,” Carly Turro, an actress who has appeared in television series like “Homeland,” said on a picket line this week. “The fact that they won’t do that is terrifying when you think about the future of art and entertainment as a career.”
Concerns over the rate at which the industry is embracing AI are not unfounded, with actor Charisma Carpenter raising a red flag after she received an invitation to join Swiss-based Largo.ai’s “100 Actors Program,” which claims it “will automatically suggest matching characters to producers/directors” and “you won’t be charged any commission for the roles you secure,” reports Dateline.
Amid all of this, Netflix posted an AI project manager job with an annual salary range of $300,000-900,000.
While the work of writers and actors may seem a far cry from our work as communicators, the concerns expressed by fellow storytellers over AI’s influence on their work and livelihoods marks a significant milestone and is considered to be the first time that a creative union has pushed back against the influence of creative automation, according to Time.
Moreover, the ongoing strike is drastically impacting the overhead of PR firms in the industry, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Yet another reminder of the large financial consequences that can arise when your employees aren’t part of discussions around expanded automation use.
AI’s Oppenheimer moment
Christopher Nolan, director of the hit film “Oppenheimer,” which tells the story of the creation of the nuclear bomb, said that AI engineers are looking to his film to help them work through the moral quandaries of the technologies they’re building.
As Nolan said in a recent interview with Chuck Todd:
When I talk to the leading researchers in the field of AI right now, for example, they literally refer to this as their Oppenheimer moment. They’re looking to his story to say “OK, what are the responsibilities for scientists developing new technologies that may have unintended consequences?”
Nolan added that he hoped that people working on artificial intelligence “leave the film with some unsettling questions, some troubling issues.”
AI and business
Microsoft and Alphabet reported quarterly results this week, highlighting AI investments and how those investments impact growth.
Microsoft said its investments in Open AI and the integration of generative AI into its products like Bing led to 21% gains in year-over-year operating income for its intelligent cloud business segment, Forbes reported, contributing to its highest quarterly sales ever.
Alphabet also had an incredible quarter, reporting $8 billion in quarterly revenue with its own cloud segment.
AI and the news industry
AI threatens to accelerate the decline of news media in a variety of ways. The risk is so real, many of the country’s most prominent outlets are already readying lawsuits against artificial intelligence purveyors, most notably News Corp and the New York Times.
Many publishers have begun to experiment with AI tools aimed at making writing more efficient. But executives also worry about threats to everything from their revenue to the very nature of online authority.
The most immediate threat they see is a possible shift at Google from sending traffic to web pages to simply answering users’ questions with a chatbot. That nightmare scenario, for Levin, would turn a Food & Wine review into a simple text recommendation of a bottle of Malbec, without attribution.
Publishers are looking to learn from the mistakes of the social media era, where they were paid relatively small sums for the content that powered many of these platforms. Now, they want billions. To get it, they might head to the courtroom where the legal system would be forced to wrestle with thorny and complex copyright issues.
But AI is seeking to change newsgathering in other ways, too. Google is shopping a tool called Genesis to the country’s biggest newspapers, the New York Times reported. Genesis could serve as a “personal assistant for journalists,” the Times said.
What exactly that means depends on who you talk to. The Times said that some who heard the sales pitch “said it seemed to take for granted the effort that went into producing accurate and artful news stories.” But Google said Genesis would not replace journalists, but rather check style and offer headline suggestions.
Notably, this would replace the role of some journalists, including editors, copy editors and audience engagement professionals who perform these tasks.
AI and HR
Job applicants are finding a workaround for AI résumé screeners that look for keywords to advance them in the interview process. In a practice known as “white fonting,” savvy applicants will copy keywords relevant to the role from the job description into their CV and change the font color to white, reports The Washington Post. While the document will look normal to HR, the applicant tracking system will catch the text and deem the candidate a fit based on the inclusion of these skills.
This hack arrives at a time when many candidates are looking for work and the applicant pool is high. For HR and comms alike, it’s among the latest reminders that AI may streamline aspects of your workflow, but it can’t replace human judgement and context.
Meanwhile, HR pros looking to fill AI roles are largely concentrated in just four states—California, New York, Texas and Massachusetts, reports Axios:
Generative AI may produce “winner-takes-most” economic outcomes, per the authors of the Brookings report, unless the government moves to foster a more broadly distributed AI sector.
Report authors Mark Muro, Julian Jacobs and Sifan Liu suggest that a “widely distributed” expansion of public sector AI research and access to computing to spread AI benefits away from “superstar cities.”
This adds a new lens to talent wars that HR pros will want to watch, as the markets that invest heavily in this technology will likely see operational efficiencies and economic shifts sooner than the ones that don’t.
What trends and news are you tracking in the AI space? What would you like to see covered in our biweekly AI roundups, which are 100% written by humans? Let us know in the comments!
Justin Joffe is the editor-in-chief at Ragan Communications. Before joining Ragan, Joffe worked as a freelance journalist and communications writer specializing in the arts and culture, media and technology, PR and ad tech beats. His writing has appeared in several publications including Vulture, Newsweek, Vice, Relix, Flaunt, and many more. You can find him on Twitter @joffaloff.