Having cut his teeth in digital journalism before making the transition to Hollywood, writer/director Cord Jefferson is uniquely positioned to understand how the rise of artificial intelligence may reshape American media. And he’s not as afraid as you might think.
“I don’t want to say that AI doesn’t have any place in creativity,” said Jefferson, whose uproarious debut feature, “American Fiction,” has already generated buzz as a People’s Choice Award contender since its world premiere Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival. “I don’t want to be a Luddite, who gets mad at the steam engine… These kinds of developments would be good, I just think we need to find a way to utilize them that is more supportive of the actual artists and not as a way to get rid of human beings in the process.”
“The toothpaste is out of the tube,” he added.
Sitting down in the L.A. Times Studio at TIFF on Saturday to discuss “American Fiction,” which stars Jeffrey Wright as a frustrated novelist who pens a tale full of Black stereotypes in a fit of pique, Jefferson argued that enabling the culture of the tech industry to bleed into journalism and the arts is more damaging than AI in itself.
“We’ve allowed the tech ethos of, ‘We need to make everything efficient and streamlined’ be the primary aspect of society,” he said. “Art isn’t efficient. We’re not trying to make things as cheaply and quickly as possible… What we need to do generally as a culture is push back on this idea that efficiency is always the best solution to everything.”
Jefferson also noted that future legislative action and judicial interpretation will shape what is possible with artificial intelligence, and in turn how Hollywood chooses to use it.
“Our laws and our regulations haven’t caught up with the technology,” he said, citing a recent court ruling that held that AI-generated works of art without any human input are ineligible to be copyrighted. “It’s just too new to really know where it’s gonna go… I hope there’s a way that we utilize the technology that isn’t all about getting rid of the inefficient human beings.”