Connect with us


Robots don’t have childhood trauma: AI and the future of human creativity

As Hollywood’s labour unions struggle with AI-driven threats, questions about the disruptive potential of AI linger across all sectors dependent on ‘knowledge work.’



Share this:

On June 5, 98% of SAG-AFTRA members — representing 160,000 film and television actors — voted to authorize a strike if they don’t reach a deal with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Wednesday) by June 30.

SAG-AFTRA joins the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) which went on strike in May. While each union has different concerns, common between them is concerns over the film and television industry’s prospective use of AI (artificial intelligence) and what it will mean for writers and actors.

Should both unions strike at the same time, it would completely shut down production in Hollywood. Already, some television productions have gone dark without scripts to film.

In the discussions with the AMPTP leading up to the strike, the WGA proposed a go-forward resolution that AI would not be used to write or rewrite literary material, and that the work its members did could not be used to train generative AI. The AMPTP rejected the proposal and offered, instead, an annual meeting to “discuss advancements in technology.”

SAG-AFTRA seeks to stipulate that using AI to replicate an actor’s voice, likeness, or create a new performance must only be done with that actor’s consent and with payment.

Nick Bilton, writing in Vanity Fair, outlined the potential changes AI could bring to the industry:

“At the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills last week, this was the topic du jour, with Todd Lieberman, a movie producer, saying that in three years, a “good” movie will come out that will have been written and created by an AI, which was echoed by Fox Entertainment CEO Rob Wade, who noted that it won’t just be screenwriting, but it will be everything, from editing to storyboarding to directing. “AI in the future, maybe not next year or the year after, but if we’re talking 10 years? AI is [absolutely] going to be able to do all of these things,” Wade said.”

What does the future look like for Hollywood writers and consumers of their work?

Josh Friedman, a screenwriter on the picket lines in L.A. framed it slightly differently, saying that what ChatGPT and Bard do “isn’t writing—it’s scraping other people’s work. It’s a plagiarizing machine.”

So, the gauntlet has been thrown down.

Of course, there are those that will view Hollywood unions battling the forces of technological disruption as just business-as-usual; the latest and greatest of a series of innovations and outsourcings that hollowed out North America’s manufacturing base and replaced local workers with software, apps or overseas workforces.

For example, manufacturing employment in the U.S. reached an all-time peak of 19.6 million in 1979. In 2019, that number was 12.8 million, down 6.7 million or 35 perce­nt from the peak.

This is just how it goes, right? And, after all, Hollywood = wealthy coastal elites, right?

Not quite.

This isn’t just a problem of two groups deciding who gets to be richest. A majority of professional writers and actors are decidedly middle class. Many are struggling. In fact, half of WGA-writers receive only collective agreement-mandated minimum compensation for their work. That’s up from a third of writers in the same position a decade ago.

But there’s another consideration that goes beyond contract negotiations.

There is a non-zero chance that within a decade or two, someone could come home from work, kick their feet up in front of their TV, and instruct the embedded algorithm to create an original on-demand program for them to watch. For example, “I want to watch a one-hour drama about space cops battling space pirates featuring Marilyn Monroe and Jamie Foxx except Marilyn is Black and Jamie is white and there’s at least one musical number featuring the songs of Phil Collins and there’s a bunny rabbit who looks like the one I had when I was six.”

And within seconds that exact show starts playing.

This is not an imagined future. In fact, it might be the most likely one. Your New Favourite Movie: Written, Acted, and Directed by AI.

It all might depend on what happens with these labour actions. But there’s another question to consider.

What exactly are we giving up, societally, if SAG-AFTRA and the WGA lose their current battles against AI? Are we surrendering some essential part of our culture?

Robots don’t have childhood trauma to inform their ‘writing.’ They have no specific or unique human experiences. They have only a recycled amalgamation and cut-and-paste of what’s come before.

As James Poniewozik of the New York Times writes:

“The potential rise of A.I. has workplace implications for writers, but it’s not only a labor issue. We, too, have a stake in the war with the storybots. A culture that is fed entirely by regurgitating existing ideas is a stagnant one. We need invention, experimentation and, yes, failure, in order to advance and evolve. The logical conclusion of an algorithmicized, “more like what you just watched” entertainment industry is a popular culture that just … stops.”

The human vs AI battlefield will also take place in courts and legislatures

It’s not just Hollywood seeing these battles.

Stock image provider Getty Images is suing Stability AI, alleging that the company copied 12 million of its proprietary images to train its AI model ‘without permission … or compensation.’

It’s worth noting that Getty has licenced its images and data to other AI providers for compensation, and the crux of the argument against Stability AI is that it scraped Getty’s images without a contracted agreement.

