Some AI Opinions
Watching AI Like Everyone Else…
And getting a ton of questions about the different aspects of AI as it applies to writing and the Indie world of publishing. So let me give you my opinions on the three areas right now here in February 2023.
This will date quickly I am sure. So if you read this six months from now, I hope to do another update about then.
It is here, pretty amazingly good, and getting better by the day. And numbers of companies are jumping on board (I know of at least three major.) As always, read the terms of service.
I see no reason not to use AI audio for nonfiction and carefully at this point for fiction. But it is here and viable and getting better by the second. Worth exploring in my opinion and will save all of us a ton of time and money.
Extreme caution at the moment until the copyright issues for artists get cleared out of court. I know you are all in a hurry, but don’t steal from other artists, folks. Wait until things clear (which they will). I do not need any of you telling me legal excuses of why you can use it or not. I follow all the court cases and know what I am reading, since I have three years of law school and I understand copyright better than most of you combined.
Just take a deep breath and hold off until the artists can settle and get a tiny piece of the action. Then it will be a wonderful new addition to indie publishing.
AI Writing and Research…
Too stupid for words and too dangerous and wow are you a lazy bastard if you can’t write your own fiction. Read Neil Clarke’s blog at Clarke’s World on how he is banning writers from submitting who use AI.
Again, I have been given two different demonstrations and they did not change my opinion. I just shuddered is all. Using AI writing tools to create fiction is a form of stealing from all the writers’ stories who helped train those programs. And plagiarism programs can spot that pretty quickly.
Also numbers of new programs and tools are quickly coming into being, such as Originality, that can easily check for AI or plagiarism in any manuscript submitted to a magazine.
My opinion. Learn how to write fiction on your own, avoid any AI writing tool for any type of writing.
So three areas AI is impacting the indie publishing world. My opinions are:
- Audio (fantastic, go for it)
- Art (not yet but soon)
- AI Writing (Too stupid for words, very dangerous, and will never have any value in fiction.)
I couldn’t agree more. AI audio amazing opportunities.
AI art amazing opportunity that I am seriously looking forward to ONCE the court cases are settled and any writer using the art now is walking a dangerous line.
And I’ve been wanting someone to say how stupid AI writing tools are. It’s lazy and writers just need to get out of their own way and kill their critical voice. And theres nothing more fun than just writing into the dark.
Why waste your time checking a precious AI writing tool? It’s stupid. Be a professional.
Right now Midjourney is granting, to its paid users, full rights, including commercial use. But it’s not exclusive, so it’s best for now to generate images in Midjourney and then modify/change them in Photoshop. That’s copyrightable.
The question is whether or not Midjourney is able to grant full user rights through its TOS. That is for the courts to decide. But I doubt that the average user is going to get penalized if some judge decides against Midjourney in that question. There are simply too many people who will be using its generated images — many more people than just writers — to penalize all of them. It’s possible that some jurisdiction somewhere makes a show out of punishing one or two users. But as a category, AI is going to overwhelm modern copyright law.
The real legal action is occurring between the artists, the stock image sites, and the owners of the AI tools. That’s a fight I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of. We writers are really spectators to that battle. Our AI battle may be coming up in another decade or so.
Gonna disagree on the AI writing part.
Yes, AI writing is terrible (as in “AI can’t write, not a moral judgment). But so is AI art – we’re just better at recognizing bad writing.
However, AI writing is improving. We’ve been using it for years – the word spell-check is nothing but a very poor, very simple algorithmic AI. Things like ProWritingAid and Gramarly are more skilled at simple tasks like recognizing variants (ie to instead of too) but still poor. The LLMs (ie ChatGPT and it’s like) are a lot better.
Ask Word to find the spelling errors and it will mark every name, every newlogism, every stardate designation. ChatGPT won’t. It marks the true errors (including the to/too thing), and a very limited amount of false positives.
Doesn’t mean that it will be writing novels any time soon, and likely not competently for quite some time, or ever – there are limitations to large language models and we’ll need a paradigm shift to bypass them.
