will it get any better?
At the edge of a precipice
There is an AI battle raging in the writing community and we are at a crossroad.
On one side are the enthusiasts, finding value and assistance from it. On the other, staunch critics who view it as the death knell for writers.
Here is what Seth Godin said –
“AI is a mystery. To many, it’s a threat. It turns out that understanding a mystery not only makes it feel less like a threat, it gives us the confidence to make it into something better.”
How I see it
Where do I stand on this?
I am a writer and a futurist, always embracing and deep-diving into emerging technology.
As I take pride in penning fiction and non-fiction, I’m unprepared for AI to assume that role. However, I leverage AI platforms like Grammarly ProWritingAid to produce clearer writing and pick what I use in the suggestions.
I use GPT4 for braining storming ideas, arduous tasks like research and generic works.
A writer in a group I belong to recently said that in minutes, GPT4 did some heavy lifting on metadata for her monthly newsletter.
If you generate your work with AI, you will know how generic the text is. I want my work to reflect my voice. That also goes for the fiction or non-fiction that I read. I want to hear the author in the work, often shaped by their life experiences.
But that is not bashing anyone using AI to generate their work. They know the effort required to make the work decent and reflect their voice.
In her podcast ‘The Creative Penn’, Joanna Penn emphasises the value of continuous learning and adaptability for writers. She regards AI more as a tool than a threat.
“We’ve all been using AI tools for a long time — Amazon, Google, Meta, Spotify, TikTok, as well as things like GPS — pretty much every tool we use online in some way incorporates AI.”
Opposition with AI battle raging in the writing community
But what about the naysayers who believe AI threatens the writing profession? Have they got a point?
Well, they have.
An example of the ongoing debate is when 11,500 Writers Guild of America members went on strike for five months to protest pay, and guidelines on the use of AI. It caused a $5 billion economic dent. A friend told me that the strike came at personal costs, with people losing their homes in that period.
The AI conversation also extends to intellectual property. There is talk on who owns works generated by AI. OpenAI’s Dalle 3 AI Generative Art has just been released, and they have not imposed any copyright on its creations.
I used it to generate images of my character Lara of Lara’s Detective Agency and shared them with my newsletter subscribers. Lara features in my short story ‘A Wedding So Bitter’, in the anthology, ‘Malice, Matrimony and Murder’.
Scraped data from authors
In The Atlantic, journalist Alex Reisner, wrote about his discovery of authors’ work being used to train generative AI —
“This summer, I acquired a data set of more than 191,000 books that were used without permission to train generative-AI systems by Meta, Bloomberg, and others. I wrote in The Atlantic about how the data set, known as “Books3,” was based on a collection of pirated ebooks, most of them published in the past 20 years.”
The Atlantic published a search tool which was uploaded by the US Authors Guild. I belong to several author communities and, many have seen their work utilised unauthorised, which has deeply upset them.
In a Guardian article, Book 3 dataset allegedly pirated works by 18,000 Australian authors, including Booker prize-winning novelist Richard Flanagan who said –
“I felt as if my soul had been strip-mined, and I was powerless to stop it”
Olivia Lanchester, CEO of the Australian Society of Authors, expressed her feelings on this –
“Turning a blind eye to the legitimate rights of copyright owners threatens to diminish already precarious creative careers. The enrichment of a few powerful companies is at the cost of thousands of individual creators. This is not how a fair market function.”
Amazon AI guideline update
Amazon recently updated its guidelines by distinguishing work generated with AI from AI-assisted content. This is how they have made the distinction –
“AI-generated: We define AI-generated content as text, images, or translations created by an AI-based tool. If you used an AI-based tool to create the actual content (whether text, images, or translations), it is considered “AI-generated,” even if you applied substantial edits afterwards.”
“AI-assisted: If you created the content yourself, and used AI-based tools to edit, refine, error-check, or otherwise improve that content (whether text or images), then it is considered “AI-assisted” and not “AI-generated.” Similarly, if you used an AI-based tool to brainstorm and generate ideas, but ultimately created the text or images yourself, this is also considered “AI-assisted” and not “AI-generated.” It is not necessary to inform us of the use of such tools or processes.”
Will AI go away
AI is not going to disappear. Its rapid evolution is undeniable. As it grows, future organisations will look for professionals skilled in tailoring AI outputs to their unique needs. It promises improved communication quality and will likely influence employment in the writing sector.
Ethan Mollick of One Useful Thing said –
“A lot is changing, quickly. For the first time, we have a broad-based tool that boosts human intellectual abilities, but we are still limited to human wisdom. We will need to draw on that to make good choices even as change continues to accelerate.”
My suggestion? Writers must decide how to shape their careers in this AI-driven landscape. Familiarise yourself with these tools, especially the free ones. Be proactive.
The AI Wild Wild West
The rise of AI means organisations and institutions must revise policies regarding data sources for AI training. Knowledgeable writers can influence these policies, ensuring a more ethical AI landscape. Even though some bad actors will want to exploit loopholes in this new frontier
I saw an article online about a startup looking for writers to work with them for input to train their LLM. The fee was minimal for what they were offering. I would stay clear of offers like that.
What does the frontier look like to me? When I wrote my article in 2020, I had no idea how fast things would change.
Lastly, on a personal note, my nature is a blend of creativity and analytics. I’m a futurist and relish the confluence of technology and artistry. It’s a powerful combination.
But I embrace a future with equity and one that protects its creatives and not destroy them.