The actor's strike might be over, but Scarlett Johansson's fight against artificial intelligence (AI) is just beginning. The superstar actress is suing Lisa AI: 90s Yearbook & Avatar app for unauthorized use of her likeness and voice. Both were real enough to make viewers think they were seeing the real Johansson on their screens.
In what can only be described as an epic level of "chutzpah," Lisa AI was using these AI-generated images and voices to demonstrate how effectively the app could create ultra-realistic images. Theoretically, Lisa AI users could harness the app to generate a deep-fake image featuring any famous person they wanted to deliver whatever message the user chose. It doesn't take a genius to see how technology like this could quickly get out of hand.
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Johansson's lawsuit comes on the heels of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) cutting a new deal with motion picture studios after a strike that lasted for over 100 days. One of the main sticking points for the actors was their desire to curtail the studio’s ability to capture images of actors during filming and use them to create AI images down the road without compensating the actors or paying residuals.
Another issue revolved around the studio's ability to use AI to bring deceased actors back to life so they could appear in new films. It's easy to understand why movie studios would be excited about that kind of power. Theoretically, they could use it to film actors one time and then create an entire filmography for that actor or make an entire AI-generated movie without paying actors at all.
For its part, SAG saw an existential threat to this kind of unfettered use of AI by the studios. It was legitimately concerned that if it didn't set boundaries for this powerful new technology, it could become obsolete in less than a generation. Considering how effectively the Lisa AI app was able to duplicate Johansson's image and likeness, the actors had good reason to worry.
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The potential threat AI poses in Hollywood extends beyond actors. Screenwriters were also worried that AI engines would eventually be able to scrape enough of their previously published material to begin creating their own scripts and writing projects. Aside from getting a better deal for streaming revenue, placing limits on the motion picture studio's ability to use AI to generate original content was a key motivator in the recently resolved Writers Guild of America strike.
Not everyone is so lucky. Every day, freelance writers and content creators lose more work to material created by AI engines like ChatGPT. But they don't have a union to collectively bargain for AI regulations. Even if they did, AI's power would continue to grow and influence other industries.
Everyone from golf club makers to car companies is using AI to design better, more effective products for consumers. As AI's capabilities continue to develop, it will expand its reach into other fields and professions. With respect to the technological side of consumer products like golf clubs and cars, AI represents a giant leap forward in terms of quality, performance and efficiency. For these reasons, AI is here to stay.
Johansson's lawsuit is proof positive that she doesn't subscribe to the theory that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." More importantly, she has every right to assert control over the use of her likeness. Even if you believe AI is a proverbial "four-letter word," the fact remains that technology like this offers a variety of investment opportunities.
Equity crowdfunding platforms like Wefunder and StartEngine are great places to invest in AI startups that will make major impacts on their fields in the years to come. Many of these offerings are open to nonaccredited investors and have high upsides in relation to their buy-in costs. You may not be able to keep AI from threatening your job, but it may not matter if you hit big on the right investment.
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