But AI assisted writing? It’s been here for decades. We’re just noticing that it got good.
And as for an AI that will be able to plot, pace, understand depth? It’s probably coming, someday. But when it does, AI writing likely won’t be our biggest problem…
Depending on your Word version, you can add terms to vocabulary. Also, the new version makes it easy to go through the documents and approve/discard suggestions. As for to-too, it does spot that a lot of the time. I do a read-aloud for that level of proofread, the voice-to-text makes it quite audible.
I belonged to a photography club 20 years ago, just when digital photography was taking off. We weren’t allowed to submit digitally enhanced photos to club competitions because that was regarded as cheating. These days, digitally enhancing photos is seen as a crucial part of any serious photographer’s toolkit.
I wonder if the same could happen with AI that writes fiction? I hope not, but there was a cultural shift in photography in response to the new technology and a step-change in what was seen as ethical.
“Too stupid for words and too dangerous and wow are you a lazy bastard if you can’t write your own fiction.”
Absolutely agree 100%.
I recently tried (unsuccessfully) to explain to a mutual acquainance that there is a distinct difference between using “tools” and using “AI-generated story content,” for example which situations arise in a story, how they unfold and are resolved, the characters’ reactions to them, including dialogue, etc.
Using spell check after the fact, online or in-program thesaurus, AI audio presentations of your work, etc. is fine. Those are only tools. They do not change the content of the human-generated story.
As I wrote in a recent blog post on AI-generated content, “Here’s the biggest problem: Feeding information into an AI program and then asking it how a situation might unfold or how a character might react and then taking those suggestions or recommendations WILL send a negative message to your creative subconscious and your characters: “I don’t trust you, I don’t need you, and I don’t have the patience to run through the story with you.”
“And your characters will fold their little arms and refuse to play further with you. It might take them awhile to withdraw completely, but they will. (“You have your stupid AI friend, so whaddaya need me for?”)
“And if you intentionally shut off your characters by repeatedly sending messages to them that you don’t trust them (ahem—revising, rewriting, inviting outside criticism and ‘correction,’ and now the use of AI-generated content) frankly you deserve for your characters to shut you out.”
Beginning with my next publication, this (or something similar) will go into the front matter:
This fiction is a Creation, the result of a partnership between a human writer and the character(s) he accessed with his creative subconscious. This is in no part the clunky, block-by-block, artificial construction of any sort of AI or of any conscious, critical, human mind. What you read here is what actually happened there.
Harvey, Love your “no AI” in this book/story statement.
That is a fabulous idea.
Thanks, Larissa. Feel free to use it. I’ve since removed the word “clunky.”
I’ve experimented with Sudowrite, and agreed on the AI writing part. It’s weird, and you have to rewrite its suggestions to put it in your voice anyways. I don’t think it’s a timesaver.
I wrote an AI-assisted short story just for kicks. I showed it to my wife and asked her to pick out which parts were me, which parts were AI. She could tell with about 80% accuracy, except for the AI parts that I rewrote, which fooled her, and which were kind of in between anyways.
My only disagreement: What about those AI writing tools that simply suggest possible sequences/plot outlines? Sudowrite has that function, and so does Plottr. That is like having a friendly writing partner providing fast, targeted suggestions for where to take a story. That type of nudge seems like it will help people get over writers’ block quickly, and will improve productivity overall. For people like me, who sometimes struggle with plot, that could be really helpful at certain times. It’s about the same level of help as anything else, i.e. part of the web of story that surrounds and inspires us.
“What about those AI writing tools that simply suggest possible sequences/plot outlines?”
How about coming down out of the authorial ivory tower, shedding the ridiculous robes, and slipping into running shoes, jeans and a t-shirt? Then you can roll off the parapet into the trenches of the story and get dirty racing through the story with your characters as it unfolds all around you.
As Bradbury said, plot is only the footprints left by the characters as they race through the story. When you write fiction you’re in your characters’ world experiencing their story, not yours. (In your story you’re sitting at a keyboard, typing.)
