The BBC may regret its Doctor Who AI claims – Creative Bloq

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As one of the longest-running television series on the planet, Doctor Who has survived plenty of changes in technology. Colour television, the switch to digital, TV on demand, CGI… the changes have been as dramatic as the Doctor’s reincarnations. But the BBC seems to have seriously misread the room, and the lessons from the series itself, with its latest decision.

The broadcaster has announced that it plans to use generative AI to help it write marketing content to promote the show, including emails and push notifications. And the news has provoked a tear in the space-time continuum that the BBC appears to have tried to repair by traveling back in time and deleting its original article on the subject.

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The BBC said is that it intends to experiment with the use AI to help it generate promotional text for a range of programmes, and that Doctor Who would be the start. The reaction after the Radio Times broke the news was aggravated by head of media inventory David Housden’s suggestion that “Doctor Who thematically lends itself to AI, which is a bonus.”

Fans were quick to point out that while several Doctor Who stories over the years have featured artificial intelligences, they have tended to be a very bad thing. I mean, has Housden not actually watched The War Machines?

“[Doctor Who] is a series that has been using creative talent of all mad sorts for over sixty years, and has inspired countless others over that time. Human creativity. Human inspiration,” one person wrote on X. “This is an anti-art, purely financial choice,” someone else alleged. “Doctor Who lends itself to AI in the same way that Threads lends itself to nuclear war,” another person wrote in reference to Mick Jackson’s post-apocalyptic 1984 film.

“The only way Doctor Who ‘thematically lends itself to AI’ is if you’re aware that AI is the Cybermen – a force trying to turn humans into simple mindless automatons single mindedly focused on turning others into mindless automatons or else killing them for having emotions,” was another response.

The BBC’s statement feels so misjudged that I wonder if it isn’t actually more clever than anyone has considered. Perhaps this is all just part of the story arc for the next season that they’re starting early in the real world. Perhaps the big bad will turn out to be the very AI writing the BBC’s communications. I suspect the Master’s involvement. We’ll find out when the new season starring Ncuti Gatwa arrives in May. Meanwhile, here’s another reminder of what AI can lead to:

The BBC appears to have deleted the article from its site on which the Radio Times report was based, but it’s not said anything about a change to the plan. It had promised that all content created by AI would be labeled with disclaimers that say they “may have been written with the assistance of AI.”

Meanwhile over on Reddit, there’s a debate going on about whether AI will replace graphic designers. 

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