Content will be commoditized—but content isn’t culture
"With a one-sentence prompt and 20 seconds of thought, one can now get ChatGPT to turn out an essay that rivals something an experienced writer might have taken days to produce"
I'm going to have to strongly disagree with that. It's very obvious when publications are using AI to produce work, and they're getting lowest-common-denominator stuff that's very obviously crafted by AI.
They're replacing writers, sure, but the work is garbage.
How dare you write: “ Whether you’re for or against this development ultimately doesn’t matter.” It DOES matter, and it SHOULD matter. Saying that gives a moral pass to technocrats like Musk and Altman—and all their ilk. It’s akin to what was said by the moral skeptics after the race for the nuclear bomb, “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.” It is obvious one of the major characteristics of our human species is that we cannot learn from the past. [btw, this post response was not written with any AI influence!]
I don't believe this is true, at least for young writers. For established careerists, yes AI will prove to be useful, but that's because we have already "paid our dues" through difficult jobs that AI promises to destroy.
While painful, the jobs of interns writing repetitive earnings reports, transcribing interviews for the boss, or aggregating information are already going the way of the dinosaurs. Those jobs are how many young people (think 20-25 years old) get their foot in the door at major organizations. They are often rewarded with titles like Reporter, Staff Writer or Creative Associate, which go a long way towards building the infrastructure of a career.
My first job out of college was transcribing interviews, then I cut B-roll, and eventually I was promoted to produce a 3-minute internet television show. Eventually, layoffs got me, but that experience was critical to parlay into another internship that eventually led to my first full-time job and the beginnings of a career.
In our AI-driven world, I would not have been needed to transcribe those interviews or cut the B-roll, so I doubt I would have ever gotten the opportunity to learn from mentors and bolster my portfolio.
Apologies for being a wet blanket, but I think AI optimists tend to be mid-career and forget about the jobs they had to do when they were 22.
"With a one-sentence prompt and 20 seconds of thought, one can now get ChatGPT to turn out an essay that rivals something an experienced writer might have taken days to produce." Yes, this must be why I've had three clients come to me in the past month with stuff their techbros had "written" using ChatGPT, asking me to rewrite it because it's unusable.
If the AIs were only trained on out-of-copyright or freely released works it wouldn't be so bad, but the way many (all?) are trained on copyrighted books, artworks and so on (without permission) is morally and legally dubious.
Before you know it the meatsacks will be ground up as a fuel source for the AI generators to churn out endless content to fill social media platforms with interacting AI chatbots that Heaven-send every human (that hasn't been ground up for energy). Ah, then we'll be sorry.
"If the computer is a bicycle for the mind, AI will be a jumbo jet."
I agree. Cumbersome, bloated, unsustainable and terrible for the planet.
Well I hope it works out this way but as is my want (see name of magazine) I am skeptical! As it is, a great deal of reader attention is taken up by substandard fare, readers who are not professional media critics and may not realize that high quality content has been displaced by low quality content. For want of a formal term, call it the BuzzFeed effect.
It is not that AI can't help already excellent creators be more creative. It is that it will also help the mass of people who aren't particularly good at creating. And would not have even tried before AI, pump out more and more mediocre sludge, greatly increasing the "noise to signal" ratio in the wrong direction for the people who are talented writers but struggle to stand out.
There are tens of thousands of talented writers and tens of thousands of companies selling good products who never got the attention or sales they deserved because they were not at the right place and the right time.
The volume of content being put out in content channels thanks to AI augmentation will make finding that right place and right time for great creators far harder, IMHO.
I truly hope I am wrong. I would love to see a creative revolution powered by AI, I just don't believe it's going to happen. I believe AI will be an extension of the trend that saw thousands of newspapers and magazines across the US shut down in last 30 years. I personally worked at three of them. I personally have had an editor I worked with kill himself after that happened.
For me, anyone proclaiming a glorious and widespread creative future is going to have to bring some receipts before I buy into the latest iteration of techno utopianism.
We have finally found a way to circumvent copyright, evade plagiarism accusations, and get rid of the nasty competition of millions of real, thinking, intelligent writers. All with one simple act of connecting dumb machines (hardware), adding one simple dumb software (harvesting, extracting and blending all together), and one simple grammar adjustment dumb software.
