How anxiety about AI and the writers' strike fuelled Black Mirror's latest season

Black Mirror has dived into AI tech fears again.
Black Mirror has dived into AI tech fears again. Photo credit: Netflix

In the new season of Netflix Inc's sci-fi show Black Mirror, an office manager finds that a streaming service is replaying her life using an avatar of Salma Hayek.

Hayek has sold her digital image to Hollywood for use in programming created with artificial intelligence (AI).

The story highlights real-world concerns of actors and writers, said Schitt's Creek star Annie Murphy, who plays the office manager.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike in early May, partly over concerns that studios would start using generative AI, instead of humans, to write scripts.

"I hope it shines a light on what they’re fighting for and why they’re fighting for it," Murphy said in an interview.

"It’s not just writers being whiney. It’s them saying ‘Can we not be replaced by computers?’ and that’s such a scary thing for human beings to have to ask," she added.

Actors became concerned after realistic-looking "deepfakes" began circulating online of stars such as Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves and Hayek. Members of the SAG-AFTRA actors union are seeking protections on how their images are used in their negotiations with Hollywood studios.

"As much as I really want people to have a good laugh and enjoy our shockingly lighthearted episode when it comes to Black Mirror, I do hope that it sparks proper conversation, or many conversations, about the really terrible repercussions that AI can have if it goes too far off the rails," Murphy said.

Murphy said she and Hayek discussed the issue during filming of Black Mirror.

"Her image has been used in so many terrible and disrespectful ways, so we did have conversations about that," Murphy said.