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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.’



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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.”

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Cashiers vs. digital ordering: What do people want, and at what cost?




Task Group summarized the rise in digital ordering over the past couple of years, its acceptance among customers, and its cost.
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You walk into a fast-food restaurant on your lunch break. You don’t see a cashier but instead a self-service kiosk, a technology that is becoming the new norm in eateries across the country. The kiosks usually offer customers a menu to scroll through and pictures of meals and specials with prompts to select their food and submit their payment in one place.

Self-service kiosks are big business. In fact, the market for self-service products is expected to grow from a $40.3 billion market value in 2022 to $63 billion by 2027, according to a report from BCC Research. Consumers do have mixed opinions about the kiosks, but about 3 out of 5 surveyed consumers reported that they were likely to use self-service kiosks, according to the National Restaurant Association. The technology, while expensive, can boost businesses’ bottom lines in the long run.

Task Group summarized the rise in digital ordering over the past couple of years, its acceptance among customers, and a cost analysis of adopting the technology.

Self-service kiosks—digital machines or display booths—are generally placed in high-traffic areas. They can be used for different reasons, including navigating a store or promoting a product. Interactive self-service kiosks in particular are meant for consumers to place orders with little to no assistance from employees.

The idea of kiosks isn’t new. The concept of self-service was first introduced in the 1880s when the first types of kiosks appeared as vending machines selling items like gum and postcards. In the present age of technology, the trend of self-service has only grown. Restaurants such as McDonald’s and Starbucks have already tried out cashierless technology.

From a business perspective, the kiosks offer a huge upside. While many employers are looking for workers, they’re having a hard time finding staff. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers struggled with a severe employee shortage. Since then, the problem has continued. In 2022, the National Restaurant Association reported that 65% of restaurant operators didn’t have enough workers on staff to meet consumer demand. With labor shortages running rampant, cashierless technology could help restaurants fill in for the lack of human employees.

The initial investment for the kiosks can be high. The general cost per kiosk is difficult to quantify, with one manufacturer estimating a range of $1,500 to $20,000 per station. However, with the use of kiosks, restaurants may not need as many cashiers or front-end employees, instead reallocating workers’ time to other tasks.

In May 2022, the hourly mean wage for cashiers who worked in restaurants and other eating establishments was $12.99, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Kiosks could cost less money than a cashier in the long run.

But how do the customers themselves feel about the growing trend? According to a Deloitte survey, 62% of respondents report that they were “somewhat likely” to order from a cashierless restaurant if given the chance to do so. The same survey reported that only 19% of respondents had experience with a cashierless restaurant.

What would it mean for society if restaurants did decide to go completely cashierless? Well, millions of positions would likely no longer be necessary. One report suggests 82% of restaurant positions could be replaced by robots, a prospect making automation appealing to owners who can’t find staff to hire.

Due to the ongoing labor shortage, employers have tried raising employee wages. Papa John’s, Texas Roadhouse, and Chipotle were among the restaurant companies that increased employee pay or offered bonuses in an attempt to hire and retain more workers. Meanwhile, some companies have decided to use technology to perform those jobs instead, so that they wouldn’t have to put effort into hiring or focus their existing staff on other roles.

Story editing by Ashleigh Graf and Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Tim Bruns.

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Is real estate actually a good investment?




Wealth Enhancement Group analyzed data from academic research, Standard and Poor's, and Nareit to compare real estate to stocks as investments.
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It’s well-documented that the surest, and often best, return on investments comes from playing the long game. But between stocks and real estate, which is the stronger bet?

To find out, financial planning firm Wealth Enhancement Group analyzed data from academic research, Standard and Poor’s, and Nareit to see how real estate compares to stocks as an investment.

Data going back to 1870 shows the well-established power of real estate as a powerful “long-run investment.” From 1870-2015, and after adjusting for inflation, real estate produced an average annual return of 7.05%, compared to 6.89% for equities. These findings, published in the 2019 issue of The Quarterly Journal of Economics, illustrate that stocks can deviate as much as 22% from their average, while housing only spreads out 10%. That’s because despite having comparable returns, stocks are inherently more volatile due to following the whims of the business cycle.

