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  • Andrew Pritzker, Qikfinger Films

Who’s Afraid of the AI Wolf?

There’s a new kid in town and he’s scaring the hell out of filmmakers. Actors struck for a contract to prevent it from replacing them. Writers and Directors fear obsolescence in Hollywood’s AI cyber future. In the digitized age of movie making, they wonder, will a real HAL 9000 create movies at a fraction of the cost? Will HAL build its own actors? Write its own scripts? Create Blockbusters? Sweep the Oscars? Will AI succeed as long as it keeps production costs low? Studio execs are delighted by the prospect, few realizing AI will replace them as well. The big question remains, will the audience notice? Will they care?

What is AI and Why Does It Know Everything?

AI is an algorithm, a formula, a mathematical construct, a device that absorbs an incredible amount of information created by humans and then spits out variations in well formed units but does it actually think? AI is a random choice generator sifting through variables of given data. It creates lists of possibilities but can't evaluate its own work. Humans must examine those choices to discover a successful result. Art, music, literature, academic papers, essays, term papers and even screenplays have all been generated by AI minus the burden of original creative thought. Some AI results may appear clever, edgy, surprising, but the result is still random happenstance like zoo elephants slapping paint on a canvas.

Patterns, Maps, Mediocrity

There are patterns to everything from sub atomic structures to cloud formations, story telling, ballet, and art. An algorithm designed to find patterns in a given set of data is confined by that data. It can’t think outside of the box. It is the box. It’s the box that creates more boxes. Film editing uses patterns. Screenplays have underlying structures. Music, at its core, is a mathematical progression of pitch, tone, and rhythm. Computer engineers, the creators of AI, see the world as a series of lines, graphs, measurements, and numbers. To them, hard lines and calculations comprise a quantified version of art. Pure methodology is how they conceive art but is it actually art?

Mozart, Warhol, Hitchcock, Streep… More Than the Sum of Their Parts

Is art a “paint by numbers” kit or a coloring book with clearly defined lines? Art is emotion, expression, a soulful communication beyond explanation that connects artists to viewers and filmmakers to an audience. It rises above any mundane, tactile, empirical understanding of the world and makes us feel something. It makes us laugh, cry, wonder, and reflect. It makes us feel human.

What AI lacks is not cognitive human thought but rather the heart and soul of the human experience. AI will never know pain, grief, love, and elation. It will never know heartbreak and hope. It will never know fear, pride, envy, or irrational hate. AI can only calculate possibilities through a data bank but it will never experience the world as a human. It is a cold, derivative tool, a cookie cutter, an amalgam of stew, a talking parrot.

The Value of AI in Filmmaking

There are many repetitive tasks concerning prep and assemblage in post production. As a prep tool for human artists, editors, and animators, AI’s ability to assemble ingredients may prove to be useful.

Infinite Monkey Theorem vs AI

It has been postulated that a roomful of monkeys, placed in front of keyboards, given an infinite amount of time, will eventually type out Hamlet. It’s not that they will ever understand replicating The Great Bard or even recognize what they’ve done. With infinite possibilities and infinite time, the monkeys will produce a miraculous copy. AI, by comparison, might replicate the same result, a similar plot with different names in a fraction of the time without the cost of bananas.

Change Happens

Technology + Movies = Change. Some needs and tasks required by filmmaking will be streamlined, others eliminated. Newly minted positions will take their place. It does not mean that the power of film to emotionally connect to an audience will be reproduced by an algorithm. Will AI ever understand our joy, fear, lust, and phobias? Will it ever feel guilt? AI will never enjoy a bowl of ice cream on a hot summer day. It will never see or taste. It will never show empathy. Whatever results Artificial Intelligence manages to deliver will most certainly remain artificial.

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