Jon Stewart Unleashes His AI Critiques on ‘The Daily Show’


When Apple TV+ dashed a planned third season of The Problem With Jon Stewart in late 2023, reports surfaced that the streamer had decided to cancel the show after butting heads with its host over potential topics he wished to cover. Chief among these were China and artificial intelligence. Six months later, Stewart has found a less squirmy platform to share his views on these hot-button issues — which, incidentally, happens to be his old platform, The Daily Show — and in its April 1 episode, the world finally got a chance to see Stewart’s AI critcisms, which Apple was reportedly too skittish to platform.

The segment begins in earnest with Stewart talking about how AI-generated images and deepfakes are rapidly growing more convincing, making it increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction on the internet. It’s a development, he says, that’s unconcerning to the people in charge of the technology. Cut to: a series of clips of AI’s biggest evangelists talking about its supposed long-term potential (curing diseases, solving climate change, etc.) with no regard for its short-term consequences. Following a clip of Google CEO Sundar Pichai saying the technology is “more profound than fire or electricity,” Stewart quips, “Yeah, suck a dick, fire!” Stewart goes on to express his concern that this technology will replace human jobs, leaving people unable to support themselves economically and without day-to-day purpose. Cut to: a series of other clips of AI evangelists explicitly validating this concern. “This is like productivity without the tax of more people,” says Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. “The people tax: formerly referred to as employees,” Stewart clarifies. In another clip, an unnamed CEO clumsily tries to justify laying off 90 percent of his staff in favor of AI: “It’s brutal if you think, like, as a human.”

Later in the segment, Stewart outlines how lawmakers are ill-equipped for the challenge of regulating this technology and points to how every politician since time immemorial has repeated the same talking point about how people whose jobs have been replaced can simply be retrained despite evidence of this being limited. The lucrative new job AI is supposedly creating? “Prompt engineer,” which Stewart refers to as “types question guy.” Eventually, Stewart zooms out and explains that there’s little cause for optimism about the regulation of this technology when its capitalist potential is so vast. “That’s the game,” he says. “Whether it’s globalization, industrialization, or, now, artificial intelligence, the way of life you’re accustomed to is no match for the promise of more profits and new markets. Which sounds brutal, if you’re a human.”

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