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  • Robert Farago

Is AI The Death Knell for Writers?

The best question you can ask a novelist: what's your process? They’ll probably say something about discipline: writing a certain number of words per day. Some writers will tell you they wait until inspiration strikes, then crank out prose until "I got blister on my fingers."

That's assuming you're asking a flesh-and-blood author for their creative process, rather than . . . . what do we call Artificial Intelligence "writers"? What's the appropriate pronoun? They? Them?

I've got to be careful. The day is fast approaching when misgendering AI will be a crime, punishable by whatever thinks appropriate. A day when referring to AI as "It" will be a capital offense, like shooting the sheriff in the Bob Marley song, recorded long before algorithms set the table for our AI overlords.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm having a hard time dealing with the prospect of being replaced by a neural network, or whatever It, I mean they call themselves. I worked to master the fine art of getting a reader from the first sentence to the last for nearasdammit 55 years. Wait! Don't go!

Cheap trick? No Fountains of Wayne! Anyway . . .

GPT and its ilk may lack my, uh, flair but they're like Stacy’s Mom: they've got it going on. Sure AI’s prone to hallucination. Who isn't? When it comes to the craft of writing – punctuation, spelling, sentence and paragraph structure - it's check, check, check, check. Checkmate? If you're a writer, how in the world does AI not freak you out?

Artificial Intelligence's progress in the last two months reminds me of the Vermont girl I met my Freshman year at Tufts: it's going down fast. (Last I heard, she married a preacher in Louisiana.)

We've gone from Chat GPT to Chat GPT3 to GPT4 to Auto-GPT in less time than it takes an Apple press conference to announce they have nothing interesting to reveal.

Switching to the Doobie Brothers, the AI industry is adding capabilities minute by minute by minute. Let’s discuss it further....

Auto-GPT ups the ante in a game where the stakes are already life or death (career-wise). You give Auto-GPT a task, press a button, then go make a BLT. By the time you're wiping the last bit of mayo off your face Auto-GPT has visited multiple websites and extracted, collated, processed and delivered data in the desired form. In other words, Auto-GPT gets shit done.

The example making the rounds: tell Auto-GPT to design a meal plan according to your dietary and budgetary limitations. The AI's large language model (shouldn't that be "full-figured"?) compiles a menu with recipes and nutritional info, shops for the best deals, buys the food with your credit card and has it delivered it to your address. At a convenient time, of course.

Awesome! Other than people who’ve watched all six Terminator movies, who wouldn't want a digital assistant getting shit done? Writers! Try this on for size: tell next gen Auto-GPT to write a book about the Rhode Island slave trade that reads like one of Barbara Tuchman's tomes. Ba-BAM!

GPT scours the 'net for source material and previous histories, then collates, analyzes and writes the result in the best-selling writer's unique style. It queries literary agents or . . . . publishes the book on Amazon, researches the market, sends a custom email to potential buyers. Amazon’s AI handles the rest, of course

Will it go ‘round in circles? Yes! Auto-GPT is self-prompting. Once it knows your goal, it gives itself tasks to achieve the desired result. In the near future – if not later today – you can just tell Auto-GPT to write the damn book. It'll ask you a few questions and get on with it. Ten minutes later you'll be screaming "WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?"

Don't get me wrong. I know you can't stop the signal. So don't think of Union non-AI Certification as anti-AI. Think of it as pro-human. Sure, AI is rocking our world, just like the Internet did when it made the scene. At the same time, we need to protect the unique human skill of writing. Not just the result. The process.

Because non-AI writing makes us better, both individually and as a species.

Those of us who believe that will not go quietly into that long night. We will look into the automated abyss and do what we have to do: write about it!

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