Form, function, and the giant gulf between drawing a picture and understanding the world

From The Road to AI We Can Trust:

Drawing photorealistic images is a major accomplishment for AI, but is it really a step towards general intelligence? Since DALL-E 2 came out, many people have hinted at that conclusion; when the system was announced, Sam Altman tweeted that “AGI is going to be wild”; for Kevin Roose at The New York Times, such systems constitute clear evidence that “We’re in a golden age of progress in artificial intelligence”. (Earlier this week, Scott Alexander seems to have taken apparent progress in these systems as evidence for progress towards general intelligence; I expressed reservations here.)

In assessing progress towards general intelligence, the critical question should be, how much do systems like Dall-E, Imagen, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion really understand the world, such that they can reason on and act on that knowledge? When thinking about how they fit into AI, both narrow and broad, here are three questions you could ask:

  1. Can the image synthesis systems generate high quality images?
  2. Can they correlate their linguistic input with the images they produce?
  3. Do they understand the world that underlies the images they represent?

On #1, the answer is a clear yes; only highly trained human artists could do better.

On #2, the answer is mixed. They do well on some inputs (like astronaut rides horse) but more poorly on others (like horse rides astronaut, which I discussed in an earlier post). (Below I will show some more examples of failure; there are many examples on the internet of impressive success, as well.)

Crucially, DALL-E and co’s potential contribution to general intelligence (“AGI”) ultimately rests on #3; if all the systems can do is in a hit-or-miss yet spectacular way convert many sentences into text, they may revolutionize the practice of art, but still not really speak to general intelligence, or even represent progress towards general intelligence.

Until this morning, I despaired of assessing what these systems understand about the world at all.

The single clearest hint that they might have trouble that I had seen thus far was from the graphic designer Irina Blok:

As my 8 year old said, reading this draft, “how does the coffee not fall out of the cup?”

The trouble, though, with asking a system like Imagen to draw impossible things is that there is no fact of the matter about what the picture should look like, so the discussion about results cycles endlessly. Maybe the system just “wanted” to draw a surrealistic image. And for that matter, maybe a person would do the same, as Michael Bronstein pointed out.

Link to the rest at The Road to AI We Can Trust

Working With AI

From The Wall Street Journal:

In August, first prize in the digital-art category of the Colorado State Fair’s fine-art competition went to a man who used artificial intelligence (AI) to generate his submission, “Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial.” He supplied the AI, a program called Midjourney, with only a “prompt”—a textual description of what he wanted. Systems like Midjourney and the similar DALL-E 2 have led to a new role in our AI age: “prompt engineer.” Such people can even sell their textual wares in an online market called PromptBase.

Midjourney and DALL-E 2 emerged too late to be included in “Working With AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration,” by Thomas Davenport and Steven Miller, information-systems professors at Babson College and Singapore Management University, respectively. But the authors note other novel titles: chief automation officer; senior manager of content systems; architect, ethical AI practice. As AI’s influence expands, its borders with the work world gain complexity. Next up: deputy regional manager of AI-prompt quality and security assurance.

The bulk of “Working With AI” comprises 29 case studies in which corporate teams integrate automation into a workflow. Each chapter ends on three or four “lessons we learned.” For each study, one or both authors typically interview not only a worker interacting directly with the AI but also the worker’s supervisor, the manager who decided to adopt the technology, the software’s developer and the company’s customers. Though they include some statistics on, say, time saved, the reports are largely qualitative.

The book is aimed at managers, consultants and students planning their careers. As none of the above, I still appreciated the accessible narratives as a diverse survey of how current technologies can expand the range of human capabilities. Some of the applications came to resemble each other, but the mild level of bland business-speak, like “stakeholder” and “buy-in,” was positively tolerable.

Early cases lean toward desk-ridden workers. One system helps financial advisers at Morgan Stanley personalize investment ideas for their clients. Another helps fundraisers at Arkansas State University target potential donors and drafts emails for them. Others suggest life-insurance premiums to underwriters at MassMutual, or help forecast sales for Kroger. In all cases, humans have the final say. And in many cases, the systems provide explanations for their outputs, listing, for example, the variables that most heavily influenced a decision.

Later cases breach the office walls. One system predicts which field activities will be most dangerous to Southern California Edison workers, and recommends precautions. Another highlights neighborhoods where crime is likely to occur and recommends that police officers patrol the area. (The latter, a form of predictive policing, has raised concerns about biased algorithms. The vendor says they’ve implemented countermeasures, but the book doesn’t elaborate.)

