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Citations Needed

May 31, 2023

"Is artificial intelligence advancing too quickly?" 60 Minutes warns. "BuzzFeed CEO says AI may revolutionize media, fears possible 'dystopian' path," CBS News tells us. "TV and film writers are fighting to save their jobs from AI. They won't be the last," CNN reports.

Over and over, especially in recent months, we hear this line: AI is advancing so fast, growing so sophisticated, and becoming so transformative as to completely reshape the entire economy to say nothing of our shaky media landscape. In some cases, those in the press deem this a good thing; in others, a bad thing but in terms that get the problem all wrong. But virtually all media buy the basic line that something big and transformative isn’t just coming, but is in fact already here.

Obviously, we can't predict the future, but we can comment on the present. Yes, AI platforms can generate low-level marketing copy, pro forma emails, and shitty corporate art. But progress in these capacities does not, as such, portend a radical advancement into actual human intelligence and creativity.

Meanwhile, there’s little to no evidence to support the claim that AI, namely large language models like ChatGPT, actually can perform – or even intervene to save time performing – any type of high-level writing craft, journalism, fiction, screenwriting, and a host of “creative” production.

So why do we keep hearing otherwise? What purpose does this type of religious-like providential thinking serve? And who stands to benefit from the vague sense of a future of AI-written essays, articles, and scripts, no matter how terrible they may be?

In this episode, we explore media's current Inevitability Narrative, namely its credulous warning that ChatGPT is about to do the work of media and entertainment professionals, examining the ways in which this narrative, despite the evidence to the contrary, serves as a constant, implicit threat to workers and a convenient pretext for labor abuses like wage reduction, layoffs, and union-busting. We also review how this media hype works to obscure the very real, banal harms of AI, such as racism, surveillance, over policing and lack of accountability for the powerful.

Our guest is Rutgers professor Dr. Lauren M.E. Goodlad.