Bob Iger Spoke Out About AI And Invoked Walt's Name: 'Walt Disney Himself Was A Big Believer In Using Technology'

 Bob Iger on The Problem with Jon Stewart.
Bob Iger on The Problem with Jon Stewart.

One of the most contentious topics in entertainment today is “AI.” Machine learning has been touted by its supporters for its ability to “create” art with simple inputs. Writers went on strike last year in part to fight for protections against AI taking over. There is fear that if the technology is relied upon too much, it could take work away from the creative people who have been telling our stories for generations. Disney CEO Bob Iger feels that the use of AI in making movies is all but inevitable, and thinks Walt Disney himself would have supported it.

Bob Iger is an investor and board member of Canva, the online design platform. And during the recent Canva Create event (via Variety), Iger touted the benefits of new technology, pointing out that Walt Disney himself was always a strong supporter of new technologies and what could be done with them in the hands of creative people. Iger explained…

Walt Disney himself was a big believer in using technology in the early days to tell better stories. And he thought that technology in the hands of a great storyteller was unbelievably powerful.

As far as it goes, Bob Iger isn’t wrong about Walt Disney. Disney was a futurist and big proponent of technology and how it could be used to improve filmmaking, as well as how it could be used to simply make life better. It was this desire to use technology to improve life that led Disney to design Epcot, his plan for a “city of the future.”

There's every reason to believe Walt Disney would be looking at how machine learning could be used in filmmaking if he were with us today. Disney created the multi-planer camera, a new way of filming animation that had never been done before. Walt pushed for the development of audio-animatronics, which made characters from animated films come to life in theme parks in new ways. Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress is an attraction all about how technology improves the world, something he truly believed.

Of course, the issue at hand for most of those critical of “AI” isn’t how storytellers can use it, but the idea that it could replace many storytellers entirely. During the writer's strike, Iger was specifically called out by those who believed AI could take away their careers. To that, Iger says that people shouldn’t be focused on the way AI is disrupting the industry, but rather they should accept the technology, and focus on how it can be used to make stories better. He continued…

Don’t fixate on its ability to be disruptive — fixate on [tech’s] ability to make us better and tell better stories. Not only better stories, but to reach more people.

We’ve already seen ways that technology has changed storytelling, even just within Disney. Computer animation has all but completely replaced the hand-drawn animation of Walt’s day. For what it’s worth, Bob Iger’s comments seem to indicate that he sees AI as a tool to be used by creative people, not replace them. Certainly, time will tell.