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By June 12, 2024Culture

Pro athletes are seemingly clueless about the impact of artificial intelligence and the threat it poses to the future of their professional opportunities. If this sounds overly dramatic, contrast their indifference to the progressive action taken by actors and writers.

Hollywood’s concerns over misuse of artificial intelligence are dead on. Most noticeably already is the theft and abuse of popular figures’ voices. (Ask Scarlett Johansson.) Doctored videos and deep fakes are commonplace — circling the world before reality catches up. Though still reasonably easy to detect, at least by professional sleuths, and to flag by conscientious online sources, the artificiality is improving rapidly and being exploited indiscriminately. Good for the entertainment industry to have the foresight to (attempt to) initiate protections — both of their intellectual property and livelihoods.

Pro athletes, on the other hand, are playing right into the long-game of the auspiciously profitable video game business. They are not only being duped by, but endorsing the graphical reality of artificial intelligence being perfected to ultimately jeopardize, more like make obsolete, their lucrative careers.

Do pro athletes not see the writing on the wall? Obsolescencecareer suicide. The more realistic and addictive video games and online competition become, the less time and interest gamers will have for real sports. MLB The Show, Madden NFL, NBA 2K24, and EA Sports College Football, let alone Gran Turismo and Forza, are manifesting a new generation of couch coaches, pretend players, and backseat drivers who will achieve more pleasure, stronger ego, and engagement that is by far easier, cheaper and more satisfying compared to professionally staged sports.

Think about it: Without the nostalgia hit those of us in the analog generation feel when attending live games, the younger, digital generations have a much more difficult time justifying spending half their paychecks to sit in the nosebleeds for three hours eating overpriced snacks. Instead, they can be the heroes of their own e-sports games and, thanks to live streaming apps like Twitch, make money from their “athletic” feats.

And this: As Derek “The Captain” Jeter cashes in (or out?) as the frontman for MLB The Show, he is arguably complicit in the A.I. takeover. At least John Madden’s endorsement preceded popular knowledge of the imaginary sports industry’s threat to their beloved real-life sport.

Though the odds always favor the house —in this case Big Tech oligarchs — hopefully real athletes and their respective players’ associations will wise up to the personal and collective perils of “A.I. replacement.” And encourage more responsible and restrictive controls be put in place in time for them to have a sporting chance to continue playing out their dreams on fields and courts, and courses and tracks rather than on couches and barstools and simulators.

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