Charlie Brooker: ‘If Rishi Sunak had been replaced by AI I probably wouldn’t have noticed’

todayAugust 12, 2023 13

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Charlie Brooker: ‘If Rishi Sunak had been replaced by AI I probably wouldn’t have noticed’

AI is a hot topic – from generating worryingly believable photos (pope coat anyone?) to the use of Chat GPT for all sorts of things, and developers calling for its regulation before it’s too late.

So of course it was always likely to feature in the new series of dystopian drama Black Mirror, which is returning this week, with one episode focusing on a potential use of the technology.

Asked by Sky News if he thinks our politicians are doing enough when it comes to staying ahead of AI, the show’s creator Charlie Brooker was somewhat dismissive.

“I mean, if Rishi Sunak had been replaced by AI, I probably wouldn’t have noticed,” he quipped.

“Actually, he’d be a good character to pop up like, you know the paper clip that used to pop up in Microsoft Word?”

“I’d like a little Rishi Sunak that pops up and goes, ‘It looks like you’re writing about how depressing the government is – would you like some help with that?'”

But there’s no getting away from the potential threat posed by AI to screenwriters – one of the bones of contention behind the current writer’s strike in Hollywood is around regulation of the technology.

Brooker himself tried using Chat GPT to see if it could write an episode of Black Mirror for him and wasn’t impressed with the results, but acknowledges it can’t be left completely unregulated.

Salma Hayek in Black Mirror. Pic: Netflix

Salma Hayek in Black Mirror. Pic: Netflix

“[AI] can’t actually replace a human writer – I think the problem will be people trying to use it to short change human writers or cut them out of part of the process or part of the ownership of their ideas,” he said.

“Because really what those generative AI chatbot thingamajigs are doing is hoovering up stuff that we humans have typed in and regurgitating it as its own work, and obviously human writers, we’re influenced by things all the time but not to the same parasitic extent.

“And so I think that’s a thing that needs looking at – those sort of tools are really useful and powerful tools in the hands of a human writer potentially… there’s tools in Photoshop that are good for visual artists, so I’m not necessarily anti the tool, it’s just I think that the way it’s used needs careful consideration.”

One of the stars of the Black Mirror episode which tackles AI, Schitts Creek actress Annie Murphy, says there’s no getting away from how important an issue it is.

Aaron Paul in Black Mirror. Pic: Netflix

Aaron Paul in Black Mirror. Pic: Netflix

“It’s so topical right now, so relevant and I think especially with the writer’s strike and the impending actors strike where so many of the concerns are AI and being replaced by it and having those concerns not really met with any kind of empathy is a bit alarming,” she said.

“It’s a wild and wonderful and scary time to be alive right now.”

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Her co-star Salma Hayek wonders if it’s the right way to develop tech. “I feel like saying, ‘Hey, I exist, I do not want to be replaced by a machine’,” she admitted.

“And some part of me also admires it – the minds that invent the artificial intelligence and all these incredible technological advances, I admire it and I’m scared of them at the same time.”

“I feel like saying, ‘Hey, guys, you’re so smart, can you please find a cure for cancer or a pill so that we don’t get white hair or cellulite’ – can we change the focus in a direction that we’re not being replaced, you know, and where humanity, it still feels human.”

Writers Charlie Brooker and Bisha K Ali on the set of Black Mirror. Pic: Netflix

Writers Charlie Brooker and Bisha K Ali on the set of Black Mirror. Pic: Netflix

Writing a dystopian drama when the world seems somewhat dystopian anyway surely presents something of a challenge.

Earlier episodes of Black Mirror have tackled ideas including our obsession with social media, tech that records every single thing you do and using Avatars to represent yourself – things that are only getting more common in our world.

“There do seem to be a worrying number of previous storylines that we’ve had in the show that then seem to come true with worrying frequency,” Brooker admitted.

“I think that as the world gets more and more absurd it just means that you have to sort of approach things slightly differently – you just have to keep turning the dial-up I suppose.

“So I don’t know that it gets any more difficult so much as obviously as the world gets scarier – it means you’re typing while shivering with fear.”

The sixth series of Black Mirror is out on Netflix.

Written by: Newsroom

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