George R. R. Martin, New Mexico senator discuss artificial intelligence concerns

The author, lawmaker discussed the potential threats and solutions for the use of AI

By: - October 16, 2023 11:50 am

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (left) author George R. R. Martin (center) and University of New Mexico professor Melanie Moses (right) speak about the potential threats and solutions for the use of artificial intelligence in the creative industry. (Photo by Megan Taros/For Source NM)

As artificial intelligence tests the boundaries of copyright law, labor rights and disinformation, the solutions to rein in its capabilities are about as tenuous as the technology itself.

On Friday U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), author George R. R. Martin and University of New Mexico professor Melanie Moses spoke about the potential threats and solutions for the use of artificial intelligence in the creative industry.

The subject came up most recently as the Writers Guild of America, which Martin is a member of, secured provisions for the use of AI in its contract following a 148-day strike.

Martin is also a signatory on the Authors Guild lawsuit that alleges “mass copyright infringement” of authors’ works used to train artificial intelligence programs. The suit features a Game of Thrones fan who used AI to write a version of Winds of Winter, the next book Martin is writing in his series.

“You can’t turn back technology, but we can control technology,” Martin said. “AI has to be relegated to being a tool that writers and artists can use and not a replacement for writers and artists.”

Heinrich praised the strong copyright law in the U.S., but cautioned that lawmakers should get ahead of the technology before it has a chance to pose threats to creators and beyond.

“There are many things that we could not have imagined when much of (copyright) law was put into place,” he said. “We need to articulate for the future specifically how AI is going to fit into this history of intellectual property.”

Heinrich, who founded the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, said that social media was an example of failing to handle potentially powerful technology because it propagated conspiracy and disinformation.

Early inaction made it difficult to regulate social media companies now, which is why it’s important to develop fundamentals for handling the consequences of AI, he said.

“What we’re really talking about is respecting the individual artist and saying, ‘You’re in control of your image and your voice and your art’ and applying the same values that we’ve had for a very long time in this country to a new set of tools,” he said

Most creative copyrights, however, belong to corporations that individual creators have sold the rights to, Martin said.

This creates a strain between legislative power and the right for businesses to operate within their rights.

“A few large companies have the ability to build these neural networks and train them with enormous amounts of computation that requires enormous amounts of power and water to make these things work,” Moses said “That kind of technology at the moment is only in a few large hands. I think we want to figure out ways to democratize the use of this technology.”

Heinrich took that approach when he introduced the Creating Resources for Every American To Experiment with Artificial Intelligence Act, he said. The act would create “a shared national research infrastructure” that gives AI researchers and students from diverse backgrounds access to advanced artificial intelligence technology and helps them create responsible programs.

Moses said we are not yet in a position to predict the future and potential pitfalls of artificial intelligence.

But the propensity for bias and spreading disinformation is already troubling for creators and the general public alike.

Artificial intelligence programs often have trouble depicting Black people in positions of authority, she said.

AI photos are causing firestorms online. Recently, artificially generated photos spread online that claim to depict the war in Gaza and Israel, which led to misinformation and propaganda.

Artificial intelligence threatens to replace creators as employers begin to consider using existing programs to write material and use the likeness of performers in future works without having to rehire them.

Material created by AI doesn’t compensate the original creators whose works were fed into the programs. This leaves many questions unanswered, Martin said.

“A lot of it comes down to property rights and copyright,” he said. “We can do these things, I don’t think we’re going to be able to pass laws that say you can’t do these things, but the question is who owns it? And who then has the right to do it? Who gets paid for it and how long do they get paid for it?”

Workers in creative industries face the threat of total erasure because workers cannot necessarily be retrained to do a different job managing the new technology or working in another department like someone in a factory job may be able to, Moses said.

“The real threat is that not only are people immediately having their livelihoods threatened, but that we as humanity are threatened with losing the creative contributions of humanity,” she said. “And that’s a very scary position to be in.”


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Megan Taros
Megan Taros

Megan Taros is a freelance reporter for Source NM. She is born and raised in the harbor area of Los Angeles where she began her career covering higher education and local government. She previously launched the South Phoenix beat at the Arizona Republic where she covered race and equity in one of the largest communities of color in the state. She also launched the Latino affairs beat at the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she covered racial and economic inequality in Queens, New York.