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    The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes mean it is time to rewatch that Ethan Hawke video.

    Janet Manley

    July 18, 2023, 9:32am

    In just the past week:

    Union president Fran Drescher announced that SAG-AFTRA would strike after negotiations with the American Motion Picture and Television Production association broke down, in a barn burner of a speech. (“How far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right, when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment.”)

    Authors from Viet Thanh Nguyen to Margaret Atwood have signed a letter from the Author’s Guild demanding OpenAI and other large language models cease using their intellectual property to “train” AI models. This follows a lawsuit from Mona Awad and Paul Tremblay against OpenAI.

    Authors, meanwhile, have discussed critically low income that cannot support their work. Earlier this year, the Alliance of Independent Authors found that indie writers had a median annual income of $12,749, which is somehow higher than that of authors at the big publishing houses.

    Artists and authors are struggling, which might not be as glaring were executives not receiving compensation in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The notion that human creation can be supplanted by AI models trained on the rhetoric and sound and feel of actual human thought is bananas, which is why, among supporting indie bookstores and showing solidarity to workers on strike (who stand for all laborers, whatever your field!), we need to turn, again, to this incredibly earnest TED video of author Ethan Hawke talking about why we need art:

    “Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about poetry, right, they have a life to live and they’re not really that concerned with Allen Ginsburg’s poems or anyone’s poems—until their father dies, they go to a funeral, you lose a child, someone breaks your heart, and all of a sudden you’re desperate for making sense out of this life and has anyone ever felt this bad? How did they come out of this cloud? Or the inverse … you love someone so much you can’t see straight… what’s happening to me? And that’s when art’s not a luxury it’s actually sustenance. Well, what is it? Human creativity is nature manifest in us.”

    Oh, he talks about filming White Fang, he talks about life and its mysteries, and he makes a moving case that we can’t treat authors and artists the way we currently do. Enjoy, and solidarity.

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