Even the characters don’t know what’s going to happen in advance as the story unfolds, so why try to force anything? Trust yourself, trust what you know, and just have fun telling stories. Be your characters’ friend and recorder (King calls himself his characters’ stenographer), not their slavemaster.
I agree with Harvey that my characters wouldn’t talk to me if I tried to use AI for possible plot twists.
I mean, isn’t coming up with random shit the fun part of writing? One time my characters broke into someone’s u-Haul and got run over by a flock of live flamingoes. I have NO IDEA where that came from, but it made for a fun story. I doubt an AI would do that. And if it did, I’d reject it as preposterous (because c’mon, flamigoes?) But since my creative voice wanted to do it, I ran with it.
I have a husband at home. He loves to hear about what I am writing, even though telling him shuts down my creative process, because then I end up overthinking it. Even though he tries very, very hard not to give suggestions, his opinions tend to bleed through. I learned to toss out random story ideas as sacrificial pawns. We get to talk about writing and bond over something fun, but I’m not ruining my work-in-progress. (And no, I don’t necessarily tell him at the time.)
If I can’t stand allowing my husband, the person I love and one who knows me the best in the world, into my creative process, I can’t imagine letting some algorighm meddle with the characters having adventures in my head. Why would I ever do that to myself?
We’re different people!
I’m open to story ideas, plot points, and suggestions from ANY and ALL places. This includes other people, other stories, and random stuff in the street — and now AI tools.
It’s all part of the web of story that surrounds us.
Audio is pretty exciting. Art could be fine if the algorithms get better and the copyright issues are addressed. And writing… Oh my… Stories generated by these tools are amazingly dull and boring.
But scammers are flooding magazines recently it seems, which is an issue. Even if those scammers are blacklisted, flagging them takes a lot of time and energy, and makes it harder for writers to reach the slush reader stage.
Let’s just ponder the irony that most of what people “think” an AI sounds/writes like has been generated by humans. I retain the greatest confidence and enthusiasm for this development.
The place I suspect that AI text-to-speech is going to fail most noticeably is the place it has ALWAYS failed: Proper names. Even the AIs “raised in” Seattle (go ahead, AI: say Puyallup, Swinomish, and Sequim), and virtually everywhere has similar problems (I’ve yet to hear a non-German-speaker correctly evade all three phonetic traps in “von Richtofen,” and I doubt that an AI would do better… or, if trained on that particular name, be able to understand when what it has learned applies elsewhere and when it doesn’t). More to the point, an AI will not change to a character’s own pronunciations when flipping between “narrative text” and “quoted speech.” Consider, for a moment, a character who has an early-in-text-established lisp, or even just severe “foreign accent.” In summary, the AI isn’t going to do any better than trained and experienced does-this-for-a-living speakers, as a truly cringeworthy BBC World News presenter demonstrated yesterday… and most probably quite a bit worse.
If you’d really like your head to explode a little bit more on the art-copyright issues, just throw in VARA, § 106A, which is functionally exempt from fair use… and consider the multiple additional problems with “AIGwyon, draw me an elephant in the style of that Picasso sculture in front of the Daley Center in Chicago”. Hey, maybe the unique pattern of brain tissue on the couch can be copyrightable abstract art itself?
Linda Maye Adams
Hah! I was stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington in the 1990s. Everyone new to the area couldn’t figure out to say any of those location names.
UnIdentified AI is flooding the stock sites too. Look at what happened to Tor. I’m grabbing licenses to my known artists now, and serious considering finding an artist or two for a long term commissions relationship. It might be a while before the law is settled on this issue!
It’s depressing to see so many writers not understand the long term cost to their own writing. Even if they “train” the AI on their own books, it will be like being stuck as the worst average of the writer they were at that time. And creative voice? Forget it.
Can we stop calling it “AI”? We don’t have AI, we have programs that can scan published/uploaded stuff, do crappy cut and paste, and leave you with a mess that is more work to fix than just doing it yourself. And if you can’t do it yourself, you have no right to be calling yourself an author.
