The networker, John Naughton, Observer, Artificial Intelligence is making literary leaps.
I write stuff nobody much reads. Think of a number below ten and don’t multiply it. There’s a large hole in my idea of normality. I imagine someday, someone, somewhere will pay for my writing and I’ll be in the promised land of earning a living from writing. There’s no evidence to support this assumption. Meanwhile, I just putter along, doing no real harm and getting on with it. Writing helps me figure out what I think and the odd time gives me joy. Endorphins kick in and I’m on a writer high, conquering the world, word by word.
Anyone that’s being paying attention to the rise and rise of artificial intelligence (AI) knows how the world is going to change. Has already morphed into an existential threat (although the case for that may be overstated). We know that it is going to do the boring jobs. Then it’s going to do the less boring jobs. AI or pattern-recognition software will be our doctors and nurses our servants and masters a tax on humanity with profits going to the off-shored wealthy.
For us dreamers and scribblers AI seemed a jump too far. I was aware that AI was already performing simple tasks such as writing obituaries and sport columns for mainstream media. Deep Blue pattern-recognition software filtered down to games that challenge novice chess players at different levels. ‘Go’ the board game that seemed to rely on intuition rather than logic seemed a step to far, but the best players in the world were swatted aside by machine learning. I could go on, but I guess you see the pattern emerging.
Write every day, that’s the way, is the kind of crappy mantra I more, or less, adhere to. What John Naughton is saying here is AI can mimic the way you write. Just the same way that SIRI can listen to what you say and reproduce speech. AI can be you. A different but a better you, with an authentic voice that is yours, but not you.
The myth of the writer in the attic (although I do sit in a cupboard) pondering and pouring out hard copy is hard cheese. AI can do that quicker and better. Just the same as it can play chess better than you, all the way up to Grand Master level.
We all know how the story of writerly success is promoted. The fairy tale being written in an Edinburgh café by a writer down on her luck. Outliers brought into the mainstream by fate. A fluke of luck, a billion pound industry, resting on the back of a tortoise. Buy a lottery ticket, write that book. You might win.
Lies. Lies. Lies. I sometimes even believe them.
The economics of the creative industries (around 14% of GDP) rely on elasticity of supply. AI has changed that algorithm. Why do we need screenwriters when AI can do it faster and better? Why wait for the next great novel when we can just download something very similar?
The slog of writing remain much the same, but the chances of being published and making a writing from living are pretty much gubbed. Oh, well, back to the old-fashioned keyboard. Read on.