There’s now a growing grumble about AI now that it has hit writing. A chatbot can now pen your novel for you – not well but it can do it. SFWA has a list of Sci-Fi writers who has written on it – to be honest, it basically can be titled “AI & Writing: The White Opinions (and a couple tokens) Edition” so if you have basically heard White Person in Creative Writing Class Whinging before, you can probably guess the basic gist of what you’ll see ad nauseam in the blog roll. I have read a few of the blogs listed so, yup, it is definitely that. The Verge has a great write up about it, however – and did an amazing job with the interactive layout.
Also, it’s a little odd, if not a tad funny of sci-fi writers worried about AI taking over their genres. Because I guess someone could say “shouldn’t they have seen this coming?”
Now, I’m a sci-fi writer also. I also worked at NIST library. And the Library of Congress, which houses the Copyright division. (I worked in Acquisitions, which is the first step books take before they go to Copyright or other important parts of the library) I make tech in my free time and I have an interest in AI and I am familiar with the integral parts of Open AI when I was teaching myself AI coding. (It really is a bunch of (if) statements). This means I’m most likely beyond qualified enough to talk about this.
1) If you use ChatGPT or any other AI to make your books for you, you’re not a writer. Plain and simple. Punching in a bunch o’ words and seeing what spits out is not writing, to me. Yes, there is some writing AI in our regular lives, such as Spell Check (which can suck rocks when you’re not a White guy) and Grammarly (which is miles from perfect, unless you want a program to argue with) but they are not writing for you. You still have to do the leg work, they just steer and provide help, like an anti-lock brakes or lane assistance on a car. If you can’t come up with a story, sit down and write it – whether bit by bit or in one whole chunk – then, nope you’re not a writer, the chatbot is. Everyone has ideas, not everyone commits them to paper.
2) If you’re using a chat AI to make your books for funsies, for le kicks and le giggles, that’s fine. Remember, everyone has ideas but not everyone commits them to paper. If you want to futz about and see some rando story with the idea you had boppling in your head (For example: A cat astronaut on the edge of space trying to make friends with the last daisy flower on Alpha Beta 9, and you just wanna see a story about that quickly spat out), that’s fine. At that point, the Chat AI is a tool, no different than Cleverbot telling you a story because you typed “Tell Me a Story”. (I have no idea if Cleverbot does that but just go with me on it.) It’s only a problem when you say “this story is mine, I wrote it (no you didn’t), I’m going to put a cover on it and a price tag also – and post it where regular stories are!” If there is a site or section for AI made stories, go for that but it’s no different from AI art: expect a lot of copyright issues because your work most likely is cobbled from the works of others and those others are not going to be happy about it because this all counts as “derivative works” that they did not sign off on. Heck, fan fiction is already testy waters as it stands, no need to add a robot that will blindly crib and rip from other people works. Play it safe, don’t be stupid.
3) BIPoC and you want to use chat AI to pump out your works? Expect it to all be so White, it could net a basket of Nebulas and Hugos, no questions asked. And I mean that in a negative way; the vast majority of works the AI learned from are White people so expect a lot less diversity than you would have personally put in there and whatever diversity is going to be there is going to be spat out through the digital White lens/gaze (aka horrifically bad). Very straight. Very White. Very Cis. Very bad. Plus, the world doesn’t need twenty billion more White stories, even badly cobbled together ones. We already have what’s considered “Classic literature” in the West. Just write it yourself. I guarantee your work doesn’t suck worse than a White guy who thinks they’re the next Shakespeare and Random House backed up their hubris-pumped ego because Racism in Publishing is still Racism in Publishing. Just write your story and put it out the best you can. At least people haven’t seen work like yours before. Can’t say the same about non-diverse works – they’ve been done to death so much even a computer can do it.
4) AI will not come to Kill Us All – I remember having this discussion in 2011? 2010? In my Play Theory course in college. Granted, I hated the class because the teacher sucked and so did most of the classmates and some of the readings could have been retitled “Play Theory: As Defined by White Privilege” and it would have been more accurate – but there were some small (and I mean sand grain sized) nuggets. They talked about AI in the fine arts: AI Art, AI voices, AI writing, before these things even had names. Just because the AI seems creative to the human eye, it is not borne the same way human creativity is. However, always know that the future doesn’t look like the past often so prepare to not have everything be as it seems. Also, read the Terms and Conditions, they’re probably very nasty at close detail.
5) Don’t be lazy, learn how to write. AI writing programs are okay as helpers but if you genuinely don’t know how to write a paper, a letter or a resume, learn. Even if you have a disability, learn ways around it (and also, I can see a case for “Why use AI exclusively” but a skinny case, at that). Your writing is a reflection of you, plain and simple. It’s a skill, learn it. May not always be a fun skill but it is a useful skill all the same. I still remember the intern I had at NIST who was smart as long as numbers were involved … but was practically illiterate. They couldn’t read or write very well. Their critical thinking skills were also pretty non-existent, and they were 16. (Their crit thinking skills were bad, even for a teenager.)
