‘AI’ at Bologna: The Hair-Raising Topic of 2023

From Publishing Perspectives:

Probably predictable, the busiest chatter in pre-Bologna Children’s Book Fair (March 6 to 9) messaging about “artificial intelligence” has a slightly shrill edge to it at times, along with assertions that “AI” is going to “revolutionize publishing.”

Just as enhanced ebooks did, remember? And virtual reality. And augmented reality. And Kindle in Motion. And sales data. And everything “digital.” Right? Well, no. Many developments on which we all once kept a wary, skittish eye have proved no match for the sturdy agility of reading, although in some cases, such conceptional developments eventually have helped the business move forward in a world of digitally robust entertainment. It’s hard at times to distinguish a step in valuable development from a threat, isn’t it?

Indeed, while overreaction and warnings of “the end of human creativity” are over the top, there are areas in which “AI” developments are being taken very seriously. The 13,000-member Authors Guild in New York City–the United States’ leading writer-advocacy organization–has today (March 1) issued an update to its model trade book contract and literary translation model contract with a new clause that prohibits publishers from using or sublicensing books under contract to train “artificial intelligence” technologies.

That new clause reads:

. . . .

Nevertheless, as one sage London publishing manager once said to us, “Publishing is really taking digital rather hard, isn’t it?” And the industry does tend to assume the worst when new elements of technological advances capture the popular imagination.

Another way of saying that the book publishing business is an emotional one is to notice how much book people seem to enjoy such frightening dramas. Chicken Little is still a sort of recurring mascot, and nobody is better than storytellers at telling stories about how all our precious print books are going to vanish from the Earth and all of Manhattan will become Silicon Valley’s parking lot.

So now we find bookish folks calling “AI” a “new frontier,” although it and “machine learning” have been with us long before OpenAI and its ChatGPT attracted so much media attention. “AI” is not intelligence at all, artificial or otherwise—some people in publishing may not realize that every Google search they’ve done was an encounter with the “AI” nightmare. That’s why one of the first developments being worked on with OpenAI’s system has been Microsoft integrating it with Bing—a search engine. Because it searches. Fast. The answers Alexa or another voice-activated system may give you are this, too–algorithmically combined responses.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Also, PG isn’t certain whether it is possible to prove that a particular book was used for AI training absent someone at the AI software company saying it was. If PG were advising an AI company on this issue, he would advise purchasing a huge file of text from a third party, perhaps a renowned university, and using that to train an AI.

If anyone knows of any employee of a traditional publisher who is an expert on artificial intelligence on staff, please indicate this in the comments. Ditto for electrical engineers, computer engineers, etc.