Everyone’s Talking about Artificial Intelligence
And some–maybe many–people are worrying about its impact on writers.
Should we storytellers be worried?
Last weekend I came across an interview in the Wall Street Journal (apologies if there’s a paywall, I can’t do anything about it) by Ben Cohen with a nationally recognized math coach. It seems to me that mathematicians are in much greater risk of replacement by AI than fiction writers.
But Po-Shen Lo, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the of Team USA’s math competitors has a positive outlook. “Think about what makes humans human, and lean into that as hard as possible.”
Interesting advice, right? I’ve never been one for math, but I have great-nieces and -nephews who are math whizzes. To quote one of them, “math is beautiful.” Which is how I feel about a piece of good writing.
So if the math world can be positive about AI, how much more the world of writing! Here’s another quote from Professor Lo: “The future of jobs is figuring out how to find pain points. And a pain point is a human pain.”
Isn’t that what fiction writers do? We move our characters and stories along by creating pain points. Or as Dwight Swain presents it: Scene (goal-conflict-disaster) and Sequel (reaction-dilemma-decision).
The WSJ article quotes Loh again talking to a group of students. He stumped ChatGPT with a question it didn’t have data for. It first answered nonsensically and then apologized for the answer. Loh said, “The role of GPT is to always say the most obvious next word. But what is invention? What is creativity and innovation? Is it to say the most obvious thing? No. It might be to say a non-obvious thing.”
Think about the times you’ve been surprised by a character’s actions and reactions. Perhaps someday AI will have the skills to layer in the subtle motivations needed, but call me skeptical.
I recently purchased access to a program called Quickwrite, and I’ve been experimenting with it for blurb-writing. The results are about 50-75% unusable. But for someone like me who has trouble with elevator pitches and “high concept” the results help tighten the plot focus and spur ideas.
AI creating a whole work of fiction? I can’t see it, but I’ve heard authors say works by AI are flooding Amazon. I suppose the fake author mills that churn out stories under ghost pen names will no longer have to hire ghost writers.
The accuracy of AI for nonfiction is a crucial issue. I read an oped by a political cartoonist who said AI greatly distorted his bio. This is the area of AI I find most troubling.
What do you think?
I always tell my kids, I’ll be dead before some of the big changes happen (like a world with all electric cars, or efficient, effective green energy) but AI seems to be moving pretty quickly.
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