The machine spaketh
Or ponderings on my conflicted feelings about things AI
I don’t know if “spaketh” was actually ever a word — the machine could probably tell me. Anyway….
I am not a robot
I broke down recently and went to try ChatGPT … where I was asked to verify I was human ... and then to say I wasn’t a robot. Which made me laugh.
But when the machine asked for my phone number, I gave up. Maybe I’ll try again another day, but right now, no, this post was not written by a machine. It would probably be more coherent if it had been.
To err is human?
Just like so many artists, the AI struggles at hands. But it seems to also struggle with bias. Machine learning can only be as good as what it learns from, and it’s still an issue that images are overwhelmingly white unless that’s controlled for. Then again, as a sometimes cover artist, I know the struggle of finding great fantasy and sci-fi images of people who aren’t fish belly white — that’s something AI art could help with.
AI can definitely be creative — this article about an AI writing an obituary was interesting. It definitely misunderstood the assignment, adding random details instead of available facts from the author’s life.
And AI can even plagiarize. And I’m not talking about the concerns about how StableDiffusion was trained. When I read this article about AI plagiarism, it made me wonder about authors jumping on to use ChatGPT — do they know what they’re getting?
Which leads me to AI writing Wikipedia articles. If it’s learning from disinformation, and it struggles with bias like our society, and it’s using creative writing for fact, and it’s copying from others … well, I think we at least still need human oversight.
AI as a helping hand
But I use tools that use machine learning.
I used Google suggestions on my typos as I wrote this, and I use ProWritingAid to help edit my writing … but I know the words I enter are mine (and PWA also makes mistakes). I use the AI-backed neural filters and selection tools in Photoshop to help edit my digital art. But I also know what went into the image to start with … unless the stock photo I bought from a stock site is actually generated by an AI.
So what’s a creator to do?
I don’t know.
There are beautiful pictures coming from Midjourney, Dall-e and the like … but are they art? What makes something art vs just a pretty picture? Either way, so far, I’ve largely stayed away. I have some discomfort about how the AI art algorithms were trained. I’ve heard the argument that it’s not stealing, it’s just learning like artists through the ages have learned — I’ll let the lawyers sort that out — but it still feels off to me.
But am I being a hypocrite? About a year ago, I released my first audiobook … using Google’s AI voices. I don’t feel as conflicted about how Google developed their AI voices, but maybe I’m fooling myself, justifying.
I do know no one lost money by me using AI narration. I didn’t have the money to pay a human to do it, so it just wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Certainly the voice doesn’t have the warmth and nuanced intonation a human narrator would give. (Btw, if you’re interested in checking it out, the first 100 people can get a free copy unitl January 31 — I’d love to hear your thoughts on the AI narration.)
So where does this journey lead?
All of this to say … I’m conflicted and writing this hasn’t made me less so. I realize we can’t put that genie back in its bottle.
I imagine things will settle in a few years, and as a creator, I hope it settles in a way that supports human creativity. I feel strongly that our creativity and ingenuity is one of our greatest assets as a species, and I worry what happens if we allow that to atrophy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you embraced the machine? Doubling down on being human? Signed up for biomodding?
As a footnote, this is where I’d welcome universal basic income — let the robots take our jobs so we can focus on creativity and innovation. I want this future:
No. No, it’s not.
Now onto the regular updates…
I almost forgot! The machine would not forget.
There’s still a week to become a paid supporter of Armchair Alien for 50% off the annual subscription — only $15! As a paid subscriber, you get first dibs on serialized novels, new short stories and a ebook from our backlist each month.
Book 1 in The Lyra Cycle, A Dead Ship in the Deep Black, is 99 cents at all major online retailers until January 31 (or it’s the free book next month). And book 2, A Lost Ship in a Dark Grave, is 25% off at Kobo — just use code 25JAN at checkout.
I realized I’ve painted myself into a corner with The Lyra Cycle titles … I need to think of something that fits the pattern for book three.
Phew, holy carp, that’s probably the longest post I’ve written that wasn’t a story.
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