David Simon on AI

David Simon on the use of AI in writing and creating.

David Simon on AI
Photo by Lenin Estrada / Unsplash

In light of OpenAI's CTO Mira Murati saying the quiet part out loud about OpenAI's view of creative people, I love this exchange between David Simon, creator of The Wire among many other great series, and Ari Shapiro from an interview during the writer's strike:

SHAPIRO: OK, so you've spent your career creating television without AI, and I could imagine today you thinking, boy, I wish I had had that tool to solve those thorny problems...

SIMON: What?

SHAPIRO: ...Or saying...

SIMON: You imagine that?

SHAPIRO: ...Boy, if that had existed, it would have screwed me over.

SIMON: I don't think AI can remotely challenge what writers do at a fundamentally creative level.

SHAPIRO: But if you're trying to transition from scene five to scene six, and you're stuck with that transition, you could imagine plugging that portion of the script into an AI and say, give me 10 ideas for how to transition this.

SIMON: I'd rather put a gun in my mouth.

SHAPIRO: You would rather put a gun in your mouth?

SIMON: I mean, what you're saying to me, effectively, is there's no original way to do anything and...


SIMON: Yes, you are.

SHAPIRO: That seems like a kind of absolutist take.

SIMON: Not only I think is it a fundamental violation of the integrity of writers and also of copyright to - you know, when I sold all the scripts I sold, you know, 150 to HBO and, you know, maybe another 50 to NBC, I didn't sell them so that they could be thrown into a computer with other people's and be used again by a corporation. So...

SHAPIRO: So would you ever agree to a contract that saw any role for AI at all?

SIMON: No. I would not.


SIMON: If that's where this industry is going, it's going to infantilize itself. We're all going to be watching stuff we've watched before, only worse.

SHAPIRO: Do you think that position is where this is likely to end up?

SIMON: I mean, if a writer wants to play around with AI as the writer and see if it helps him, I mean, I regard it as no different than him having a thesaurus or a dictionary on his desk or a book of quotable quotes. Play around with it. If it starts to lead the way in the sense that a studio exec comes to you and says, AI gave us this story that we want, that's not why I got into storytelling. And it's not where I'll stay if that's what storytelling is.

SHAPIRO: You've been through past writer's strikes. Were there lessons those experiences taught you that you think are relevant today?

SIMON: Oh, yeah. The one that is fundamental today is they are now telling us, we don't know what AI is. We don't know how good it's going to be. Let's not litigate what AI can do, what it can't do.

SHAPIRO: You think they're hiding their cards.

SIMON: Of course. They did the same thing in 2007 when it was streaming. And so yeah, this is - we're having the same exact fight as in 2007. Technology is different, but the fight has to be the same. It's going to be a long fight. I think this is going to go on a while. This is the fight. This is now. This has to happen now.