Cannes Diary: Will Artificial Intelligence 'Democratize Creativity' or Lead to a Certain Doom?

Cannes Diary: Will Artificial Intelligence ‘Democratize Creativity’ or Lead to a Certain Doom?

On May 17, as bodies lined up in the rain outside the Palais del Festival de Cannes to watch a short film directed by Pedro Almodóvar, an auteur best known for his humanism, a different kind of gathering was underway below the theater . Inside the Marché, a group of technologists gathered to tell an audience of film professionals how they could use artificial intelligence to create scripts, characters, videos, voices and graphics.

The ideas discussed at the Cannes Next panel “AI Apocalypse or Revolution? Rethinking Creativity, Content and Cinema in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” makes Almodóvar’s crowd scene almost moving, like seeing a species blissfully unaware of its imminent extinction, dinosaurs contentedly munching on their dinners 10 minutes before the asteroid hits.

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“The only people who should be afraid are the ones who aren’t going to use these tools,” said speaker Ander Saar, a futurist and strategy consultant for Red Bull Media House, the media arm of energy drink parent company Red Bull. “Fifty to 70 percent of a film’s budget goes to work. If we can make it more efficient, we can make much bigger movies with bigger budgets or make more movies.”

The panel also included Hovhannes Avoyan, CEO of Picsart, an AI-powered image editing developer, and Anna Bulakh, head of ethics and partnerships at Respeecher, an AI startup that produces technology that allows a person to speak using another person’s voice. The audience of around 150 was filled with early adopters of AI: By show of hands, around 75% said they had an account for ChatGPT, the AI ​​language processing tool.

The speakers had more technologies to try. Bulakh’s company has recreated James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader voice as it sounded in 1977 for the 2022 Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobiand Vince Lombardi’s voice for a 2021 NFL commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. He made a distinction between Respeecher’s work and artificial intelligence created for manipulation, otherwise known as deepfakes. “We don’t let you recreate someone’s voice without permission, and we as a company are pushing for this as a best practice around the world,” Bulakh said. He also talked about how productions already use Respeecher tools as a form of insurance when actors can’t use their voices, and how actors could potentially increase their revenue streams by using artificial intelligence.

Avoyan said she created her company for her daughter, an artist, and her intention is, she said, to “democratize creativity.” “It’s a tool,” she said. “Do not be afraid. It will help you in your work”.

The optimistic conversation taking place along the French Riviera seemed light years away from the WGA strike going on in Hollywood, in which writers and studios disagree over the use of AI, with studios considering ideas like having human writers process drafts of AI-generated scripts or using artificial intelligence to create new scripts based on a writer’s previous work. During contract negotiations, the AMPTP rejected union demands for protection from the use of artificial intelligence, instead offering “annual meetings to discuss advances in the technology.” Marché’s speech was also far from the warnings of a growing chorus of pundits like Eric Horvitz, Microsoft’s chief scientific officer, and AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton, who stepped down from his job at Google this month to speak freely about the risks of AI, which he says include the potential for deliberate misuse, mass unemployment and human extinction.

Are these types of worries just “moral panic?” mused moderator and head of Cannes Next Sten-Kristian Saluveer. This seemed to be the opinion of the speakers. Saar dismissed the concerns, comparing the changes AI will bring to adaptations brought about by the automobile or the computer. “When calculators came along, it didn’t mean we didn’t know how to do math,” he said.

One of the panel’s buzzwords was “hyper-personalized IP,” which means we’ll all create our own individual entertainment using AI tools. Saar shared a video from a company she’s advising in which a little girl’s drawings come to life and surround her on video screens. “The characters in the future will be created by the kids themselves,” she says. Avoyan said the line between creator and audience will narrow such that we will all just make our own movies. “You don’t even need a distribution house,” she said.

A German manufacturer and self-described AI enthusiast in the audience said, “If the cost of inputs falls to zero, the amount of material produced increases exponentially. We still have 24 hours left.” Who or what, the producer wanted to know, would be the guardians of content in this new era? Well, the algorithm, of course. “A lot of creators are blaming the algorithm for not getting views, saying the algorithm is burying my video,” Saar said. “The reality is that most content isn’t good and doesn’t deserve an audience.”

What wasn’t discussed at the panel was what might be lost in a future like this. Will a generation that grew up watching videos created from their own drawings or an algorithmic determination of what kind of images they will like run the risk of discovering something new? Will they line up in the rain with people from all over the world to watch a film made by someone else?