Tragedy Of The Commons AI Edition

by | April 12, 2024 | Newsletter

I am seeing more and more seminars popping up about how independent filmmakers can make their films for less to accommodate shrinking budgets.  It feels like a race to the economic bottom e.g. we don’t have funds, so we need tech to replace people so we don’t have to pay them, repeat. This is epitomized by Infinity AI which claims: “We believe a team of 3 writers — with no actors, directors, or other crew — will win an Academy Award in the next 10 years. We are building the tools they will use to do that.” I’m thinking it will be more like 5 years. Like when Netflix said they were going to destroy Hollywood in 10 years and it took 5.    And why do you need a person to write a script?  Claude Author can write your novel with one prompt.  Not ironically Infinity AI leads with this:  “We are building generative video models focused on people. People are the center of stories. And stories are how humanity processes, learns, and evolves.”  I’m curious what people they are thinking of – perhaps our future robot overlords will be considered people.  And will those robots be interested in stories that we mammalian humans are interested in?  I tend to doubt it – why would they?  They will want to tell their own stories.  Such as how they rid the world of those annoying flesh bodies that used up all the resources and caused global warming. 

The Ankler had a good post about how Silicon Valley wants to speed up our adoption of AI called “effective accelerationism” (a not subtle play on effective altruism see Sam Bankman-Fried) and if you missed John Stewart’s round up of AI company heads and how they are winning the future and protecting humans its definitely worth 15 min of your time. 

We are already in an age of abundance of media – 2500 years of content are uploaded to YouTube every month – 8 billion TikTok videos posted every year.  Can you imagine the “value of content” when sophisticated generative AI starts churning out shorts/features/series. Take a look at the changes that Spotify made recently and the ramification for independent musicians as a way to combat “fraudulent” music. 

We are dealing with a classic tragedy of the commons and in this case the commons is all of our cultural heritage and the work we continue to make.  One solution to a tragedy of the commons is government regulation and taxation.    

I am proposing that governments require any AI company that has trained its code on the 50,000 years of humanity’s collective cultural output to create a massive fund that compensates humankind for that creative output. This would be similar to the “Netflix” bills occurring in a number of countries around the world (as should happen in every country). This fund will be designed to support human generated creative work as well as creating an alternative sustainable ecosystem for the global creative community. Perhaps it would also fund research and support how collectives could help protect this cultural commons. $100 Billion, $200 Billion, $300 Billion.  Pick a number.  

Perhaps this fund will cause AI tools to cost more – but perhaps that is a good thing – too often we don’t pay the true cost of what we consume – usually with terrible consequences.  With additional cost – some usage will go down. Perhaps the adoption of the technology will slow? This might give society enough time to regulate the technology before we are overwhelmed by it.