I do see why people find AI to be a potential problem. I mean, I once looked at an article about how rent jettisoned during the pandemic and how it affected people (which is wholly unfair) but on one place, Forbes, I found out I was reading an AI crafted article. I immediately disregarded whatever the article said because frankly, “An AI doesn’t know what it’s like to pay rent”. The data was ok but the thing about AI is that it is constructed to make what it says sound legit and factual. It could be an entire page of lies but the average reader wouldn’t know that unless they knew what to look for prior.
Always remember about AI: it is designed by humans and thus has those human biases coded in. Look at the average tech team group photo at a big tech company. Notice the lack of genuine diversity? All those blindsides are getting coded into the AI also. (Even if there are systems and tools that can be used to thwart that in the making. Remember, you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it think.) AI doesn’t think like humans do, it just compiles, considers likelihoods and spits it out. AI can’t decide what is correct and what is not. Not factually and certainly not ethically.
As for AI stories chunking up story sites like Clarkesworld, that’s certainly concerning and that’s a hurdle a lot of story spots online will have to worry about, especially as it increases and the tech gets better. Eventually, an AI story is probably going to slip in but I guess I’m not too pearl-clutching right about now about it because it is a sci-fi spot so for my brain, it’s all “normal”, if it makes sense. But – if you use AI to make stories, it’s a literal waste of time to submit them.
It’s not like you’re a writer.
If it is for the ability to say “My work is in Clarkesworld”, people like that are uber pathetic lol. Can’t write, no talent, absent discipline and skill, they just want the recognition that comes with being a writer. Just like people who pay others to write their papers and do their homework: a phony fraud, in other words. That’s really sad, if one thinks about it lol
They can’t write, or they would have done so. They can’t thread together ideas, or they would have done so. They can’t make anything, or they would have done so, for better or for worse. And they go for things that would sound great next to their names, glittery credentials they never earned and can’t even back up if it ever goes under contest because … welp, they never made anything in the first place. Why go after the credentials they know they don’t have the skills for? I have no idea. They know they’re talentless and dumb because they cling so much to “well, I still got this!” They’d probably would walk into a trophy shop and buy everything but the mannequins just to display to others if they could lol. They got it, but they didn’t earn it. They still aren’t good at writing. They still have no talent because that was someone else’s brilliance they fenced off as their own. They’re still dumb because LEarNing 2 hArD.
In academics, it’s fun making fun of these folks because welp, they should have done the work if they didn’t want to be the butt of that kind of joke. I always enjoy humor and they’re dedicated to failure so it’s a good combo (for me). It just sucks when they talk because, let me tell you, they are top grade whiners (and borderline sociopathic liars who are obsessed with reputation & how others perceive them) and I have met thin crystals sheets of ice that are less fragile than their I’m A Fraud And I Know It egos. Yes, writing can be hard but that’s every skill ever on the planet. Why submit a story you didn’t write to a short story publication? Then again, it’s how I feel about fake papers and homework: why have someone write papers or do homework for you? Just drop out so someone more deserving can have your seat. I’m quite a meritocrat so I can be a real ball-buster for people who dislike work but really like accolades or got accolades in other means besides earning them. Oh wellz. If they have a fear of earning success (or better yet, risking failure from trying) to the point they would rather pretend to be successful while they are still a dedicated non-achiever/bona fide failure of life, then they should take that up with a therapist.
Even if a person hit it big with an AI story, it’s a case of Flavor of the Day, Heat of the Week, Taste of the Month – a one-trick pony locked into a one-hit wonder. And it’s not really because “Oh wowz! What a neato story!” but more because it went viral for some reason and thus had a Moment, kind of like a toy for the holiday season. And if there is one thing I have learned from being in entertainment, there is almost nothing worse than feeling like a one-hit wonder. And this includes “never being known at all”.
Does all this AI chatter concern me? Not as much as it seemingly bothers others. An AI can’t write like me and I find actual joy in writing and in crafting stories so that’s fine for me. I write to get the stories out my head and onto the page and I always wanted to be a writer since I was 10. This is because I’m an actual writer. If I wind up with some horrid disability (gods forbid) that would make me have to use AI, I would probably want to train it to my storytelling voice and ideas only. Because I don’t want to sound like Hemingway or Poe. In other words, I want to still sound like me but just use that AI as a disability aid. Which is perfectly fine, as I see it, because I’m not cobbling other people’s works, I’m cobbling my own. And only as a disability aid because the thing is, that AI is most likely not going to predict how my writing would improve or advance the same way I do. And it still would be frustrating to me because the AI most likely would not do the story the way I want it to be done. The second it would go off the rails, I would get frustrated, I can already predict that. All the AI is doing is taking whatever I said in the past and cobbling together what I am likely to say in the future, no consideration for learning new things, having new experiences, human things like that etc.
AI is definitely a big thing for the arts world to discuss but I don’t think it would nuke the existence of human created art any time soon.
But if someone wants to be the MilliVanilli of writing: Either don’t or be prepared to be treated like the MilliVanilli of writing.
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