Netflix’s $900k AI job has become a flashpoint in the ongoing labor disputes

Jul 29, 2023, 10:59 AM UTC
3 mins read
Netflix's $900k AI job has become a flashpoint in the ongoing labor disputes
(Photo by Oscar Vargas on Unsplash)

As Hollywood unions continue to strike, Netflix has stirred up fresh outrage with a jaw-dropping job listing that promises a staggering $900,000 annual salary for an AI-related position. The role would be part of the prestigious Machine Learning Platform team, which is instrumental in driving Netflix’s algorithm, and responsible for assisting viewers in discovering new content. However, the job description raises questions about the potential influence of AI on content selection and investment decisions, intensifying concerns among Hollywood unions about the impact of artificial intelligence on the entertainment industry and workers’ wages.

The revelation of Netflix’s $900k AI job opportunity emerged through a report by The Intercept on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. The job posting is just one among many listed on Netflix’s career page, all seeking applicants with expertise in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). While the specific responsibilities of the role remain somewhat ambiguous, there are indications that it may involve advising on content choices and funding requirements for various TV programs and films.

The apparent involvement of AI in funding decisions for content has become a focal point of concern for the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Fran Drescher, a representative of SAG-AFTRA, expressed her fears about algorithms wielding too much power, claiming that the singular success of a show or movie is now overshadowed by the algorithm’s influence. This potential trend could lead to shorter seasons and reduced episode counts, ultimately affecting the livelihoods of actors and entertainment industry professionals.

In response to the increasing use of AI in content creation, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has put forward a proposal aimed at regulating AI’s role in the writing process. The proposal seeks to safeguard against AI being used as source material for creative works, emphasizing the value of original, human-driven storytelling that draws from personal experiences. Netflix, on the other hand, maintains that AI serves as a tool to enhance and complement the creative process rather than replacing human creativity entirely.

Despite Netflix’s stance on AI integration, the recent revelation of the lucrative AI-related position has triggered condemnation from striking actors and Hollywood insiders. Actor Rob Delaney expressed shock at the vast earnings promised to an individual AI expert, which could instead benefit numerous actors and their families with health insurance coverage. The sentiment among some is that Netflix’s hiring priorities are misplaced, and the focus should be on supporting the livelihoods of the workforce, especially during a time of labor disputes.

Javier Grillo-Marxuach, known for his work on “Lost,” criticized Netflix for appearing to cry poverty while simultaneously recruiting highly paid AI specialists. This contradiction led some to question Netflix’s commitment to the welfare of its workers and to perceive the company as favoring technology over the creative talent that defines its content.

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