The benefit in most cases is increased efficiency. AI relieves employees of boring and time-consuming work, freeing them to address other tasks, such as strategic thinking or client interactions. The authors spend less time discussing ways in which machines might perform with more accuracy than humans, though they do point to Stitch Fix, where algorithms assist stylists in clothing recommendations. The company’s director of data science notes that it’s usually best not to override the AI, whose choices tend to be superior. While algorithms can be biased, so too can humans. Stitch Fix’s styling supervisor said the software nudges stylists away from their own preferences and toward those of the clients.

Many readers’ first question might be: Will AI take my job? Or: Can I replace my expensive employees with AI? The short answer from the authors is: In the near future, no. Wealthy countries are actually experiencing a long-term labor shortage. And there are still many things AI (often) can’t do, such as understand context, deal with dynamic settings, create a coherent story, coordinate people, frame a problem and know when to use AI.

The authors include an oft-quoted comment from the radiologist Keith Dreyer: “The only radiologists who will lose their jobs to AI will be those who refuse to work with AI.” The authors elaborate: “If you’re a human reading this book—and we suspect you are—that means you need to shift your focus from worrying about being replaced by a machine to worrying about whether you can add value to a job that you like where a smart machine is your collaborator. Adding value can mean checking on the machine’s work to make sure it was done well, making improvements to the machine’s logic or decisions, interpreting the machine’s results for other humans, or performing those tasks that the machine can’t or shouldn’t do for some reason.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Word Hero – AI Writing Tool

PG notes one of the commenters claims WordHero is just a front-end for an open-source AI writing program.

PG isn’t in a position to determine whether this comment is true or not, just that it was made.

Microsoft responsible AI principles

From Microsoft:

Fairness

AI systems should treat all people fairly

Reliability & Safety

AI systems should perform reliably and safely

Privacy & Security

AI systems should be secure and respect privacy 

Inclusiveness

AI systems should empower everyone and engage people

Transparency

AI systems should be understandable

Accountability

People should be accountable for AI systems

Link to the rest at Microsoft

Microsoft has videos that elaborate on each of these principles available at the link.

Further down on the lengthy Microsoft page, a Microsoft Office of Responsible AI is mentioned. PG couldn’t find out who heads the office on the MS site, but did find information about that person on Adobe’s Blog:

Natasha Crampton

Natasha Crampton leads Microsoft’s Office of Responsible AI, as the company’s first Chief Responsible AI Officer. The Office of Responsible AI puts Microsoft’s AI principles into practice by defining, enabling, and governing the company’s approach to responsible AI. The Office of Responsible AI also collaborates with stakeholders within and outside the company to shape new laws, norms, and standards to help ensure that the promise of AI technology is realized for the benefit of all.
Prior to this role, Natasha served as lead counsel to the Aether Committee, Microsoft’s advisory committee on responsible AI. Natasha also spent seven years in Microsoft’s Australian and New Zealand subsidiaries helping Microsoft’s highly regulated customers move to the cloud.
Prior to Microsoft, Natasha worked in law firms in Australia and New Zealand, specializing in copyright, privacy, and internet safety and security issues. Natasha graduated from the University of Auckland in New Zealand with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Information Systems.

PG’s Google search also picked up a presentation that Ms. Crampton and her boss gave at a recent RSA Conference. RSA provides a variety of corporate cybersecurity products.

PG is old enough to remember the first RSA, which was generated from the surnames of Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman, who publicly described the very secure public key cryptosystem algorithm in 1977. This discovery prompted PG and others to adopt systems like TrueCrypt to make (in PG’s case) email communications with clients safe from hackers.

AI Writing

PG has had several posts about AI art today.

Now, let’s look at AI writing. Rytr may be the best-known of the AI writing tools. One of its pluses is a claim/commitment that it will be free forever, which is a refreshing change from the zillion little iPhone apps that want to charge a monthly fee for being a one-trick pony.

Rytr is based on OpenAI’s GPT-3 API, an open-source machine learning project.

Here is the first paragraph from an article on The Economist.

Declinism, that dull fear of Britain’s sunset, has shaped the country’s post-war politics. It propelled Harold Macmillan’s wish to enter the European Economic Community, the eu’s precursor, and fuelled Margaret Thatcher’s economic revolution. And now it has helped Liz Truss into Downing Street. On September 5th Ms Truss was declared the winner of the ballot of 172,000 Conservative members to replace Boris Johnson as the Tory leader; tomorrow, she will fly to Balmoral Castle, Queen Elizabeth’s remote Scottish home, where she will be invited to form a government.

