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Viewpoint: AI advocates chime in amid writers strike and epidemic of loneliness

In Plain Truth by Lachlan Labere

Historically, when groups of working people seek to better their condition, demanding such things as a fair wage or safer conditions, there is typically resistance and push back.

We’re seeing this play out once again with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike. Other groups, from the Screen Actors Guild to unionized Starbucks employees, have lent their voice in support of writers whose demands include better pay and job security. Writers are also concerned producers will begin using artificial intelligence (AI) for writing screenplays.

Along with the predictable push back from studios, some people (at least in comment sections) have actually taken a pro-AI stance. A typical argument runs along the lines of, “I didn’t like this movie/series/season of show; how could AI do any worse?”

I have to wonder, are these AI advocates just being contrarians, or is this truly what they want – our stories and songs concocted through a programmed response to supplied key words, essentially void of authentic human voice and experience?

I’d like to think most would prefer we continue to be the authors of our own stories. However, the anti-solidarity/pro-AI perspective appears in-line with a pervasive pattern of self-isolating trends such as staying in to “Netflix and chill,” using self-checkouts and spending time with the like-minded in internet chat silos. It’s not a wonder we’re living amid an “epidemic of loneliness.”

In his introduction to the 2023 report Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Hurthy says “Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling — it harms both individual and societal health,” and that if investments aren’t made to address social connection, “we will pay an ever-increasing price in the form of our individual and collective health and well-being. And we will continue to splinter and divide until we can no longer stand as a community or a country.”

The report’s prescription for individuals includes: seek out opportunities to serve and support others; be responsive, supportive and practice gratitude; make time for civic engagement; seek help during times of struggle; and actively engage with people of different backgrounds and experiences.

Writers know empathy is intrinsic to good storytelling – it’s how we connect to their stories and with each other. Empathy precedes sympathy and compassion, all of which are fostered through connection. Without these as a foundation for our decisions and actions, the path Hurthy has warned us about is difficult to avoid.

Read more: Loneliness poses risks as deadly as smoking: surgeon general

Read more: U.S. TV and film writers authorize strike over pay, other issues
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