Sean Penn Derides the “Human Obscenity” of AI Amid WGA Strike

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Sean Penn has derided the proliferation of AI in writing, making comments that place him in solidarity with the striking writers of the Writers Guild of America (WGA). 

“The industry has been upending the writers, actors, and directors for a very long time,” Penn said during a press conference for his latest movie ‘Black Flies.’ “My full support is with the writers guild. There are a lot of new concepts that are being tossed about, including the use of AI. And it just strikes me as human obscenity that there’s been a push back on that,” reports Variety’s event coverage of the Cannes Film Festival.

Film and TV screenwriters went on strike at the beginning of this month. The WGA is seeking better pay, new contracts for the streaming era, and safeguards against the use of AI-generated scripted shows. 

Sean Penn’s comments about AI echo those of Sting, who believes AI is a battle every creative will have to fight “in the next couple of years.” “The building blocks of music belong to us, to human beings,” Sting told the BBC in an interview. “The tools are useful, but we have to be driving them,” the singer says of AI. “I don’t think we can allow the machines to just take over. We have to be wary.”

“I get immediately bored when I see a computer-generated image,” Sting continues during that discussion, speaking on the merits of AI-generated music. “I imagine I will feel the same way about AI making music. Maybe for electronic dance music it works. But for songs, you know, expressing emotions, I don’t think I will be moved by it.”

Sting has a point here; generative AI for music is still in its infancy as experiments crop up. Google’s own MusicLM can generate EDM music very well, but it struggles with just about any other genre