There’s a quote attributed to noted Gordon Gecko LARPer Michael Eisner during his reign at Disney (while mentoring current Disney CEO Bob Iger [$27 million]) that encapsulates not only his ethos, but very likely the ethos of the entire corporate-owned media landscape and it goes like this: “We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make a statement. But to make money, it is often important to make history, to make art, or to make some significant statement. We must always make entertaining movies, and, if we make entertaining movies, at times, we will reliably make history, art, a statement or all three.” The takeaway here is that money is the goal and all other benefits are byproducts. Lindsay Ellis was right when she called this the most ’80s thing ever spoken aloud, but it definitely resonates today.
Anyway, Google is testing a new AI that can write news stories! They put their dog and pony show on for several major newspapers, an event so ominous that I can practically hear a horror movie sting when I read the article. News of course is how citizens learn about what’s happening in their world and in recognizing how important that is, Google apparently thinks this function should lie in the hands of AI instead of humans, despite the fact that we already have a long-running destructive misinformation problem. Why not add more fuel to that fire, huh? Never mind that AI like ChatGPT has been experiencing such a drastic decrease in viability that it can answer a math problem with accuracy and consistency only 2% of the time. Perfect time to hand the responsibility of an informed populace over to AI, huh?
When you take this with how the proliferation of “AI” (a name that our very own James Field pointed out in the writer Slack is a major misnomer) is also threatening the livelihood of writers and actors in the entertainment industry, you may wonder why studios and news organizations would want a robo-writer with a high margin of error to ever replace a human writer. Let’s reread the Eisner quote above and remember that quality was never the goal and neither was art. Sure, when we look at the concepts of “news” or “art” in a vacuum, we understandably assert that quality matters, but sadly both news and art as we experience them now are products of media corporations. As Eisner reminds us, money is the true goal and all other gains and benefits are byproducts of that pursuit. Corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits, so through that lens, we can see that the quality of a movie, tv show, or news article is a secondary concern at best when compared to the speed of output and cost of output. “AI” is cheap because it doesn’t ask for a salary or benefits and it can work quickly which is ideal for creating a mass-market product. Sure a human writer can make something “better,” but it’s not as fast or as cheap.
So while I agree that an “AI” could never write something of the same quality and depth as a human could, I don’t think that matters to the corporations in charge. Quality isn’t the goal, money is and while we might argue quality leads to money, it’s pretty clear the media corporations in control don’t see it that way. The better we understand that, the clearer we’ll see how this ghoulish system operates. Our system was built to exploit the many for the benefit of the few and “AI” writers are just another cudgel used to batter us with.