Meanwhile, Italy has (at least temporarily) banned ChatGPT given its potential violations of European data privacy laws.

Governments, regulators, and courts will increasingly be involved as humans struggle to process how to manage this genie that’s popped out of the bottle, and wants to know everything we’ve ever known.

This battle in Hollywood may be just the tip of the iceberg in the coming struggles between all knowledge workers, who could see their roles or compensation vastly changed, and the ownership/tech class who see opportunities to become more efficient and productive by stripping out human effort using generative AI.

As writer, investor, researcher, and AI observer Paul Kedrosky told Bilton:

“Too many people are trapped in the past, arguing that we have always had to adapt to new technologies. Yes, but we have never been chased by an all-encompassing technology whose DNA is evolving in real time so quickly. Our attempts to stay ahead are charmingly vestigial, like buying expensive carbon plate running shoes to out-run a rocket-powered steamroller.” 

What’s next for AI in Hollywood?

A third Hollywood union, the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), announced a tentative deal with the AMPTP on June 3.

The Hollywood Reporter noted the deal’s language on AI:

“..the tentative contract specifies that generative artificial intelligence is not a person and that work performed by DGA members must be assigned to a person. Moreover, “Employers may not use GAI [generative artificial intelligence] in connection with creative elements without consultation with the Director or other DGA-covered employees” and top entertainment companies and the union must meet twice annually to “discuss and negotiate over AI.”

Guild members must ratify the agreement over the next two weeks. If the membership accepts the agreement, it may set a precedent for SAG-AFTRA and the WGA.

In the meantime, writers like Ben Ripley will continue to worry about what AI might mean for his profession.

Writers “have to be original,” he said. “Artificial intelligence is the antithesis of originality.”

Share this:


mesh conference to explore animal ‘de-extinction’ and how Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails

Today the mesh conference announced that biotech leader Ben Lamm and prominent lawyer Michael Geist will keynote at the Dec 6-7 event in Toronto.



Ben Lamm is CEO of Colossal
Share this:

On December 6-7, all innovation roads lead to the mesh conference in Toronto, and today the event unveiled more detail on two featured keynote speakers.

Joining the mesh conference as a keynote speaker is Colossal CEO, Ben Lamm. Known for his pioneering work at the intersection of biotechnology and conservation, Lamm’s presence promises to ignite discussions and offer unparalleled insights into the future of biotech, de-extinction, and environmental sustainability. 

Also joining mesh as a keynote speaker is Dr. Michael Geist, a prominent lawyer and leading authority on technology law and policy. Geist has been a regular columnist on digital policy with leading publications such as the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star and is the creator and host of Law Bytes, one of Canada’s top technology podcasts. 

With a focus on four threads — business, media and technology, society, and marketing — the mesh conference hosts Canadian digital transformation leaders who will meet to connect, share, and inspire others to think about changing the way we think, organize, operate and behave.

Ben Lamm (left) and George Church started "de-extinction" company, Colossal
Ben Lamm (left) and George Church started “de-extinction” company, Colossal. – Image courtesy Colossal

“De-extinction” is vital to fighting climate change

Colossal Biosciences’ Ben Lamm will join the mesh conference for a conversation about the work his company is doing to bring back the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo bird.

Lamm is a serial entrepreneur who started Colossal in 2021 with George Church, a biologist at Harvard Medical School. The company is working to advance the field of species de-extinction in order to bring back biodiversity and reintroduce species to Earth to help fight climate change.

Colossal’s work comes at a time when the world has entered the sixth extinction crisis, where the loss of species can have devastating effects on biodiversity that is crucial to human survival.

Image courtesy Colossal

Colossal is building technology to stop the extinction process, secure animal DNA, and reverse environmental damage created by humans.

“In addition to bringing back ancient extinct species like the woolly mammoth, we will be able to leverage our technologies to help preserve critically endangered species that are on the verge of extinction and restore animals where humankind had a hand in their demise,” Lamm says.

De-extinction reverses plant and animal extinction by creating new proxy versions of these lost species. By bringing back extinct animals, the goal is to restore ecosystems that have been lost. By bringing back extinct animals, the goal is to restore ecosystems that have been lost, while increasing biodiversity and restoring ecosystem resilience.

Learn more about Colossal: 

Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails

Dr. Michael Geist will join the mesh conference for a keynote conversation on Canada’s digital policy where he will share his views on why he thinks it’s gone off the rails, and advice about what engaged communities should be doing.

Geist is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-Commerce Law, a Faculty member at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, and a Professor at the University of Ottawa.

