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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become the latest new thing, almost rivalling Holland’s 17th century Tulipmania, the United Kingdom’s 19th century railway bubble and the 1920’s Florida real estate boom and bust (an oft-repeated scenario, sadly to say).
Things are moving so fast that it’s proved necessary to rewrite this post several times before publication date; and the first books co-authored by AI have already shown up on Amazon’s bookshelves.
Microsoft, with its early (and increasing) investment in OpenAI (which runs Chat GPT [Generative Pre-Trained Transformer]), and Google (with its new Bard search engine) are going head to head, the former determined to wrestle search engine dominance from the latter. Others are leaping into the act. Who will win in the end? My guess is that Google, despite the initial misstep (a wrong answer to an easy question), will win out, given its existing (90%) dominance of the sector.
As the tech experts begin throwing out curve balls and testing the capacity of AI, new questions arise, especially about security and performance. Too early to say exactly where we’ll end up.
Back in the good old days – the summer and fall of 2022 – it seemed that my inbox was flooded with news about AI, especially about its ability to create entirely new works of literature. By end of year that flood turned into a tsunami! Is AI a threat, a promise or a gift? Or is it an over-hyped Trojan horse, full of unwelcome surprises?
Here’s a sample of some of these earlier articles (with links to the articles):
Then, at the end of 2022, ChatGPT was made available to great acclaim, receiving such praise as “one of those rare moments in technology where you see a glimmer of how everything is going to be different going forward” (Aaron Levie on Twitter) and “quite simply, the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public” (Kevin Roose, NYT, Dec. 5, 2022). With those kind of reviews, a million people signed up to test it in only five days. (I joined up since then and will report back on my experience in part 2 of this series).
When I completed the first draft of this post, if you entered “AI for writing” on Google, you’d get no less than 645,000,000 results; now, many weeks later, you get 2,010,000,000! In late 2022, in the Google results, one found 19 Best AI Writing Tools of 2022 produced by “thirsty for knowledge and love to learn” Renaissance Rachel; today, that number has grown to 55 AI Writing Assistants Picks for 2023. The one consistent: an ad for rytr.me: Best AI Writer, Content Generator & Writing Assistant. And so on.
On Feb. 1 of this year Visual Capitalist came up with an excellent AI-generated description of this new field of endeavor.
Derek Doepker of Best Seller Secrets tried his hand at using one of these tools. Here’s what he came up with:
“I had an Artificial Intelligence tool write an article on ‘will artificial intelligence replace authors’.
Here’s a portion of what it came up with.
On the one hand, it’s easy to see how AI could eventually replace human authors. After all, if a machine can generate a well-written article or story, why would anyone need to hire a human author? Moreover, machines don’t get tired, and they can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In other words, they have the potential to be much more productive than human authors.
On the other hand, there are certain aspects of writing that machines will never be able to replicate. For example, machines cannot experience emotions in the same way that humans do. As a result, they are not able to write with the same emotional resonance as human authors. Additionally, machines cannot generate new ideas in the same way that humans can. Sure, they might be able to string together a few sentences that convey an idea, but they will never be able to come up with something truly original in the way that humans can.
So, will AI eventually replace human authors? It’s impossible to say for sure. However, what we do know is that AI can complement human authors by taking care of some of the more mechanical aspects of writing (e.g., copyediting). In other words, rather than seeing AI as a threat, human authors should view it as an ally—one that has the potential to help them create better stories and articles than they could on their own.
And I agree with the key takeaways here.
For less skilled writers who don’t have much creativity, they may be replaced in the near future.
For skilled writers though, artificial Intelligence is here to make your life easier. It can help you edit, generate ideas, and enhance your writing.
So rather than treat AI as a competitor, I choose to treat it as a valuable assistant.”
AI, of course, has long been assisting writers, whether through researching facts (Google), allowing for dictation, scene or character creation (various software tools) or doing spell checks (Microsoft). While Rytr.me (I’m guessing a Rtyr.com must already exist) seems to be focused on generating content for emails rather than longer fare, it is the arrival of Sudowrite and ChatGPT that appear to be a game changers for aspiring authors, and one generating both angst and hope. The point is – when does originality begin and end? As noted in my October 1, 2022 post (Smartcuts), one of the great strengths of the industrial/computer revolution has been to constantly reduce steps in the production of goods. Now we’re talking about reducing the time and effort in producing works of art, both visual and written.
Based on what I’d read and being naturally curious, last September, I signed up for Sudowrite. Here’s the enthusiastic response I received from the company founders:
“GOSH! YOU’RE HERE! WELCOME!
This is Amit and James, fiction writers and founders of Sudowrite.
We think this is the start of a really exciting change that will forever alter how we write and tell stories. We’re honored to have you here at the very beginning.
Sudowrite is a passion project for us, and we work every day to make it more magical. We’ve gotten rave reviews from The New Yorker, New York Times, and many more… but we care more about what you think.
We consider Sudowrite a work in progress. Just like a first draft, the pacing feels off, some of the characters are a bit thin, and the middle’s a bit muddy. We’re deep in revisions. While we’re polishing our pronouns and pointers, we’d love your feedback.
Check out our Help Guide, join our community Slack, share what you discover, and tell us what could be better!
We’re darn excited you’re here and can’t wait to see what you write with Sudowrite!”
James is James Yu, a writer (speculative fiction), computer engineer and investor. He is interviewed by Thomas Umstattd in the first Author Media link above. Amit is Amit Gupta, also a writer (science fiction), entrepreneur and co-founder.
So, as a writer of an already completed seven-volume fantasy series on a polar bear and a duck, I thought I’d give it a try. See my next post for how things turned out.
Cover Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash