Compelling writers should also worry about AI audiences.
Those same writers may be able to use AI tools effectively; the WGA is calling for guardrails, not bans. The immediate threat of artificial intelligence to a writer’s career may be overblown, as if you’ve ever tried to get ChatGPT to tell you jokes. (This is a big fan of Cornball’s “why…” and “what do you call…” structures.) Some guesswork, such as the director musings by joe russell AI might someday make a romantic comedy starring your avatar alongside an avatar of Marilyn Monroe that feels like science fiction.
But science fiction has a way of becoming science fact. A year ago, ChatGPT wasn’t even open to the public. Writers last went on strike in 2007, and one of the sticking points involved streaming and then niche businesses like iTunes downloads. Today, streaming eats up entire industries.
The potential rise of artificial intelligence has implications for writers’ workplaces, but it’s not just a labor issue. We also have a stake in the war against storybots. A culture that feeds entirely on repetition of existing ideas is a stagnant culture. In order to progress and develop, we need to invent, experiment, and of course fail. The algorithmic logical conclusion is that the “more like you just saw” entertainment industry is a pop culture that just…stopped.
Maybe one day artificial intelligence will be able to make real inventions. It’s also possible that “inventing” means something different to advanced AI than anything we’re used to—it might be fantastic, weird, or incomprehensible. At this point, we can have a full discussion about what “creativity” really means and whether its definition is limited to humans.
But what we do know is that in this timeline, creating a story that surprises, challenges, defeats, uncovers ideas that didn’t exist before is a human skill. Whether we care about that — whether we value it over an unlimited supply of reliable, good-enough menu options — remains our choice for now.