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Could AI Really Replace Hollywood’s Human Writers? (And Other Headlines)

A woman with light skin and straight black hair is wearing a blue T-shirt that reads "Writers Guild of America" while holding a sign, raising both arms and shouting with her mouth wide open. The words on the sign read "Writers Guild of America on Strike!" and behind her are more people picketing with the same sign.
Writers Guild of America members and supporters picket in front of Warner Bros. Studio on the first day of the writers strike on May 2, 2023 in Burbank, California.
(Brian Feinzimer
for LAist)
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The first time I’d ever heard of the term “Artificial Intelligence” was back in 2001 when I was growing up and crushing hard on kid star Haley Joel Osment in the Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Machines vs. Man In The Creative Writing World

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Remember that movie? It was set in a dystopian world, post-climate change, and it was centered around a humanoid robot named David who is specifically programmed with the ability to learn, adapt and even love. Things started out OK for David but then it got, well, complicated.

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Robots and AI have dominated our imaginations for years but, now, nearly 70 years after modern research into it began, it seems like machine learning is developing quicker than the speed of light. There’s AI boyfriends, AI-generated songs and AI-written college term papers.

Right now, TV and film writers are on the picket line outside of major studios demanding, among other things, that AI not be used to “write or rewrite literary material." It’s been a major point in negotiations. But can machines actually replace human ingenuity? Creativity? Humor? What is A.I.’s true capabilities?

In the latest How To LA podcast episode, Brian De Los Santos explored these questions with a couple of experts in the field: data journalist Meredith Broussard, an associate professor for the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, and Mike Ananny, an associate professor of communication and journalism at USC.

The bottom line: Aaron Sorkin shouldn’t be too worried about being replaced by robots…at least not yet.

“AI is math,” said Broussard. “All of this text that has been scraped from the internet… They feed it all into the computer and say ‘computer, make a model’. The model generates text that's similar to what's been seen before."

It can, for example, spit out a script that's derivative of a sitcom that's already been used as a model many times before.

Broussard added: "It's cool that it works, but it's just not that interesting.”

Nor, added Ananny, is it really that smart.

“Honestly, I'm not worried that generative AI is going to replace writers. I think that sort of disrespects who writers are and what writers can do,” he said. “What I would worry about though is that if the business side of cultural production decides that, eh, this script is “good enough”... that's where I think there's a real danger… of having a simpler, more boring, you know, less developed culture.”

That’s just a snippet of Brian’s conversations. For more insight into how AI works and how it can – and cannot – affect our creative work, listen to the How to LA episode here.

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  • A Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction against the practice of requiring cash bail before a jailed person has been arraigned. Longtime critics of the policy say it favors the wealthy and does not do anything to keep streets safer. My colleague Frank Stoltze has more information on the ruling and what impact it could have on marginalized people. 
  • L.A. County officials approved adding 16 mental health beds within the Twin Towers Correctional Facility downtown. My colleague Robert Garrova has more on how the repurposed space might improve jail conditions. 
  • The Lakers lose game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Denver Nuggets. Game 2 is Thursday. (Los Angeles Times)
  • The L.A. City Council deadlocked Tuesday on a vote about the proposed Bulgari Hotel in Benedict Canyon. The controversial plan will go to another vote Wednesday.
  • Pride Month is just around the corner. Comedian and activist Margaret Cho and late actor Leslie Jordan were selected as the grand marshals of the L.A. Pride Parade this year. 
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  • The Huntington Beach City Council is considering calling it quits with the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA). My colleague Jill Replogle has the latest on this ongoing controversy between the county and the clean energy agency.
  • You’ve seen the bright yellow “We Buy Ugly Houses” billboards all throughout the country. HomeVestors is the investment company behind the sign and, according recent Propublica investigation, some of its franchisees deceived people into selling their homes. 
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Californians lost their jobs. Now, many who are still unemployed are fighting for state and federal relief funds that were promised to them. CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler reported why unemployed Californians are stuck in payment disputes. 
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Wait! One More Thing...

Air Force Crew's Connection To Korea's B-Boy Scene

Three men in jean vests dance with their bodies close to the stage as a fourth man balances on the back of the person in the center.
Japan's crew 'Body Carnival' competes in the quarter final round of the R16 World B-Boy Masters Championships in Seoul on July 14, 2013. The competition was inspired by L.A.'s hip-hop scene of the '90s.
(Ed Jones
AFP via Getty Images)

For today’s trip back through Los Angeles history, we’re going to a place and time that many of you might actually remember: the 1980s and 90s hip hop scene.

LAist’s James Chow wrote about the L.A.- based breakdancing team Air Force Crew and how it helped launch Korea's B-Boy scene.

Because of their unique head spinning power moves, Air Force Crew grew in popularity internationally. One day, Korean American producer Jae Chong saw the group dancing in the late 90s in Echo Park. He invited them to perform at his R&B group’s show in Korea. After performing overseas, the rest was history for the hip hop breakdancing world. Chong said this about that show performance:

“So we actually displayed the first b-boy show in Korea in full effect … Koreans saw for the first time ever somebody doing infinite headspins,” Chong said. “I spoke with a prominent b-boy crew in Korea, and the leader said he started breakdancing because he saw them at the concert.”

Read more about this piece of hip hop history in Chow’s article here. 

Dig Deeper: Listen to podcast episode 5 of K-Pop Dreaming to learn more about Chong’s R&B group and how they became an influential band in the Korean music industry.

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