There is all sorts of talk about artificial intelligence and the ease with which a computer can create content with a mere prompt from a user.
For those of us who read science fiction it cuts too close to the famous H.A.L. scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey or the rise of the machines in Terminator or the autonomous military robots in Keith Laumer’s BOLO series.
I dare say we are not there yet, but our imaginations can suggest we are on our way.
What Is Real?
The philosophical question about the origin of content is an honest one. If I were to ask ChatGPT to write a 500-word blog on artificial intelligence meant for writers, would this be what it created? And if it did, is it “real” or “original” or “a lazy cheat by a lazy writer?”
I talked with one author who uses AI to generate advertising copy for their books, catalog copy for online stores, and short hooks for use in advertising. The author said that while the content isn’t perfect, after some scrubbing and editing, what is used is what the writer needed.
In other words, this writer used AI as a tool, but not as the final “word” on the subject.
One graphic-design artist asked an AI (site called MidJourney) to create an image he needed. It took over 100 queries, refining each time, until he got close to what he needed. Then he spent six hours refining the image for commercial use.
Is that wrong?
The U.S. copyright office is struggling to define what can be copyrighted if computer generated. They plan on offering a webinar this week called “Registration Guidance for Works Containing AI-generated Content” on June 28 at 2 p.m. EST: https://www.copyright.gov/events/ai-application-process.
As a Tool?
I remember when Photoshop was introduced to the consumer market thirty years ago. At the time, there was sincere concern that the ability to manipulate photographs meant we could no longer trust that the picture we saw was the actual photograph.
Today we can manipulate the images we take on our phones. Moving someone, deleting someone or an unwanted object. Even cropping a photo or enlarging it is so commonplace we don’t give it a second thought.
That is because image-changing software is usually seen as a tool.
Another creative blogger asked ChatGPT to write a cease-and-desist letter to someone who is stealing the author’s writing and selling it as their own. The result (found here) is quite astounding. The blogger doing the exercise wrote, “This is better than some cease-and-desist letters written by other attorneys that he has reviewed.”
However, simply accepting an AI version could be troublesome if the AI is in error. Earlier this month ChatGPT was sued for creating false information stating that an individual was accused of embezzling money, which never happened (article here).
Out of curiosity, a couple months ago I asked ChatGPT to write a biography of “Steve Laube Literary Agent.” While succinct, it had incorrect information in it. For example, it said I worked for Zondervan as an editor. No, I didn’t. It claimed I wrote a book called The Christian Writers Coach, published in 2013. Not true. It also claimed I served on the board of directors for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and the Serious Writer’s Foundation. Neither is true.
Conclusion? Check your research. The internet can include inaccurate information. Plus, the knowledge engine for ChatGPT was cut off from the internet in September 2021!
Should You Be Concerned?
We read of businesses looking at ways of automating certain tasks and completing jobs, eliminating the human currently doing that work. While it creates gloomy headlines, is it really something new? Think of the industrial revolution and its subsequent developments. This “efficiency” has been the watchword for years.
For example, in the early days of being a bookseller, we took inventory by hand. We had a “Never Out” list of titles that we checked each day; and when the stock on the shelf dipped below a certain level, we ordered more.
When we placed the order, it was done on the phone, reading the ISBN and quantity to a human operator on the other end of the call.
Today, the store clerk trusts the computer (is it a “thinking machine”?) to know if a book needs to be reordered. It generates a purchase order that is sent to another computer for processing. Humans are no longer critical to that exchange except as overseers.
And so the onward progress in business goes.
Do I think writers will be replaced? No. I do not. Not the good ones. Great writers have a voice that is hard to mimic. Even humans try to mimic a bestseller’s “voice” and often fail.
What Should You Do?
Watch and learn. Don’t be unaware of the developments in AI related to our industry. Continue to spend considerable time working on your writing craft. Read a book like Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century or Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One. Learn from great teachers on how to communicate your ideas and stories in the best way possible. The greatest writers will remain the greatest writers.
Did an AI bot generate any of the above content? Tell me what you think in the comments below.