Real estate has inherent benefits, from unlocking cash flow and offering tax breaks to building equity and protecting investors from inflation. Investments here also help to diversify a portfolio, whether via physical properties or a real estate investment trust. Investors can track markets with standard resources that include the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which tracks residential real estate prices; the Nareit U.S. Real Estate Index, which gathers data on the real estate investment trust, or REIT, industry; and the S&P 500, which tracks the stocks of 500 of the largest companies in the U.S.

High interest rates and a competitive market dampened the flurry of real-estate investments made in the last four years. The rise in interest rates equates to a bigger borrowing cost for investors, which can spell big reductions in profit margins. That, combined with the risk of high vacancies, difficult tenants, or hidden structural problems, can make real estate investing a less attractive option—especially for first-time investors.

Keep reading to learn more about whether real estate is a good investment today and how it stacks up against the stock market.

A line chart showing returns in the S&P 500, REITs, and US housing. $100 invested in the S&P 500 at the start of 1990 would be worth around $2,700 today if you reinvested the dividends.

Wealth Enhancement Group

Stocks and housing have both done well

REITs can offer investors the stability of real estate returns without bidding wars or hefty down payments. A hybrid model of stocks and real estate, REITs allow the average person to invest in businesses that finance or own income-generating properties.

REITs delivered slightly better returns than the S&P 500 over the past 20-, 25-, and 50-year blocks. However, in the short term—the last 10 years, for instance—stocks outperformed REITs with a 12% return versus 9.5%, according to data compiled by The Motley Fool investor publication.

Whether a new normal is emerging that stocks will continue to offer higher REITs remains to be seen.

This year, the S&P 500 reached an all-time high, courtesy of investor enthusiasm in speculative tech such as artificial intelligence. However, just seven tech companies, dubbed “The Magnificent 7,” are responsible for an outsized amount of the S&P’s returns last year, creating worry that there may be a tech bubble.

While indexes keep a pulse on investment performance, they don’t always tell the whole story. The Case-Shiller Index only measures housing prices, for example, which leaves out rental income (profit) or maintenance costs (loss) when calculating the return on residential real estate investment.

A chart showing the annual returns to real estate, stocks, bonds, and bills in 16 major countries between 1870 and 2015.

Wealth Enhancement Group

Housing returns have been strong globally too

Like its American peers, the global real estate market in industrialized nations offers comparable returns to the international stock market.

Over the long term, returns on stocks in industrialized nations is 7%, including dividends, and 7.2% in global real estate, including rental income some investors receive from properties. Investing internationally may have more risk for American buyers, who are less likely to know local rules and regulations in foreign countries; however, global markets may offer opportunities for a higher return. For instance, Portugal’s real estate market is booming due to international visitors deciding to move there for a better quality of life. Portugal’s housing offers a 6.3% return in the long term, versus only 4.3% for its stock market.

For those with deep enough pockets to stay in, investing in housing will almost always bear out as long as the buyer has enough equity to manage unforeseen expenses and wait out vacancies or slumps in the market. Real estate promises to appreciate over the long term, offers an opportunity to collect rent for income, and allows investors to leverage borrowed capital to increase additional returns on investment.

Above all, though, the diversification of assets is the surest way to guarantee a strong return on investments. Spreading investments across different assets increases potential returns and mitigates risk.

Story editing by Nicole Caldwell. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.

This story originally appeared on Wealth Enhancement Group and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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5 tech advancements sports venues have added since your last event




Uniqode compiled a list of technologies adopted by stadiums, arenas, and other major sporting venues in the past few years.
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In today’s digital climate, consuming sports has never been easier. Thanks to a plethora of streaming sites, alternative broadcasts, and advancements to home entertainment systems, the average fan has myriad options to watch and learn about their favorite teams at the touch of a button—all without ever having to leave the couch.

As a result, more and more sports venues have committed to improving and modernizing their facilities and fan experiences to compete with at-home audiences. Consider using mobile ticketing and parking passes, self-service kiosks for entry and ordering food, enhanced video boards, and jumbotrons that supply data analytics and high-definition replays. These innovations and upgrades are meant to draw more revenue and attract various sponsored partners. They also deliver unique and convenient in-person experiences that rival and outmatch traditional ways of enjoying games.

In Los Angeles, the Rams and Chargers’ SoFi Stadium has become the gold standard for football venues. It’s an architectural wonder with closer views, enhanced hospitality, and a translucent roof that cools the stadium’s internal temperature. 