Bonus: enforced unification of writing and understanding, removing the communicative function of the language.
Next stage: disbanding all schools and holding teachers liable for disrupting the operation of artificial intelligence.
You still need to generate, curate, edit and discriminate with the AI generated stuff. I think demand for people who can think will go through the roof.
Hi Hamish, you are correct that AI is here to stay, and that Substack is Resistance. You are horribly wrong with your cheerleading of corporations using ill considered technology to gut human civilisation with the fish knife of labour cost reduction.
The Luddites were visionaries, and they were right. Big Agriculture has depleted Earth's topsoil, emptied our oceans of fish, clearcut our forests, and urbanised our population beyond the capacity of the planet to support us, pushing us over a tipping point where societal collapse will take place in 40-60 years. Technological corporations are a virus that is killing off the host.
Famines are not caused by scale of farming technology, they are caused by politics. In the 1930s, Stalin created the Holodomor by destroying the small-medium scale Kulak class of farmers, by stealing their land, and creating "State Capitalist", collectivised, mega farms. 5-10 million died. Every family lost 2-3 people.
AI is a job killer for writers. Only Stephen King, celebrity memoir writers, and the owners of companies like Substack and Scrivener will survive AI. Substack and Scrivener are like the people selling shovels and work pants in the gold rushes of the 1800s, who were the only locals to make money. Writers are the modern day gold rush miners. Millions of us toiling away in poverty, while the stock market takes a bull run. The word "panhandler" has evolved to emphasise my point. No matter how I beg, I can't get a job as a journalist, because the media outlets are using AI. And I wear Levi's. History can be cruel.
Unfortunately, you are also wrong about content and culture. The "culture" of America is 90% Harlequin Romances, Hallmark Greeting Cards, and, to bring back your agriculture example, McDonalds. I will never use AI, for the same reason I will never eat a McDonalds hamburger. Because they are both empty calories, and their purpose is to siphon money out of my pocket, and resistance out of my soul.
The "automation of agriculture", i.e. agribusiness, has led to monocultures, folks not knowing where their food comes from, supply chain issues, still many folks going hungry at the end of the day and many other problems. As with all "advances" we humans create we would be wise to hold it loosely and with humility, understanding we are but one being on this expansive planet.
Actually, no one really has any idea of the consequences of this tsunami of AI. What we do know, however, is that it is being driven by the ambitions of tech entrepreneurs regardless of any ethical or humanitarian considerations. That does not bode well.
World becomes a little more unnatural every day!
It is something I can feel!
My senses cry out!
Like digital music!
It pains my sense of well being
Is it live or memorex.
AI will be used for evil they’re not even hiding this fact!
I find your use of the agriculture comparison interesting, because while agriculture did provide people with jobs and such, it also rapidly destroyed the environment and reduced the overall quality and nutritional value of food. It also artificially inflated the prices of organic food produced by local farmers. I see something similar being possible with AI-generated content. But instead of environmental destruction, the destruction will be spiritual.
We use Writer at my work and for the most part, it's a Grammarly tool on steriods. There is a generative AI aspect but it's mostly software that helps companies help their writers keep the same tone and voice, use predefined words (e.g. "used" instead of "utilized") rather than jargon. I'm a novelist who primarily writes historical fiction so I rarely use contractions, but at work when I'm scripting videos (I teach social media and AI for a software firm) we use a casual voice. Writer has helped me add in all the necessary contractions that I just wouldn't have on my own. It's a very good tool, IMHO.
It's not a bad thing for us to become better writers. And AI is here to stay. Writers who learn to harness it to become better will end up prevailing. For the most part, generative AI churns out formulaic, cliched stories and sentences. It's also often wrong or short-sighted. I personally don't believe it will take the place of true human creativity, especially not at this point.
No one can replace me.
Ai is not just a Trojan Horse but the greatest Danger that Humanity has ever faced.
The same people who invest in WAR are investing into AI.
The powers that be always and ever are dehumanizing Humanity.
AI is their tool.
Worse... AI is designed not only to replace writers or workers... but to control them via Automated IOB Robotics.
AI is modern Slavery at best... a digital Quantum Holocaust.