Artificial Intelligence: Issues in a Hot Summer’s Debate

From Publishing Perspectives:

Heating up right along with international temperature gauges this summer, the issues around “artificial intelligence” and publishing seem to become more contentious weekly.

The United States’ Authors Guild updated its information on Wednesday (July 19) to say that more than 10,000 “writers and their supporters” have signed an open letter to CEOs of AI companies including OpenAI; Alphabet (parent of Google); Stability AI; IBM; and Microsoft.

As frequently happens in the Guild’s approach—which is not unlike that of many NGOs issuing their statements on various issues—there’s an impressive list of big names being rolled out here, the advocacy organization having attracted signatories including Dan Brown, James Patterson, Jennifer Egan, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Roxane Gay, Celeste Ng, Louise Erdrich, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and George Saunders.

At the core of this protest is a very real alarm that the source material on which a large language model might be “trained”—the texts used in advanced statistical algorithms’ collection of linguistic content patterns—may well be copyrighted works. Franzen is quoted by the Guild saying that the organization is “advanc[ing] the rights of all Americans whose data and words and images are being exploited, for immense profit, without their consent—in other words, pretty much all Americans over the age of six.”

Certainly on its face, this copyright challenge is immediately and urgently part of a deepening and widening body of alarm now being reflected by elements the actors’ and writers’ strikes in Hollywood. While writers’ vulnerability might be closer to that of the writing corps in book publishing, the parallel threat to actors is unmistakable: their likenesses and voices can be artificially captured and manipulated, giving the broader AI controversy an easily understood visual component. The crisis of residual payments from many streamers may be the immediate money-ask in those labor actions, but as Andrew Dalton has written for the Associated Press, “Artificial intelligence has surged to the forefront of Hollywood’s labor fights. … The technology has pushed negotiations into unknown territory, and the language used can sound utopian or dystopian depending on the side of the table.”

At a national governmental level, in the States on Friday (July 21), Cat Zakrzewski writes at the Washington Post, “the Biden White House on Friday took its most ambitious step to date to address the safety concerns and risks of artificial intelligence, announcing that seven of the most influential companies building AI have agreed to a voluntary pledge to mitigate the risks of the emerging technology, escalating the White House’s involvement in an increasingly urgent debate over AI regulation.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

3 thoughts on “Artificial Intelligence: Issues in a Hot Summer’s Debate”

  1. Any of those big names under 40?
    Tradpub really doesn’t get tech and kneejerks like clockwork.
    And they waayyy overvalues their “precious”.

    Tech companies, on the other hand, shrug and laugh.

    I’m getting an image of a dog barking at a passing car.

  2. So we have books that may or may not be legally purchased, that have not been copied but since we don’t have legally defined words to describe the process can best be described as having been read or used for training. it has not been mentioned what specific rights have been proven to be infringed

    and we have extra’s and actors who have been paid to be filmed for acting, who may or may not be used in future films who other people do not believe where paid enough for the potential to be used in future, or even in the future at all, ie 1 appearance,1 movie.

    apparently its all very alarming.

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