'You Lose Your Agency': Keanu Reeves Warns Against AI, Reveals Clause in All His Movie Contracts
A-list actor Keanu Reeves is deeply worried about how artificial intelligence technology is affecting human artists and actors in this age of deepfakes, computer “de-aging” of actors, digital use of deceased actors, and outright replacement of human actors in our entertainment.
The actor, perhaps best known as the hero who faced down the oppressive techo-tyranny in “The Matrix,” feels that human actors are losing their agency as the era of believable computer tech and deepfake comes to the brink of making actors unnecessary — should that tech be used to its fullest capacity.
Reeves recently spoke out to warn the world about the effects that artificial intelligence could have on society, and he is rightly wary of the whole thing.
Speaking with Wired about his upcoming action film, “John Wick Chapter 4,” the action star revealed that he has already put provisions in his studio contracts that bar filmmakers from digitally altering his performances.
The “Speed” star told Wired that he is worried that actors lose control of their legacy when they are digitally altered, with or without their permission.
Reeves has an established history with the topic, too. As far back as some 20 years ago, Reeves noted that he had an issue with a studio that added a digital tear to his face, and ever since then he has been very aware of what technology can do to an actor’s performances.
“Yeah, digitally. I don’t mind if someone takes a blink out during an edit,” Reeves said in his interview. “But early on, in the early 2000s, or it might have been the 90s, I had a performance changed. They added a tear to my face, and I was just like, ‘Huh?!’ It was like, I don’t even have to be here.”
“What’s frustrating about that is you lose your agency,” he continued. “When you give a performance in a film, you know you’re going to be edited, but you’re participating in that. If you go into deepfake land, it has none of your points of view. That’s scary.”
Reeves then ruminated on how society will ultimately deal with the whole thing.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how humans deal with these technologies,” he said. “They’re having such cultural, sociological impacts, and the species is being studied. There’s so much “data” on behaviors now. Technologies are finding places in our education, in our medicine, in our entertainment, in our politics, and how we war and how we work.”
Harkening back to his “Matrix” films, Reeves warned “They started making decisions for you. It became our world.”
He also noted that kids today can too easily lose sight of what is real and what isn’t.
“I was trying to explain the plot of The Matrix to this 15-year-old once, and that the character I played was really fighting for what was real. And this young person was just like, ‘Who cares if it’s real?'” Reeves said.
“People are growing up with these tools,” he said, adding, “We’re listening to music already that’s made by AI in the style of Nirvana, there’s NFT digital art. It’s cool, like, look what the cute machines can make! But there’s a corporatocracy behind it that’s looking to control those things. Culturally, socially, we’re gonna be confronted by the value of real, or the nonvalue. And then what’s going to be pushed on us? What’s going to be presented to us?”
Reeves is not alone. Tech guru Elon Musk has also warned that AI could lead to unexpected — and unwanted — consequences.
The “John Wick” super star also worried of the Bread and Circuses aspect of technology that can be used to control people instead of merely entertain.
“It’s this sensorium. It’s spectacle. And it’s a system of control and manipulation. We’re on our knees looking at cave walls and seeing the projections, and we’re not having the chance to look behind us. Or to the side. I’m sorry to go on here,” Reeves said. “It’s also a fascination — it seems for us, the animals on the planet, like, how do we defeat death? How do we change the weather? How do we replace nature?”
But it is also about money, too. Reeves said he is afraid that this AI and deepfake tech will eliminate human artists merely because the corporations behind the production of art are misers who don’t want to pay people for their work.
“The people who are paying you for your art would rather not pay you. They’re actively seeking a way around you because artists are tricky. Humans are messy,” he explained.
Computer tech is being used more and more by Hollywood. “In the last few decades, several actors have made movie appearances posthumously using CGI, including Carrie Fisher, Paul Walker, and Brandon Lee,” Insider noted.
There has been a growing list of actors who have been “de-aged” with varying levels of success in the last decade, too. Actors including Robert De Niro, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jeff Bridges, Sylvester Stallone, Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Douglas, Orlando Bloom, Kurt Russell, Johnny Depp, and more, according to The Wrap. And it isn’t just Hollywood. We’ve even had politicians admit that they had AI write their speeches!
We are right at the beginning of this technology, but we already know that as time rolls on it inevitably gets better. So, Reeves is right to worry that we may be just around the corner from computer technology being completely able to replace humanity. And he is also right to worry about just where that will leave us as a society.
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