Artificial Intelligence

Blog Post No. 535

26tn8z559z9b9ssjoEvery artist is being told to fear the coming onslaught of artificial intelligence. It’s already an issue with visual artists, especially digital artists. Even with the looming threat, the biggest issue I have is that people are calling these amazing programs artificial intelligence when they are more like really sophisticated machine learning. (The difference being an artificial intelligence can make their own decisions and machine learning just follows complicated if, than instructions). What these programs can do seems like magic and it’s really scary as a person who’s dedicated a lot of his adult life to a creative, artistic endeavor like writing, but thankfully, for now, these AI are more of a nuisance for writers than doom and gloom.

I had a good conversation about AI with the Writing Wrecking Crew a couple of weeks ago. The current issue facing writers with these AI programs is that people are coaxing them to write stories and submitting a torrent of them to magazines and other publications. (See this NYT article for more details ). Unfortunately, the influx of so many submissions is forcing magazines to close their submission periods early. Thankfully, the editors, like ClarkesWorld’s Neil Clarke, can spot the AI generated stories since they are “bad in spectacular ways.”

giphy-2For now, I’m not overly worried.  Most of the people getting these chatbots to write stories are in it for a quick cash grab. They don’t care about the writing. I’m confident that they’ll discover that there isn’t that much money in it and it’s not worth the effort. It’s a little easier with that visual art and music. Art and music are consumed minutes at a time with quick hits of dopamine. It’s easier for consumers to dismiss the source. At least with books, people tend to get invested. It’s hard enough for real authors to not fall into boring static patterns. Machine learning will never deviate beyond using the sources it’s been fed. It seems like magic because it’s so fast, but it really just regurgitates things in a new order.

People using machine learning won’t go away. A lot of industries will have to adapt and audiences will have to make some decisions on what’s important to them. Thankfully, writing is a slow process with relatively slow consumption. Music and visual art are going to be hit much worse. A lot of industries had to change with new technology. Pictures made portraits obsolete, but people still get portraits made (though far fewer than before photography was discovered). I don’t think writing will fall pray so easily, but there is a precedence for older, slower forms of art becoming niche and expensive enough that some artists can survive on the practice.clearsoupyhamadryas-size_restricted

It may just be hopeful thinking, but I think readers will want to read authors and not AI. Though, that won’t stop publishers from making fake people. I still think Nora Roberts is five authors in a trench coat. The publishing industry is still full of people who love books and writing so, maybe that will be enough to keep it full of people. Maybe some of the world’s growing billionaires will see supporting artists as a cool new fad the way Patrons of the Arts used to be back in medieval times. Maybe by the time I finally get the invasion novel out to agents, it will be too late and I’ll end up selling books at conventions for the rest of my life. All I know for sure is that I’m going to keep writing because I love telling stories.


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