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The Rise of Thinking Machines: What Performers Need to Know


At the October meeting of Equity's East Midlands Branch the speaker, the first “Branch Talks with…Industrial Officials” guest was Liam Budd.

The use of Artificial Intelligence across the audio and entertainment industry is on the rise. At the recent Equity East Midlands branch meeting, Liam from Equity's recorded media department gave an eye-opening presentation about artificial intelligence and its impacts on the entertainment world.

Liam is a strong advocate for the protection of performers from unregulated technology. In June 2023, he called on the government to “step in with robust measures to properly regulate the use of AI in the entertainment industry”.

AI, Liam clarified refers to "thinking" machines that can perform tasks requiring human intelligence and creativity. While the technology presents opportunities, legitimate concerns exist around job displacement, infringement of rights, and ethical implications.

As highlighted in Liam's talk, AI is already being used to clone the voices, images, and performances of individuals - sometimes without consent. Harmful deep fakes represent one troubling application, with women frequently victimised.

Liam explained Equity's efforts to empower members through initiatives like the "Stop AI Stealing the Show" campaign and a comprehensive AI toolkit. The union aims to strengthen performer rights and incorporate ethical AI clauses into collective bargaining agreements.

Key principles include centring human creativity, requiring consent, giving artists control over digital likenesses, ensuring fair compensation, and promoting transparency.

As AI capacities rapidly advance, we face a critical window of opportunity. Performers must educate themselves on the issues and possibilities surrounding thinking machines. Groups like Equity are advocating for ethical frameworks, but success hinges on members proactively exercising their rights.

The future remains unwritten. But by banding together and insisting technology serves creators - not replace them - we can author a new script. Our art forms depend on the infusion of humanity. As Equity's toolkit states, progress cannot lower the curtain on live performance.

Write up by Caron Lyon (assisted by Claude.AI)


“Guidance on Artificial Intelligence work for artists” is one of the resources produced by the department. Equity has also compiled an AI Toolkit to help members begin to give context to this new technology and help you understand how to recognise and manage it as it impacts and integrates into our working lives. It will affect everyone differently.

231011 - EastMidsSpeaker LiamBudd