I guess I can see robotic reading for audio books. If it comes down to it. I don’t know that it’s anything I want to do, as I imagine it’s going to take a tidy bit of editing to get it to read words properly. How the heck is it going to pronounce words from a fantasy novel?
I’m a bit harsh on the whole “AI” writing and cover art thing. I don’t see it as anything but copyright theft, and if the courts don’t see it the same way, we should probably start looking for something else to do. Because every fool out there who sees that easy passive income, that surefire “Kindle” millions just waiting for them, will be bombarding every single site in existance. And probably a few more that will come along just to take advantage.
I know I won’t be reading anymore, because I can’t see myself wanting any kind of story some mashed together fake “AI” comes up with. I’ll try knitting again, or finally finish all those crosstitch patterns I have hanging around. I’ll be really sad, though. Reading saved my life and I can’t imagine being without it.
Sheila, that is the name it is being called and no fighting it at this point.
Most of it is copyright theft, especially the art and writing side. But the audio is here now and working. Just watch terms of service, folks on the audio.
I couldn’t agree more that using AI to generate fiction, even if it’s just to initiate a draft that you can craft into your own – good luck with that – is pure laziness. But I think AI software can be useful in the business world. I’ve seen some terrible, misleading and outright false emails. They hit my inbox almost every day. Hard to believe that some assist from AI could make them worse. Of course, maybe some of those emails are already being generated by AI. But when it comes to AI and fiction, what we say doesn’t matter. In the end, readers will decide. If AI sells books, writers will use it. And if it produces bestsellers, even more writers will use it. Will we still call those people writers?
Selling has little if anything to do with it. Writers don’t write to sell, we write to tell stories. But I agree that is writers being afraid and lazy. Got a hunch most market places will scan for it and not allow it to be sold, so eventually there will be no sales or bestsellers. It is theft, after all.
Agree that AI writing is rubbish, but have to disagree on AI research. It’s not at all the same thing and doesn’t belong lumped together with writing.
IMHO having an AI assistant help with quick facts and figures while I’m writing about ftl space flight or deep sea free diving seems like the perfect role for it.
Chris, do research on me. It will tell you I won the Golden Pen Award and the Scribe Award. Uh, nope… Not worth anything if you want real facts.
It was absolutely too tempting to pass up. I asked ChatGPT, “Tell me about award-winning author Dean Wesley Smith” The response follows:
Dean Wesley Smith is an American author….
EDITED BY DEAN BECAUSE EVERY FACT WAS WRONG AND I DIDN’T WANT TO GET IT OUT THERE THAT WAY. HORRID, JUST HORRID.
That shows if you use that ChatGPT for research, you are first off, asking to look like a fool and second off, you will end up looking like a fool. Things that were wrong… My birthday, had me writing books of Kris’s, had me winning awards I did not win, didn’t come close to how many books I have written and published (missed by over 100 novels alone.)
So sorry, Nathan, not a chance I would let that piece of shit through as fact. Just stunningly wrong.
Wow am I sorry I put up this post about AI. The letters I have gotten are headshaking.
Brad D. Sibbersen
Something I tried simply as a fun exercise was writing a story round robin with an AI I started with a prompt, the AI wrote a line, then I wrote a line, etc. Only worked for very short pieces so I came up with a “story” that was really a series of short vignettes. Required some creative editing after, but the result was pretty amazing as the AI took the pieces in directions I might have never considered. Still needed my 50% imput and a fair amount of smoothing over after, and of course my human writer’s brain knowing when to stop. The story appears in my collection “Tales From the Nitroglycerin Nursery” if anyone is curious. (Hope it’s okay that I’m mildly hyping myself, there!)
Not sure that was a hype, Brad.
This might not be related, but sometimes when I’m stuck coming up with a character in a setting with a problem, I go to http://www.seventhsanctum.com. They have a quick story idea generator there. Really helps to get the sparks popping.
Clarkesworld getting inudated with ai short stories. They temporarily blocked all submissions. Guess it’s good they can detect the ai stories.