Michael Geist
Photo courtesy Dr. Michael Geist

At the mesh conference, Geist will lead an engaging discussion that will delve into the current landscape of Canadian digital policy, focusing on the repercussions of the Online News Act, known commonly as Bill C-18. The removal of Canadian news from major platforms like Facebook and Instagram by Meta, as well as the anticipated response from Google involving a ban on Canadian news in search results, will be explored in depth.

Geist, a recognized authority in technology law and policy, will also shed light on the implications and nuances of the Online Streaming Act, formerly known as Bill C-11 that imposes new rules on certain online streaming services.

This session aims to foster a comprehensive understanding of the challenges posed by evolving digital policies in Canada and to propose actionable steps for proactive engagement and advocacy. 

Two weeks until we mesh

The mesh conference is a two-day event that will feature a series of inspiring talks, interactive workshops, and panel discussions that delve into how technology and innovation can be used to augment human capabilities to improve our world.

Attendees will gain insights into the latest digital trends, emerging technologies, and strategies for achieving human-centered digital transformation.

The mesh conference is back in Toronto on December 6-7 after relaunching earlier this year in Calgary where more than 200 people met to connect, share, and inspire.

The mesh conference recently announced it will be donating all proceeds from the event to Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization and leader in perishable food redistribution.
See more speakers and get your tickets at

Share this:
Continue Reading


Fintech competition a cure for Canada’s financial inequality and an over-protected banking industry

Koho CEO Daniel Eberhard and Canadian Senator Colin Deacon chat aboutCanada’s banking industry and fintech solutions at Elevate Festival.



Share this:

Regulated banks offer security — you know your money’s safe there. 

But overprotection in the Canadian banking industry has negative effects, including:

  • Excessive credit requirements 
  • High-income Canadians ($150,000 salaries) still living paycheque to paycheque
  • Arbitrary events that lower credit scores, like changing credit cards

Daniel Eberhard and Senator Colin Deacon discuss the limitations of Canada’s over-regulated banking industry and how to correct them at this year’s Elevate Festival in Toronto. 

Here are some highlights from their fireside chat.

Canada’s banking climate is one of the least competitive in the world 

Governmental red tape to become a bank or offer similar services prevents many new, innovative banking businesses from entering the Canadian market. 

Eberhard describes Canada’s uncompetitive banking climate through the Lerner Index, an economic measure to assess price to product, where Canada was last ranked at 0.49 in 2014.

“0.1-0.2 is a healthy banking climate; everything above 0.4 is rare and non-competitive at all. The only country I’ve seen higher than Canada is Qatar. What happened in 2009, and did anybody opt into one of the least competitive banking climates in the world? What does that mean for everyday Canadians…or the 80% of Canadians who feel their financial position has gotten worse year over year?”

A lack of competition leads to banking services that don’t serve the people

Eberhard cites a fintech colleague that provides brokerage accounts in 100 countries, but not Canada. Meaning? Canada doesn’t have a competitive banking industry. 

Economic experts reinforce time and time again that a lack of competition, or a monopoly, results in: 

  • Higher prices
  • Less efficiency
  • Rising inequality

Last month, Canada’s Department of Finance announced measures to protect Canadians from their banks. These include new mortgage guidelines, enhancing low-cost and no-cost banking options, lowering non-sufficient fund fees, and designating an external not-for-profit organization to handle complaints. 

However, Senator Deacon asserts that Canada’s uncompetitive banking industry is no different from what economists have cautioned against in the last few decades:

“How we regulate our banks…is very separate (from) challenging our banks to deliver more customer-centric services…The more protected you are as an industry, the less customer-centric you become. You will become organizational-centric; you do what is good for your business and shareholders — that’s the job of a board of directors. 

Source: PitchBook, KPMG in Canada

Open banking and fintech can make Canadian banking more customer-centric

The Canadian fintech market has been dropping since 2021, and according to KPMG’s H1 2023 report, investments have dropped down to pandemic levels. From the end of 2022 to the summer of 2023, they reported a 74% drop in investment value and a 28% drop in the number of deals. 

Related reading: Canadian fintech investment continues to fall in 2023, says KPMG

Eberhard and Deacon see fintech competition as the answer to better, more inclusive banking services:

“What we’ve got to do is force that board of directors to get more innovative and aggressive in how they serve those customer needs. And how we do it is we introduce competition through financial technology services who offer customers things that are completely different than what the traditional banking system has been offering.”

Share this:
Continue Reading


Unlocking digital transformation for good: mesh conference lands in Toronto on December 6-7

Canada’s digital transformation and innovation event is back in Toronto on Dec 6-7.



