Christopher Nolan says AI is reaching its “Oppenheimer moment”

Christopher Nolan has shared his thoughts on the AI boom sweeping Hollywood right now, describing it as “terrifying”.

Speaking on a panel following a screening of Oppenheimer in New York, the director spoke out against the effects that AI has had on the industry, advocating for “accountability”.

Nolan said, per Variety: “The rise of companies in the last 15 years bandying words like algorithm — not knowing what they mean in any kind of meaningful, mathematical sense — these guys don’t know what an algorithm is. People in my business talking about it, they just don’t want to take responsibility for whatever that algorithm does.”


He continued: “Applied to AI, that’s a terrifying possibility. Terrifying. Not least because AI systems will go into defensive infrastructure ultimately. They’ll be in charge of nuclear weapons. To say that that is a separate entity from the person wielding, programming, putting that AI to use, then we’re doomed. It has to be about accountability. We have to hold people accountable for what they do with the tools that they have.”

“With the labor disputes going on in Hollywood right now, a lot of it — when we talk about AI, when we talk about these issues — they’re all ultimately born from the same thing, which is when you innovate with technology, you have to maintain accountability,” Nolan stated.

Cillian Murphy in ‘Oppenheimer’. CREDIT: YouTube

Nolan went on to say: “When I talk to the leading researchers in the field of AI right now, for example, they literally refer to this — right now — as their Oppenheimer moment. They’re looking to history to say, ‘What are the responsibilities for scientists developing new technologies that may have unintended consequences?’”

Nolan’s comments on AI was prompted by the ongoing Hollywood strike – in which actors have recently joined writers on picket fences. Last week, the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) officially declared its intention to go on strike, with one of the many areas of concern for the union being the use of AI within the industry.

During a press conference, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said that the AMPTP had made a so-called “groundbreaking” proposal that, with the use of AI, would allow the likenesses of film and television background performers to be used indefinitely.


“They propose that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan of their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation,” he said (via Reuters). “So if you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal, I suggest you think again.”

The use of AI has also been a point of contention during the ongoing writer’s strike, in which the Writers Guild of America has demanded the AMPTP ban AI from being used to write and rewrite material.

Oppenheimer is a biographical drama that stars Cillian Murphy as the titular J. Robert Oppenheimer, who is known as “the father of the atomic bomb”, and will be released in cinemas on July 21.