The recent strikes by the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry, but their impact extends far beyond Hollywood.

The strikes began on 14 July 2023 as the actors’ union and AMPTP (the representative body for film and television studios) could not settle on a new contract. This strike also coincided with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, and so Hollywood was at a standstill until a deal was finalised on 9 November. The actors were fighting for multiple changes throughout the industry, with a key issue being consent over artificial intelligence and increased residuals. AI was also a key sticking point in the WGA strike negotiations, with the eventual deal stating that it cannot be used to rewrite scripts.

But the influence of the strikes extends far beyond bigger pay checks for actors. The strikes, driven by concerns over fair compensation and working conditions, have highlighted broader issues surrounding the relationship between technology (AI in particular) and labour.

Companies across various sectors have been exploring AI applications for efficiency, cost savings, and innovation. However there’s a growing awareness of how the use of AI might be influenced by the evolving dynamics between workers and employers. Fear of job displacement and concerns over worker welfare have created a complex narrative across all industries.

The strikes, and the subsequent deal between all parties, highlight a crucial perspective: the role of AI should be collaborative, working in tandem with human capabilities rather than replacing them. Companies may find it necessary to invest in programmes that equip employees with the skills to collaborate with AI systems, ensuring that technology enhances their productivity. Different industries should use this moment to foster cross-sector collaboration. Sharing insights and best practices on AI adoption, ethical considerations, and workforce integration can lead to a more harmonious and responsible approach to technological advancement.

The ethical use of AI is a growing concern for both the public and industry leaders. These strikes further stress the importance of aligning AI adoption with social responsibility. Companies may now be more inclined to evaluate the impact of AI on their employees and society at large, taking steps to mitigate negative consequences.

The SAG-AFTRA strikes, while rooted in the entertainment industry, reverberate across sectors and countries as a reminder of the complex relationship between technology, labour, and societal values.

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