Share this:

In a world where technology shapes the way we live and work, it’s important to harness the power of innovation to not only drive business success, but also make a positive impact on our communities. That’s the vision behind the upcoming mesh conference, set to take place in Toronto on Dec 6-7. 

And this digital transformation event is more than an innovation summit — it’s an opportunity to combine innovation with social responsibility, with proceeds benefiting Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization and leader on perishable food redistribution.

Human-powered, tech-enabled innovation

The mesh conference is back in Toronto on December 6-7 after relaunching earlier this year in Calgary where more than 200 people met to connect, share, and inspire.

And the mesh conference is not your typical digital transformation and innovation event — it’s a platform where visionaries, innovators, and thought leaders come together to explore the intersection of technology and humanity. 

The theme for the Toronto event is “Human-powered, tech-enabled,” emphasizing the pivotal role of technology in augmenting human capabilities.

The two-day event will feature a series of inspiring talks, interactive workshops, and panel discussions that delve into the ways people who are augmented by technology and innovation can improve our world. Attendees will gain insights into the latest digital trends, emerging technologies, and strategies for achieving human-centered digital transformation.

Second Harvest
Lori Nikkel is CEO of Second Harvest. – Photo courtesy Second Harvest

Making a difference — why mesh is supporting Second Harvest

We’re in a crisis, and more people than ever are relying on food banks.

In Toronto alone, a recent study shows one in 10 people are now relying on food banks, and more than 2.5 million visits to food banks took place between April 2022 and March 2023 — a 51% increase over the year before. 

Across Canada, nearly two million Canadians accessed a food bank over the course of one month, the Food Banks Canada HungerCount 2023 report shows..

With a commitment to social responsibility and using its platform to help others, the mesh conference announced that all proceeds raised after expenses will be donated to Second Harvest. Attendees of mesh can also make a top-up donation when purchasing a ticket, and every $25 raised will provide more than 100 meals to those in need via Second Harvest.

“In the spirit of giving back, we’ve designed mesh to support those facing food insecurity and we’re thrilled to be working with Second Harvest,” says mesh conference co-founder and co-producer, Sheri Moore. “Proceeds will be donated to Second Harvest, and we’re designing our food menu with our catering team at Toben Food By Design in order to rescue the food from our event in a way that has the greatest impact for our matched charity.”

Second Harvest works with thousands of food businesses from across the supply chain, utilizing logistics and technology to reduce the amount of edible food going to waste. Its inclusive model ensures a healthy surplus of food is redirected to thousands of charities and nonprofits across the country, providing millions of Canadians experiencing food insecurity access to the nourishment they need. 

“It’s important to us that we help our community in any way and every way that we can,” says Moore. “With the return of mesh in 2023 after the pandemic, we have been overwhelmed by the support from new friends and mesh alumni alike. What better way to give back than to pay it forward to use our platform to help those in need.”

In addition to food donations, Moore says mesh is also looking at ways to take a circular approach with the help of Leaff Circular Gifting, a sustainable organization that offers eco-friendly flowers, plants, gifts, gift boxes, and immersive virtual experiences. Leaff Circular Gifting’s mission involves endorsing local enterprises such as farmers, artisans, indigenous communities, and others by incorporating them into their gift-centric platform.

mesh conference
Photo courtesy the mesh conference

Why you should attend the mesh conference in Toronto

With a focus on four threads — business, media and technology, society, and marketing — the mesh conference hosts Canadian digital transformation leaders who will meet to connect, share, and inspire others to think about changing the way we think, organize, operate and behave.

Among the many reasons innovators attend mesh:

  • The mesh conference offers cutting-edge insights: Learn from industry experts and thought leaders about the latest digital trends and technologies shaping our world.
  • The mesh conference creates unique networking opportunities: Connect with like-minded individuals, build valuable relationships, and explore potential collaborations.
  • The mesh conference delivers social impact: Make a difference by supporting Second Harvest and helping to combat food insecurity in your community.
  • The mesh conference will inspire you: Discover how technology can be a force for good and get inspired to drive positive change.
  • The mesh conference delivers practical, hands-on knowledge: Gain actionable strategies to drive digital transformation within your organization, rooted in a human-centric approach.

Get involved — join us at the mesh conference

We invite you to be part of this unique event that combines innovation, education, and social responsibility. The mesh conference takes place at The Symes December 6-7.

To secure your spot and help support Second Harvest, visit and register today. Don’t miss this chance to be a part of the mesh Conference, where human-powered, tech-enabled transformation meets social impact. 

See you in Toronto.

Share this:
Continue Reading