Discover more from Situation Normal
WGA Solidarity | AI Haiku | Humans Wanted
Hello & welcome to another edition of Situation Normal!
Last Sunday, I shared an essay about a subject I’ve been waiting 45 years to tackle: middle age. Sharing that essay made me feel less melancholy about getting older. But what made me feel better were the comments, especially the wisdom from older situation normies who survived middle age and lived to laugh about the angst I’m currently experiencing. The comments on “Ask Your Friends If Middle Age is Right for You” are 🔥🔥🔥. Check them out!
In other news, no shout outs today because there were no new paid subscribers to Situation Normal. Hopefully, a few situation normies will remedy that👇
People pay for Situation Normal because reading my stories makes them laugh. If that describes you, operators are standing by👇
The Writers Guild of America is on strike. The writers are demanding higher pay, more stable working conditions, and clear guardrails around the use of artificial intelligence in entertainment. All of these issues are complicated, but my friend Chris Duffy, who is a WGA member, has a good overview of these very reasonable demands in his newsletter Bright Spots.
I’m not in the WGA, and Situation Normal isn’t going on strike because 1) I own it and 2) this kind of writing isn’t covered by the WGA. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the WGA strike because I believe that what happens there impacts me in a few ways. Here’s a quick list:
I have friends and family who are WGA members. Their fight is my fight.
I have friends and family who work in film and television and who are Teamsters or members of IATSE. The WGA fight is their fight, and by extension, their fight is also my fight.
I write novels and publish stories on the internet. Sometimes guild signatory companies option my material. If that sounds glamorous or lucrative, it’s not. Mostly, it’s paperwork, lots of waiting, and sometimes a meeting where I get a fancy latte. But before all of that, there is labor—my labor. The WGA fight is my fight, especially because my labor is (sometimes) connected to their labor.
Artificial intelligence. While I’m curious and somewhat optimistic about AI tools, I’m highly skeptical of a mentality that plans to use those tools against, well, everyone else.For reasons that aren’t necessarily specific to Hollywood, that fight is now, and so, the WGA fight is everyone’s fight.
Of course, there’s a word that sums up this list. That word is solidarity. After I read what Chris wrote about the strike, I emailed him to ask how I could stand in solidarity with the WGA. Chris gave me three suggestions:
Use your voice / platform to talk about the strike and share your support for the WGA.
Contribute to the Entertainment Community Fund (choose “film and television” in the dropdown menu). The fund DOESN’T go to writers, but it does go to film and TV workers who suffer hardship because of the strike.
Walk a picket line! You’ll have to be in Los Angeles or New York to join a WGA picket line, but non-members and non-writers are welcome. Also, everyone is really friendly and appreciative of the support & solidarity.
Obviously, this post is an example of solidarity action item number one. Work is a little slow for me at the moment, so I’m skipping option two (for now). But I’ve got time, and I need to get my steps in, so this week I joined Chris at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank to walk the WGA picket line. Good times!
Or, if you use Substack Notes, show solidarity by hitting the Restack button.
Conversations around AI often revolve around two questions:
Can AI replace human writers?
Will AI replace human writers?
Personally, I think these are the wrong questions. A better question is this: do humans actually want to read an AI story? For me, the answer is hell no. Stories aren’t widgets, they’re art. And like all art forms, stories are created to speak to the human condition.
A large language model—even one that learns fast and breaks everything—isn’t human, and whatever it has to say about the human condition is bullshit. Actually, it’s more like a mirror image of bullshit. Because the AI doesn’t know anything, and it doesn’t feel anything, either. What the AI does is spot patterns, assemble reasonably convincing facsimiles of thought, and above all, reflect you back to you. To wit: I asked Bard, Google’s AI, to write me a haiku about AI. Here’s what Bard “wrote”:
I’m a writer, not a computer scientist, so maybe my thoughts about AI aren’t all that sophisticated. But it turns out, AI needs me a lot more than I need AI, at least according to this job posting I found on LinkedIn.
I’m writing a book here
Not Safe for Work was written by me, a human, who worked for several years as a reporter in the porn industry, wrote a lot of shitty pages to hone his craft, and finally produced a comedic mystery about his lived experience working in Porn Valley at the dawn of Web 2.0. Could an AI do that? The answer is no. Why? Because the companies paying for all these AI tools have programmed them to refuse assignments that don’t conform to their content standards. Pretty dystopian, if you ask me. Thankfully, you can save the future by purchasing books written by humans👇
Stick around and chat
What’s your favorite movie? Hint: it was written by a WGA writer.
What’s your favorite television show? Hint: it was written by a WGA writer, and perhaps an entire staff of WGA writers.
What’s your favorite AI-written show, or movie? Hint: this is a trick question.
How do you plan to show solidarity with the WGA?
Assume you have an annual budget equal to the salary of your average Hollywood CEO. What AI idea would you back?
See Ted Chiang’s essay in The New Yorker for an excellent explanation of why AI is the new consulting firm. https://www.newyorker.com/science/annals-of-artificial-intelligence/will-ai-become-the-new-mckinsey