The battle between AI and workers

From the role of AI in the writers' strike to IBM’s hiring freeze, it’s time to talk about how we plan to defend our jobs against the robots. 

What happened: A recent proposal from the union representing 11,000 striking TV and film writers wants to regulate the use of AI on projects covered under the agreement so that it can’t write or edit material, be used as source material, or be trained on writers’ materials. 

  • The association representing production companies is dragging its feet. Their counter, put another way, is “we do not want to commit to anything until we know if [AI] will be good enough to replace whole writers’ rooms,” wrote Ryan Broderick.
  • Meanwhile, IBM’s CEO this week announced the company could replace almost 8,000 jobs with AI over the next five years. AI was also prominently mentioned as a replacement for humans in the recent wave of digital media layoff announcements

Why it matters: We’ve long talked about “machines replacing us,” but it’s never felt like a more serious possibility. “Computer [intelligence has expanded] to the point that some have begun to fear it will surpass or even replace us,” Andrew Coyne wrote in The Globe in Mail. 

  • Even though some big names in AI have started to express fears about the harm it could pose to the labour force, many still see it as an opportunity to enhance worker productivity (automating more low-value, repetitive tasks) and drive economic growth. 

Zoom out: This week, Joe Biden told execs from Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI they have a “moral duty” to ensure AI doesn’t harm society. Afterwards, Open AI CEO Sam Altman, said they were “surprisingly” on the same page on what needs to happen. Which probably means new regulation.—SB