When the network giant GMA-7 presented to the public their newest sportscasters Marco and Maia, the Internet was all abuzz. Why? They look normal for sports reporters except for one thing—they are not humans.

GMA-7 calls the move “innovation in journalism” and reassured the public that the AI human models will not replace warm bodies in media. Many were not appeased and quick to voice out their fears—will these AI reporters replace their human counterparts?

Source: GMA News

4th Industrial revolution

Artificial intelligence, or AI, refers to the computer simulation of human intelligence processes. This involves programming machines to imitate human thought patterns by exposing them to diverse datasets. The goal is to replicate how the human brain works and apply it to the specific tasks the machine is designed for. The development of computer algorithms approximating human intelligence is made possible by the increasing computational power of machines.

The rise of AI is part of the ongoing fourth wave of industrial revolution that is taking over many aspects of our lives. We, as individuals and as part of society, are increasingly dependent on the internet due to easier access to information and services. AI products such as AI-generated images, videos, songs, and applications are becoming common. In the physical world, AI has allowed the development of self-driving cars, which used to exist only in sci-fi films.

Industrial applications of AI have also been on the rise. In the oil and energy industry, AI is used to predict the demand and needs for future use; in aviation, to plot more economical flight routes; in marketing, finance, e-commerce, and education, for predictive data analysis.

Among the most recent advancements in the field of AI are the large language models (LLM). These models are built on artificial neural networks—algorithms that mimic the structure of a human brain—and trained on a big data set of information. The result is a computer software that can carry out sophisticated conversations with human users, who may likely mistake it as a normal person.

Applications of these LLMs can be seen in OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and in Meta’s Llama, as well as in conversational AIs such as chatbots, virtual agents, virtual assistants, and even content-generation for SEO (search engine optimization) that are commonly used to assist in research, learning, or even for mundane tasks such as turning home appliances on and off (e.g. Siri, Alexa), or when you need someone to talk to in boredom (e.g. Simsimi).

Source: Screenshot from Simsimi

Because of the language proficiency exhibited by these platforms, and the sheer volume of information that they can access and process, many think that these AI platforms can replace humans in some tasks. After all, AI integration has made work easier, and for some sectors, safer and cheaper.

And the tasks that can be delegated to AI has been growing. Even in the arts, AI has made its footprints. Image, music, and video generation can already be enhanced—if not completely and totally done—by AI. It can even write a full article! (This write-up, by the way, is not generated by AI.)

AI vs humans

Since new technology also impacts the way people work, it also brought disruptions to society and the economy. On the positive side, it improved productivity. On the negative side, it destroyed old ways of doing things where things are normally done more slowly, and more deliberately.

The advent of the internet and e-mail is why traditional postal service declined. In car factories, manufacturers opted for automation and replaced car painters with workers who know how to operate automated car body painting equipment; this raised production outputs, and cut the number of employees to be compensated.

The postal service example depicts direct displacement of economic activities, and in effect quite a number of workers. In auto manufacturing, the number for workers was reduced. New technology requires a new set of skills. Workers who were able to acquire these skills would remain on the assembly lines; those who failed to skill up were laid off.

Source: Screenshot from Yahoo

However, despite the lay-offs and disruptions, it is important to note that automation has provided a much safer workplace for employees. It has reduced if not removed workers’ direct exposure to hazards, improving their health and welfare.

In the past, workers assigned to repetitive and routine-based tasks were deemed to be easily replaceable by machines. Many of these tasks can be observed in manufacturing (e.g. filling, canning, sealing) and agriculture (e.g. planting, harvesting, sorting), although some are also present in high-value added service activities such as BPO and finance (e.g. customer service and accounting tasks).

Cognitive and artistic work were thought hard to automate. But that was the view some years ago. Currently, even workers engaged in creative writing fear that they are as replaceable as machine parts. In fact, this is one of the grounds why the emergence of AI tools such as ChatGPT worries creative workers and has sent unions such as the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) striking in May 2023.

Alienation of labor

Creative writing is not the only one threatened. The performing arts is also now disrupted. The means to produce images and performance in films through AI already exists.

In the US, film producers want to take advantage of this opportunity by “capturing” the likeness and performance of actors to train generative AI, which will then be used later in lieu of real actors.

Currently, CGI is being used to capture and replicate actors, where a body double is used in place of the original actor, and their faces to be placed with tracking dots to enable easier overlay of the original actor’s face. In the AI version, there would be no need for a body double.

Source: Screenshot from Screen Rant

Surely, the actors will get paid for their performance and whenever a production uses their likeness, right? Not necessarily. It all depends on who owns the captured performance and likeness of actors. Film producers assert their ownership of the captured likeness and performances of actors. As soon as images and motion have been transformed into data, it is now the AI taking over acting. Actors lose both jobs and earnings.

The use of AI is one of the issues that caused bargaining between film producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), and actors, represented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), to break down.

SAG-AFTRA was forced to launch a strike in July 2023 to protect the interest of actors and secure work for them. On 9 November 2023 after more than 100 days, the union announced that it is calling off the strike after securing a better package for workers in the film industry. This includes “unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI”.

Regardless of the arguments, one thing is certain: Whoever owns the technology also tends to capture the most returns from it—unless workers take collective action.

The future of work

The encroachment of AI in the world of work is just getting started, and technological advancement will continue. Although the impact on workers especially in developing countries such as the Philippines is not yet felt significantly, it will eventually.

In more advanced countries such as in the US, the possible impact of generative AI is already being considered as millions of jobs are aimed to be automated – which probably means that workers may be displaced.

Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI, has declared that “there will be an impact on jobs”. After all, in the event of mass automation, who shall be responsible to protect workers from possible displacement? While automation guarantees higher productivity, it will also create new types of jobs as it replaces existing ones.

Historically, automation is known to cause a decline in employment as displaced workers are not always readily equipped to take on the tasks demanded by the newly generated jobs. What can be done to address these concerns?

Alongside its goal to increase AI integration, Germany has put in place policies to aid workers from possible displacement due to AI. Some of the safeguards they have put in place are: Workers may be given paid leaves to attend educational courses; displacement tax are imposed on companies refusing to retrain their employees for AI-skill up; government offers financial incentives to companies that would enhance existing jobs to accommodate both AI and non-AI tasks.

In a recent discussion, Germany’s Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger says that for 2024, additional AI skill centers and professorships shall be added to fortify their goal to boost AI integration in the country, as well as improve existing AI-infrastructure and worker training.

Which still begs the question: Who shall be responsible for the protection of workers?

As everyone is affected, everyone shares accountability. But most of the weight is on employers and government, as they hold this new means of production and regulate its use respectively.

This employer-government cooperation should identify pros and cons of such change; lay out long-term goals to achieve higher productivity, advancement, and economic improvement without sacrificing the welfare of the workers; and create and implement programs that would help them adapt to the fast-changing labor landscape.

What about us workers? We need to remind ourselves that we who provide either physical or intellectual or creative labor give things value. Our labor creates value. And the new machines should remain tools that make our labor less back-breaking.


SAG-AFTRA website.

GMA News. 2023. GMA Network introduces country’s first Artificial Intelligence-generated sportscasters.

Emeritus. 2023. Examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 7 Industries.

New York Times. May 23, 2023. A.I.’s Threat to Jobs Prompts Question of Who Protects Workers.

Science|Business. August 31, 2023. Germany promises huge boost in artificial intelligence research funding and European coordination.

SageJournals. January 27, 2023. Governing the work-related risks of AI: implications for the German government and trade unions. 228.