AI is impacting industry today; here is how it will affect culture tomorrow
Photo: Andrea De Santis
It is clear that AI is here to stay – and its impact on digital entertainment (and beyond) will be as tectonic as the emergence of the smartphone.
Already, business developers are using OpenAI’s GPT-4 to write everything from product-centric poems about coffee machines to marketing plans and press kits. Students are using it to write their homework, and professionals to write their emails. Content platforms are using the likes of DALL-E to create bespoke images for their articles without those pesky rights clearances and photography expenses. Doubtlessly, scriptwriting teams are using it to brainstorm new episode ideas; musicians are using it for lyric suggestions, and games developers are using the likes of Unreal Engine 5 to build their virtual worlds.
So… what next? The short-term implications will rest between independent creators, who can now effectively tap into the internet’s worth of insight and have the bots run the parts of their careers they do not have time for, and broader industry bodies and companies that will see an increase in productivity and efficiency. The latter will see changing skill requirements (e.g., AI-prompting engineers), personnel needs (teams being reduced to fewer people utilising AI tools), and value propositions in an entertainment environment already flooded with high-quality, low-priced content, that users can now generate themselves.
However, the impact on audiences will follow – and it is the broader cultural shift carried with this that everyone in entertainment now needs to start adjusting to.
Content and attention oversaturation versus consumption
There are only so many hours in a day and only so much of that time can be spent on entertainment. The ‘Covid boom’ painted a hopeful picture of additional growth in this space, and it has receded unevenly, with more flexible working theoretically unlocking time for audiences that they may not have had before. However, the introduction of AI will cause a massive influx of additional content, be it marketing, user-generated, or simply increased output from existing creators who now have extra support and free time as a result.
For audiences, this will be overwhelming for their already-stretched attention spans. Lean-through engagement was becoming a new norm for users of social / UGC platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, with AI offering filters, music editing, and more to boost users’ creative abilities. Music creation is already being affected on these platforms, with many artists turning to their fans for feedback and hype, turning it into a co-creative process. Audiences will increasingly look to this sort of lean-through behaviour as a differentiation point, reducing the cultural premium on served ‘lean-back’ content and adding to the clutter filling existing platforms. ‘Decluttering’ has been an emerging priority in the streaming-dominated entertainment environment, and, with AI, this will now shoot to the top of the list.
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Content’s romantic tragedy moment
Despite the warning labels that come with using AI – namely the companies themselves cautioning users of bots’ ‘hallucinations’ and uncertainty around providing accurate information – people implicitly trust new technologies that immediately make their lives measurably easier. However, human ‘sanity checking’ when using these bots is incredibly important. Essentially, any AI is only a reflection of its underlying dataset, and these are rarely globally representative or impartial. Just like a Google search, its results will be based on mainstream discourse, historical prominence, and long and short-term trends that will vary depending on the origin of the dataset. The takeaway is that consumers and professionals are likely to implicitly trust the AI as an authority, but they should be mindful of the robustness and context underpinning an AI’s training dataset. Without some form of sanity check, it will simply replicate any existing skews in the underlying dataset(s).
Limited datasets raise problems even if the AI tools are used in good faith. However, they can also be used more maliciously. For example, deepfakes can do anything from generate false announcements by world leaders, to fake celebrity videos, to the deep-faking of entire investment propositions (think Fyre Festival, but more in-depth). It is difficult to wholly trust anything on the internet already, and these capabilities will add an additional level of incredulity to the mix. This is made worse by the inability to verify content with anything else on the internet, which is just as easily faked, misinformed, or outdated.
Innovation fatigue and exhausted users
Innovation is exponential, not linear. Truly fundamental technology shifts now happen over the course of years, if not months. Older digital natives have lived through the emergence of home computers, handheld phones, smartphones, and now virtual worlds. AI is already changing the way that we interact with the digital world; and so, audiences and industry professionals alike will have to, again, learn an entirely new technology. While this may not be a short-term issue, the scale and timing of the change may begin to introduce and foster ‘innovation fatigue’. This is exacerbated by broader content fatigue due to attention oversaturation and, ultimately, focusing on the digital world and its developments that have absorbed cultural attention for almost two decades. This is not a dramatic change, but a slow move towards broader cultural disenchantment with digital is in the works.
Revival of analogue’s authenticity
Content oversaturation, diminishing trust, and innovation fatigue will play into the emerging trend of authenticity. Ultimately, these AI developments impact people’s jobs and their entertainment experiences – but not their daily lives. There will be a greater pull toward older technologies that work just as well (if not better) when applied to specific purposes. This will thus prompt a reflexive pushback into the world of the analogue and the authentic. Curation will combat oversaturation, ownership will counter constantly shifting access points and prices, and familiarity and functionality will soothe mistrust. The next big wave will thus be a cultural shift embracing the past, rather than looking forward to the future.
The insights in this blog are expanded on in MIDiA’s latest report, The AI entertainment revolution | How artificial intelligence will reshape media consumption. If you want to discuss this subject with our analysts, or simply enquire about access to the report, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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