I don’t feel I can write a blog post like ‘Losing the Plot: Writers Will Destroy Themselves With AI’ without a few housekeeping items first, so let me get that out of the way. Number one, I think AI can be a powerful tool to make scifi better used in the context. Number two, I use AI to create small-scale concept art that I hope will get me budget to work with a human concept artist in the future. Number three, at the end of the day I’m just a guy who wants to tell stories. Take everything I say here with a grain of salt, or four.
Now, back to the topic. Yes, writers are losing the plot if they use AI to tell their stories. In fact, I’m going as far as saying they will destroy themselves. Out of all the authoring tools, why would AI be an existential threat to writers themselves? Is it because the AI will write everything for them? The answer, in short, is no. The problem writers are creating is much more insidious. Let’s take a deep dive into the topic:
I’ve talked about GPT-3 before, and I’m not a fan. Last year, I wrote about how GPT-3 and other AI-based authoring tools suffer from the same ‘uncanny valley’ that affects other creative mediums. Want an example? Here you go:
I noted earlier, and I still feel this is true: AI-based stories are disjointed, there’s no connective flow of ideas. The articles only work as an experiment to write as many on-topic words without actually making a point. Not everyone feels this way.
Case in point: this writer, Celeste Kallio, goes a long way to say that using GPT-3 helps her write more stories, or more stories better. “I think that creating alongside AI is a fascinating way to explore my own creativity and storytelling along with these new capabilities.” With all due respect to Celeste Kallio, she’s hurting herself as a writer and creative professional. Here’s a simple explanation why:
First, a question – is writing, and all other art, based on intrinsic human need or not? I think it is, according to the Colorado State University: ‘Visual art reaches beyond written and spoken language to access the emotional and psychological inner world of both the maker and the viewer … Having access to visual art and experiencing the creation of art helps humans contextualize their experiences and connects them to others through the expression of shared identity.’
Do we agree that the above statement is accurate? Is art based on a human need to contextualize experiences and connect through shared identity? If the answer to those questions is yes, then one final question: how are you supposed to do that with a computer? I apologize in advance if this shatters some world views. But then again, that’s something else an AI will never be able to do: empathize.
Art speaks to us, we speak to ourselves and each other through art. Practicing art is about learning how to connect, how to express ourselves. We champion great artists, musicians, authors because we connected with their experiences, their expressions. You can shortcut, scale, or automate any creative medium, but you’ll never scale or shortcut the way people feel when they stand in the Sistine Chapel. You can 3D-print a 1:1 replica of the Statue of David, but no one will care. Why? Because that human connection is missing.
Here’s another example – what’s the difference between this recording of Jimi Hendrix and this MIDI version? There’s a reason one has ~1,000 views and the other has ~1,000,000. One’s a novelty, the other grips your soul. You can’t automate that, you can’t ask an AI to tell you what people care about, beyond creepy machine learning algorithms.
We’re still feeling out, as a species, what AI is good for. I get it, we’re trying all kinds of stuff and that’s good. Curiosity and exploration are also intrinsic human needs. But like all tools, AI has its limits. The deeper you go into AI-based art, the more you realize that the uncanny valley has yet to be resolved and even when they get to the other side, AI-based creatives will quickly find out that there’s no ‘there’ there.’
So yes, you can use AI to write stories. However, like all novelties, AI-based fiction has an expiration date. Writers are losing the plot if they’re relying on AI to write instead of developing their craft. I hope they see the warning signs and pull back now, otherwise those writers are doomed and will destroy themselves.