AI & The Entertainment Industry

Fractional Credits
– The Entertainment Industry’s Solution to AI

Just like the old 8-track tape that has garnished both nostalgia and head scratches, that spool of tape driven by simple mechanics was the coolest thing going in my day. Music was transformed, and while the vinyl turntable still gets all the glory, remembering the constant skips as my brother ran by and disrupted the needle, secured my loyalty to the fast-forward endurance of the 8-track. Fast forward to 2023 and how the breakneck speed of AI has taken over, and the whole thing has me missing the 8-track…heck it even has me missing the turntable.

With four decades of acting, writing, and producing under my belt, I’ve watched the entertainment industry transition, many times pivoting to chase the latest phase, with technology primarily prompting the curve. Monumental changes to the landscape created industry insiders questioning everything, resulting in knee jerk reaction and panic where networks either wait it out or completely clean house and change their strategies. Even through widespread changes, in television in particular, talented writers have still been able to control their ascension as staff writers, head writers, and eventually executive producers. In today’s environment; however, the threat of AI to industry creatives is more drastic than anything that’s come before it, but the question remains how much we should combat the change and how much we should adapt, so as not to be left behind. The fact is, AI is here to stay, we just need to make sure that it is used with proper guardrails in place.

My first exposure to AI was not through my media profession, it actually came as my high school and collegiate age sons were either creating, absorbing, or running from the confines of the rapidly changing AI landscape. Without delving too deep into their respective roles, their scope ranges from an Ivy-league PhD student in computer engineering to a junior in high school whose creative writing was properly being monitored by English teachers trying to avoid AI replacing theirstudents’ budding brain power.
While AI is becoming increasingly equipped with the capabilities of writing scripts, we all hope it will never be able to fully emulate personal experience and human touch. But as it evolves, I believe AI should be closely monitored, even tracked like blockchain; everywhere that AI grabs content from should be tracked, and then proper credit given to the individual or groups responsible for the writing. Naturally, this can get complicated in the mix of knowledge / sentiments / new ideas, but I suggest we adopt a system that allows AI to do its thing but, more importantly, stops it in its tracks if it doesn’t cite its source. The term I assign this notion is ‘Fractional Credits’, and as the name denotes, I believe there is a path to separating artificial and individual / personalized information so that creativity continues to flourish while the original authors are given credit. Ideas, research, and education have always been based on individual thought and discourse, but the reevaluation or repetition of it has also always required proper citing and annotation. So, circling back to my introduction to AI through my kids’ school papers that require citing as a major component to a grade, it should be mandated that AI give credit where credit is due. Who really wants to copy or take credit for someone else’s innovative thought anyway?….Okay, okay, that’s a topic we’ll save for another time, but in the meantime artists should get on board securing their ‘Fractional Credits’ when part of their work is used.
We still have a few years before actors will be replaced by AI in some capacity, but it’s coming. The first in our industry will be the news talking heads. Networks are always putting their bottom line first, and if they don’t have to pay talent and just feed an avatar words, that will be a huge bump to their bottom line. While I hope that AI will be able to provide an acute diagnosis for a terminal illness while never being able to properly assess a patient in distress with the personal touches of a human, I’ll refrain from analyzing the possible combustibility of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 with Spielberg’s ET
What I can assess from my realm of experience and my discussions with experts in the field of AI, there is a middle ground that may protect our creative works while simultaneously acknowledging that pulling the wool over our eyes in the face of AI may not be the wisest direction to take. One part of me wants to stay ‘old school’ and keep faith that no artificial anything can truly replace the real thing, the part of me that transitioned from an ‘in front of the camera actor’ to a ‘behind the scenes producer’ knows that ignoring the dark shadow of AI will only lead to finding ourselves behind the curve.
I’m not offering an in-depth evaluation of AI and its future in our industry but do hope to shout out to WGA/SAG/AFTRA. With the idea of ‘Fractional Credits’, we can track just how AI pulls from the worldwide web to create their avatar and will force the enigma to give respective individuals the credit they deserve. WGA and SAG can track and reward artists for their contributions to new bodies of work, even if created by AI. If change-makers are busy asking AI to create avatars using Dan Rather and Brad Pitt, let’s require these advancements in computer engineering recognize the talent that should receive both credit and compensation. Let’s get in front of this speeding train and protect our individuality and creative rights while we understand that demanding ‘Fractional Credits’ does not necessarily correspond to acquiescing to the pseudo!

- Tommy Habeeb