The Texas Rangers’ ballpark, Globe Life Field, added field-level suites and lounges that resemble the look and feel of a sports bar. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers are building a new arena (in addition to retail space, team offices, and an outdoor public plaza) that will seat 18,000 people and feature a fan section called The Wall, which will regulate attire and rooting interest.

It’s no longer acceptable to operate with old-school facilities and technology. Just look at Commanders Field (formerly FedExField), home of the Washington Commanders, which has faced criticism for its faulty barriers, leaking ceilings, poor food options, and long lines. Understandably, the team has been attempting to find a new location to build a state-of-the-art stadium and keep up with the demand for high-end amenities.

As more organizations audit their stadiums and arenas and keep up with technological innovations, Uniqode compiled a list of the latest tech advancements to coax—and keep—fans inside venues.

A person using the new walk out technology with a palm scan.

Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register // Getty Images

Just Walk Out technology

After successfully installing its first cashierless grocery store in 2020, Amazon has continued to put its tracking technology into practice.

In 2023, the Seahawks incorporated Just Walk Out technology at various merchandise stores throughout Lumen Field, allowing fans to purchase items with a swipe and scan of their palms.

The radio-frequency identification system, which involves overhead cameras and computer vision, is a substitute for cashiers and eliminates long lines. 

RFID is now found in a handful of stadiums and arenas nationwide. These stores have already curbed checkout wait times, eliminated theft, and freed up workers to assist shoppers, according to Jon Jenkins, vice president of Just Walk Out tech.

A fan presenting a digital ticket at a kiosk.

Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox // Getty Images

Self-serve kiosks

In the same vein as Amazon’s self-scanning technology, self-serve kiosks have become a more integrated part of professional stadiums and arenas over the last few years. Some of these function as top-tier vending machines with canned beers and nonalcoholic drinks, shuffling lines quicker with virtual bartenders capable of spinning cocktails and mixed drinks.

The kiosks extend past beverages, as many college and professional venues have started using them to scan printed and digital tickets for more efficient entrance. It’s an effort to cut down lines and limit the more tedious aspects of in-person attendance, and it’s led various competing kiosk brands to provide their specific conveniences.

A family eating food in a stadium.

Kyle Rivas // Getty Images

Mobile ordering

Is there anything worse than navigating the concourse for food and alcohol and subsequently missing a go-ahead home run, clutch double play, or diving catch?

Within the last few years, more stadiums have eliminated those worries thanks to contactless mobile ordering. Fans can select food and drink items online on their phones to be delivered right to their seats. Nearly half of consumers said mobile app ordering would influence them to make more restaurant purchases, according to a 2020 study at PYMNTS. Another study showed a 22% increase in order size.

Many venues, including Yankee Stadium, have taken notice and now offer personalized deliveries in certain sections and established mobile order pick-up zones throughout the ballpark.

A fan walking past a QR code sign in a seating area.

Darrian Traynor // Getty Images

QR codes at seats

Need to remember a player’s name? Want to look up an opponent’s statistics at halftime? The team at Digital Seat Media has you covered.

Thus far, the company has added seat tags to more than 50 venues—including two NFL stadiums—with QR codes to promote more engagement with the product on the field.  After scanning the code, fans can access augmented reality features, look up rosters and scores, participate in sponsorship integrations, and answer fan polls on the mobile platform.

Analysts introducing AI technology at a sports conference.

Boris Streubel/Getty Images for DFL // Getty Images

Real-time data analytics and generative AI

As more venues look to reinvigorate the in-stadium experience, some have started using generative artificial intelligence and real-time data analytics.  Though not used widely yet, generative AI tools can create new content—text, imagery, or music—in conjunction with the game, providing updates, instant replays, and location-based dining suggestions

Last year, the Masters golf tournament even began including AI score projections in its mobile app. Real-time data is streamlining various stadium pitfalls, allowing operation managers to monitor staffing issues at busy food spots, adjust parking flows, and alert custodians to dirty or damaged bathrooms. The data also helps with security measures. Open up an app at a venue like the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, and report safety issues or belligerent fans to help better target disruptions and preserve an enjoyable experience.

Story editing by Nicole Caldwell. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.

This story originally appeared on Uniqode and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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