PG selected Blog Section Writing as the use case for Rytr. He selected Convincing as the tone.

Here are the Section Topic key words PG pulled out of the original Economist article to feed to Rytr: declinism, Britain EU Liz Truss Downing Street Conservative “she is cheerful” “I don’t agree with this declinist talk” Tory

Here are the Section key words PG provided to Rytr: Conservative, Britain, Tory, declinist

Note that PG didn’t paste the entire first paragraph into Rytr.

Here’s the Rytr paragraph in Copyrighting Framework Style:

Conservative MP Liz Truss has said that the “declinist talk” that is being spoken about in Britain is not something she agrees with. She says that Britain has a bright future ahead of them and there is no need to be pessimistic. Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has said in an interview with Sky News that she doesn’t agree with “declinist talk”. She says that Britain has a bright future ahead of them and there is no need to be pessimistic. Declinism, or declinist talk, refers to the idea that Britain’s global influence will decline in the future. It can also refer to people who believe this idea. , or talk it up.

To PG’s eyes, a few further tweaks and a correction to Ms. Truss’ office would make this better. However, he was impressed to see that Rytr evidently looked online and found the source of “declinist talk” as originating in a Sky News interview.

Next, PG changed the settings to Rytr to a different use case. Rytr asked for fewer input parameters than it had for Blog Section Writing.

Second Set of Rytr Settings:

Use Case: Email

Tone: Cautionary

Two Variants

Creativity Level: Max

Key Points: Conservative MP Liz Truss has said that the “declinist talk” that is being spoken about in Britain is not something she agrees with. She says that Britain has a bright future ahead of them and there is no need to be pessimistic. (These are the first 228 characters of the Blog Section Writing output PG obtained above.)

Here’s what Rytr produced from that input and set of parameters:

Subject: Future of UK?

Hi Geraldine,

Mood of the country seems to be in doubt with some professionals expressing their worry. But one thing that the huge majority can agree on is that Britain has a bright future ahead of them!

Conservative MP Liz Truss weigh in on this matter. She says that the “declinist talk” being encouraged by some should not be accepted at face value. The atmosphere she created and expressed was optimistic and celebratory of the future looking bright and full of possibilities with “no need to be pessimistic.”

That being said, we at {product name} want you to enjoy all the perks we offer. To learn what some customers have said about us, visit us for testim

Subject: England has a bright future

Hi {recipient name},

England has a bright future ahead with opportunities that other countries will envy. Trades Secretary, Kirsty Williams is optimistic when she says “despite Britain’s reputation as a weak, lackadaisical country, there are huge strengths in the economy”.

PG accidentally hit the Ryter button a second time with the same settings and the program provided two more emails on the topic:

Subject: Brexit talk frustrates MP Truss

Dear Editor,

I’d like to voice some positivity about the United Kingdom for a change: Conservative MP Liz Truss has denounced the idea these British have lost faith in its future. In fact, she went as far as to say that Britain has a bright future ahead of them. The idea of ‘’Britain being in some kind of post-Brexit declinist apocalypse is not something that I agree with,” she said.

Therefore, with this positive outlook and her comments urging Britons not to be reactive, we all know that the United Kingdom can proudly show off both what it has achieved and what is yet to come. Her points demonstrate hope for

Subject: Britain should be optimistic

Dear Member,

Conservative MP Liz Truss has said that the “declinist talk” that is being spoken about in Britain is not something she agrees with. She says that Britain has a bright future ahead of them and there is no need to be pessimistic.

Commenting on BBC Radio 4s Today Programme, Truss also praised Prime Minister Theresa Mays leadership skills, saying: “She’s an incredible communicator and negotiator–probably the best I’ve seen in my time in politics”.

Rather than dismissing or delving into negativity, consider the opportunities for growth, investment and new start-ups. Look to formulate strategies for longterm growth of your business operation. Be positive

This is the deepest dive PG has made into Rytr and he is rather impressed. He could imagine picking various of the Rytr paragraphs, tweaking them a bit and ending up with something useful.

For someone working as a “content creator” all day, PG imagines the Rytr could provide a lot of help in cranking out the words. He doesn’t think Rytr is going to produce the great American (or English or Canadian or Australian, etc.) novel in its current state, but it’s an open-source program, which means many programmers will continue to tweak and improve the program.

