In a 2016 documentary about Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary director behind Studio Ghibli films, the use of AI in animation was brought to his attention. Miyazaki’s response to the demonstration of AI-generated animation was clear and powerful: he condemned it as “an insult to life itself.” This moment has since become a popular internet meme, but its significance goes beyond humor.
The demo shown to Miyazaki featured a dismembered zombie using its head to move across the floor. The creator pitched it as a potential horror game, emphasizing that AI technology enabled a type of horror beyond human imagination. However, Miyazaki’s response was disapproving and critical, highlighting a lack of consideration for the pain and discomfort such content may cause.
The subsequent conversation between Miyazaki and the animators behind the AI animation revealed a clash of perspectives. While Miyazaki condemned the animation as insulting to life, one animator voiced the hope of creating a machine that draws pictures like people do. This disagreement hinted at the larger ethical implications of AI-generated content.
AI technology has the potential to replace animators and voice actors, leading to concerns over the protection of creative industries and the consent of individuals whose voices may be replicated without permission. Zelda Williams, daughter of the late actor Robin Williams, expressed her discomfort over AI imitating her father’s voice, stating that living actors should have the opportunity to create characters with their own choices and effort.
The use of AI in artistic fields is not inherently negative. It can serve as a helpful tool in the creative process. However, the current applications of AI-generated content often raise ethical concerns. The technology poses a threat to human creativity, as it repeatedly surpasses previous limitations. This reality continues to validate Miyazaki’s condemnation of AI as an affront to life.
As long as AI-generated content remains ethically questionable, we can expect to see Miyazaki’s meme resurfacing periodically. It serves as a reminder that he foresaw the implications of AI in the arts years ago and highlighted the need for responsible and ethical use of this technology.