Confessions of a Viral AI Writer

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Lately, I’ve sometimes turned to ChatGPT for research. But I’ve stopped having it generate prose to stand in for my own. If my writing is an expression of my particular consciousness, I’m the only one capable of it. This applies, to be clear, to GPT-3’s line about holding hands with my sister. In real life, she and I were never so sentimental. That’s precisely why I kept writing over the AI’s words with my own: The essay is equally about what AI promises us and how it falls short. As for Sudowrite’s proposal to engineer an entire novel from a few keywords, forget it. If I wanted a product to deliver me a story on demand, I’d just go to a bookstore.

But what if I, the writer, don’t matter? I joined a Slack channel for people using Sudowrite and scrolled through the comments. One caught my eye, posted by a mother who didn’t like the bookstore options for stories to read to her little boy. She was using the product to compose her own adventure tale for him. Maybe, I realized, these products that are supposedly built for writers will actually be of more interest to readers.

I can imagine a world in which many of the people employed as authors, people like me, limit their use of AI or decline to use it altogether. I can also imagine a world—and maybe we’re already in it—in which a new generation of readers begins using AI to produce the stories they want. If this type of literature satisfies readers, the question of whether it can match human-produced writing might well be judged irrelevant.

I think this is a good example of exactly why I think software engineers are in trouble for many roles.

People hire nerds to get computers to do things for them. Things that are not especially novel to those of us who program computers, but extremely valuable to those who cannot.

Will AI be able to create bespoke, artisanal software better than a creative engineer?

Will AI be able to create bespoke, artisanal music better than a create musician?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But it will surely be able to create adequate software and music faster than humans can.

I’m afraid the days of being paid insane amounts of money because I can get computers to do what I want are approaching an end.

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