EventJanuary 18 2024

Generative AI’s Labor Impacts

Part One: Hierarchy

Russell Brandom
Milagros Miceli
John Lopez
Aiha Nguyen

“The outputs of these image generators are highly derivative and plagiaristic….Artists should be compensated, they should be consulted, and they should have a say.” 

– John Lopez


Developers claim generative AI will have sweeping impacts that transform work as we know it, creating new opportunities for workers and unleashing dramatic waves of creativity. But this technology will not affect everyone equally: Societal biases and embedded hierarchies that inform who and what type of work is valuable will also influence how generative AI is rolled out and who benefits from it. Aiha Nguyen leads a discussion with writer and filmmaker John Lopez, sociologist and computer scientist Milagros Miceli, and Rest of World Tech Editor Russell Brandom to interrogate these layers of issues around the technology; consider how it scaffolds on previous economic models, structures, and modes of employment; and explore its impacts on workers across the globe.

About the series

Generative AI has seeped into many corners of our lives, and threatens to upend the economy as we know it, from education to the film industry. How do workers’ encounters with it differ from their experiences with other systems of automation? How are they similar, and how might this help us understand the shape and stakes of this latest technology? In this three-part Databite series, Data & Society’s Labor Futures program brings together creators, platform workers, call center workers, coders, therapists, and performers for conversations with technologists, researchers, journalists, and economists to complicate the story of generative AI. By centering workers’ experiences and interrogating the relationship between generative AI and underexplored issues of hierarchy, recognition, and adaptation in labor, these interdisciplinary conversations will uncover how new technological systems are impacting worker agency and power.


John Lopez | Twitter (X): @jedgarlopez 

John Lopez got his start working in feature film production before covering entertainment and the arts for Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, and BusinessWeek, among other publications. An alum of the CBS Writers mentoring program and the Sundance Episodic lab, he has written and produced for such shows as Strange Angel (Paramount+), Seven Seconds (Netflix), The Man Who Fell to Earth (Showtime), and The Terminal List (Amazon). In the run up to the WGA’s 2023 contract negotiations, he also served as a member of the Guild’s AI working group.

Milagros Miceli | Twitter (X): @MilagrosMiceli

Milagros Miceli is a sociologist and computer scientist, leading the research group Data, Algorithmic Systems, and Ethics at the Weizenbaum-Institut. She is also an associated researcher with the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR). Milagros’s research is focused on labor conditions and power asymmetries in outsourced data work, examining their impact on machine learning datasets. With a background in ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and workshops with data workers globally, she actively engages communities of precarized data workers from the Global South. Her broader interests include questions of legitimacy and knowledge production in data, worker-led research, labor organizing, and the intersection of critical data studies and data activism.

Russell Brandom | Twitter (X): @russellbrandom

Russell Brandom is US tech editor at Rest of World, where he writes the weekly Exporter newsletter. He has also covered technology at The Verge, Buzzfeed, and The Awl.




What does it take for this technology to exist?

What is the economic or business structure that allows for this technology to scale? 

What experiences have formed the perspectives of creatives, workers, and unions on this technology? 

How is this technology impacting various workforces? 

Who does the audience recommend learning from in this space? 


Curation: Aiha Nguyen

Production: CJ Brody Landow

Co-Production: Tunika Onnekikami

Web Support: Alessa Erawan

Design: Gloria Mendoza

Editorial: Eryn Loeb

Additional support provided by Data & Society’s Alexandra Mateescu, Tamara K. Nopper, Rigoberto Lara Guzmán, and Raw Materials Seminar, Engagement and Accounting teams;  Rest of World’s Anup Kaphle; Writers Guild of America West’s Erica Knox and Jennifer Suh; and Ford Foundation’s Ritse Erumi.