The Yuan requests your support! Our content will now be available free of charge for all registered subscribers, consistent with our mission to make AI a human commons accessible to all. We are therefore requesting donations from our readers so we may continue bringing you insightful reportage of this awesome technology that is sweeping the world. Donate now
The Hollywood writers’ AI struggle is in truth everyone’s fight
By Simon Johnson, Daron Acemoglu, Austin Lentsch  |  Aug 18, 2023
The Hollywood writers’ AI struggle is in truth everyone’s fight
Image courtesy of and under license from
Hollywood writers are currently staging a strike in protest at the disruptive way AI is being used, mostly because it threatens to upend their livelihoods. However, a closer look reveals that this issue has implications far beyond the movie and entertainment industry.

BOSTON - Artificial intelligence (AI) is big business’s new flavor of the month. Companies are rushing to showcase how they will be using new generative AI (GAI) models, and the media is full of stories about the technology’s transformative potential. There is no denying that it could significantly increase productivity, but who stands to benefit? The ongoing strike that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has declared may offer an answer.

Hollywood screenwriters are confronting a future that all knowledge workers will soon face - and without the benefit of union representation. At issue is how GAI will be used, and by whom. Will TV and movie producers simply see AI as a way to replace writers and cut costs, or will they have the foresight to use it to create higher-quality content, empowering creative workers to be more productive and earn higher incomes?

Today’s developments echo similar things that have happened before. In the early 20th century, rapid improvements in manufacturing technologies - such as moving assembly lines and electrical machinery - led to a sharp increase in productivity. Henry Ford, a pioneer in applying these technologies, estimated that, “The motor enabled machinery to be arranged in the order of the work, and that alone has probably doubled the efficiency of industry...”. However, workers did not automatically share in these gains: On the contrary, that did not happen until new tasks had been created and until workers had acquired enough bargaining power to demand higher wages. These are the two pillars of shared prosperity.

While Ford and his contemporaries certainly did automate some processes, their improved factories

The content herein is subject to copyright by Project Syndicate. All rights reserved. The content of the services is owned or licensed to The Yuan. The copying or storing of any content for anything other than personal use is expressly prohibited without prior written permission from The Yuan, or the copyright holder identified in the copyright notice contained in the content.
Continue reading
Sign up now to read this story for free.
- or -
Continue with Linkedin Continue with Google
Share your thoughts.
The Yuan wants to hear your voice. We welcome your on-topic commentary, critique, and expertise. All comments are moderated for civility.