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Comets Don’t Care

Attempting to prevent the use of AI in the workplace is a Quixotic effort.

I was an active member of The Animation Guild from 1995-2007, during which time I also served for several years as a TAG 839 shop steward while working at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I’ve witnessed firsthand the beneficial role unions play in safeguarding workers’ rights and conditions. I’ve also witnessed firsthand how even the poorest Americans live better than most people on the planet, and how conditions that my animation colleagues in Hollywood consider unacceptable constitute dream work for many overseas creatives.

I recently replied to the Animation Guild’s questionnaire on the impact of generative AI technology on the animation industry. As an independent producer who appreciates the leverage AI provides, I may be one of the only folks who answered with a positive assessment of AI’s creative potential (or at least one of the only folks who is willing to openly admit it). Faced with the anti-AI skew of the question and answer options, I found myself replying “Other” and filling in the related blanks more than a few times.

Attempting to contractually prevent the use of generative AI technology in the workplace is a Quixotic effort that requires an objective understanding of both the dynamic nature of technology and the role of unions. While unions quite commendably aim to protect workers' rights and interests, they face a complex landscape when it comes to AI and may inadvertently limit workers’ rights and interests in the process.

The pace of AI evolution is remarkably rapid (understatement) and grows exponentially more so — making it difficult to forecast and formulate specific limitations, rules, and contractual clauses. By the time a particular AI technology is understood and regulated, newer developments will have rendered those prescriptions and prohibitions obsolete.

AI-assisted workflows are a means to increase efficiency, reduce costs, explore new creative horizons, and improve competitiveness. From a producer’s perspective, the ability to leverage these technologies is crucial for survival and growth in a highly competitive market: others aren’t going to stop using AI just because you do. This economic pressure in the entertainment industry and commercial arts makes it unrealistic for unions to prevent the adoption of AI technologies.

Moreover, the application of AI is extremely broad, ranging from relatively simple automated tools to complex decision-making systems. The variety of potential applications makes it hard to define and limit AI use without hindering beneficial advancements that could improve working conditions or create new opportunities for creatives.

Ironically, unions may also face legal and regulatory constraints when it comes to an anti-AI footing. The legal framework around AI technology in the workplace is still evolving, and unions may find it difficult to establish meaningful contractual agreements regarding the use of AI, at the very same time that certain forms of AI usage are being challenged on legal and ethical grounds.

In my opinion, instead of trying to prevent AI use, unions can serve their members better by focusing on AI training, AI implementation guidelines, copyright considerations, and data privacy. By ensuring that animation creatives are empowered to work with AI, disruption can be minimized while opportunities are maximized.

Unions can ultimately play a constructive role in balancing the benefits of AI with the interests and rights of their members… but only with an open mind.

Kevin Geiger's picture

Kevin is the author of AWN's Reality Bites blog, his musings on the art, technology and business of immersive media (AR, VR, MR) and AI. You can find Kevin's website at and he can be reached at