Christopher Nolan weighs in on AI: ‘You have to maintain accountability’

Christopher Nolan has revealed his thoughts on the rise of AI, which is currently at the heart of the on-going Hollywood strikes. 

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With his latest film Oppenheimer released in mere days, Nolan has been making plenty of public appearances, especially as his cast are currently striking against the evils of Hollywood after leaving the London premiere to “write their picket signs”.  

For the first time in 60 years, actors and writers are striking simultaneously and one of the biggest issues both want clarification on, is the use of AI. 

Studios have reportedly suggested that in the future, extras would be paid for one day’s work as they are scanned and they sign away the rights for the studio to use their likeness in future projects. 

oppenheimer cast

(L-R) Jefferson Hall, Trond Fausa Aurvåg, Ludwig Göransson, Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Cillian Murphy, Christopher Nolan, Robert Downey Jr. and Josh Hartnett attend the “Oppenheimer” UK Premiere at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on July 13, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

During a panel screening following a screening of Oppenheimer, Nolan shared his thoughts on AI being used in the film industry.

“The rise of companies in the last 15 years bandying words like algorithm — not knowing what they mean in any kind of meaningful, mathematical sense — these guys don’t know what an algorithm is,” Nolan said as reported by Variety. “People in my business talking about it, they just don’t want to take responsibility for whatever that algorithm does.”

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“Applied to AI, that’s a terrifying possibility. Terrifying,” Nolan continued. “Not least because, AI systems will go into defensive infrastructure ultimately. They’ll be in charge of nuclear weapons. To say that that is a separate entity from the person wielding, programming, putting that AI to use, then we’re doomed. It has to be about accountability. We have to hold people accountable for what they do with the tools that they have.”

Nolan encouraged caution when applying AI to films. 

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Credit: Universal Pictures

“With the labour disputes going on in Hollywood right now, a lot of it — when we talk about AI, when we talk about these issues — they’re all ultimately born from the same thing, which is when you innovate with technology, you have to maintain accountability,” Nolan stated.

Moderator Chuck Todd asked Nolan if we will continue to re-examine Oppenheimer, referring to the real scientist Robert J. Oppenheimer, whose life Nolan’s latest blockbuster film is based on. 

“I hope so,” Nolan stated. “When I talk to the leading researchers in the field of AI right now, for example, they literally refer to this — right now — as their Oppenheimer moment. They’re looking to history to say, ‘What are the responsibilities for scientists developing new technologies that may have unintended consequences?’”

Nolan has previously described Oppenheimer as “the most important person who ever lived”. The film, which is scheduled to be released on Friday (21 July) focuses on the scientist’s journey in creating the atomic bomb and how this changed the course of history. 

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