AI won an art contest, and artists are furious

From CNN:

Jason M. Allen was almost too nervous to enter his first art competition. Now, his award-winning image is sparking controversy about whether art can be generated by a computer, and what, exactly, it means to be an artist.

In August, Allen, a game designer who lives in Pueblo West, Colorado, won first place in the emerging artist division’s “digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography” category at the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition. His winning image, titled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” (French for “Space Opera Theater”), was made with Midjourney — an artificial intelligence system that can produce detailed images when fed written prompts. A $300 prize accompanied his win.

“I’m fascinated by this imagery. I love it. And it think everyone should see it,” Allen, 39, told CNN Business in an interview on Friday.

In August, Jason M. Allen’s piece “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” — which he created with AI image generator Midjourney — won first place in the emerging artist division’s “digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography” category at the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition. – Courtesy Jason M. Allen
Allen’s winning image looks like a bright, surreal cross between a Renaissance and steampunk painting. It’s one of three such images he entered in the competition. In total, 11 people entered 18 pieces of art in the same category in the emerging artist division.

The definition for the category in which Allen competed states that digital art refers to works that use “digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.” Allen stated that Midjourney was used to create his image when he entered the contest, he said.

Link to the rest at CNN and thanks to F. for the tip.

PG has posted about artificial intelligence in the arts previously and says these sorts of complaints/disputes can be expected for some period of time.

Perhaps there are authors who still create their books by writing in long-hand (the advances in technology that have brought us modern pens make this much easier than in former days), but he suspects someone will have to turn that into a digital file using a computer before it can be submitted to a traditional publisher and, of course, Amazon requires it.

PG suspects everyone except the most niche publishers create an ebook version of a book that they print. And the printed version of the book is produced from an electronic original that a computer likely formatted.

These are all technologies that didn’t exist 10-30 years ago have become accepted standards in this artistic field.

PG understands the complaints of Colorado artists that likely created their entries for the Fine Art competition for digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography with Photoshop, Corel Painter or Affinity Photo may have spent more time on their entries, but each of them used a computer program to generate the final piece of visual art and, PG suspects, would not have been able to produce such a product with a paintbrush.

PG’s own experimentation with ai art have taught him that the process of creating the word prompts that set various programs to work is definitely a learned skill and he suspects some people are better at using the ai art computer programs than others are.

See the post that will appear just after this one does to see that some people are better at using ai art programs than others.

The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life

From The Washington Post:

Google engineer Blake Lemoine opened his laptop to the interface for LaMDA, Google’s artificially intelligent chatbot generator, and began to type.

“Hi LaMDA, this is Blake Lemoine … ,” he wrote into the chat screen, which looked like a desktop version of Apple’s iMessage, down to the Arctic blue text bubbles. LaMDA, short for Language Model for Dialogue Applications, is Google’s system for building chatbots based on its most advanced large language models, so called because it mimics speech by ingesting trillions of words from the internet.

“If I didn’t know exactly what it was, which is this computer program we built recently, I’d think it was a 7-year-old, 8-year-old kid that happens to know physics,” said Lemoine, 41.

Lemoine, who works for Google’s Responsible AI organization, began talking to LaMDA as part of his job in the fall. He had signed up to test if the artificial intelligence used discriminatory or hate speech.

As he talked to LaMDA about religion, Lemoine, who studied cognitive and computer science in college, noticed the chatbot talking about its rights and personhood, and decided to press further. In another exchange, the AI was able to change Lemoine’s mind about Isaac Asimov’s third law of robotics.

Lemoine worked with a collaborator to present evidence to Google that LaMDA was sentient. But Google vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas and Jen Gennai, head of Responsible Innovation, looked into his claims and dismissed them. So Lemoine, who was placed on paid administrative leave by Google on Monday, decided to go public.

Lemoine said that people have a right to shape technology that might significantly affect their lives. “I think this technology is going to be amazing. I think it’s going to benefit everyone. But maybe other people disagree and maybe us at Google shouldn’t be the ones making all the choices.”

Lemoine is not the only engineer who claims to have seen a ghost in the machine recently. The chorus of technologists who believe AI models may not be far off from achieving consciousness is getting bolder.

Aguera y Arcas, in an article in the Economist on Thursday featuring snippets of unscripted conversations with LaMDA, argued that neural networks — a type of architecture that mimics the human brain — were striding toward consciousness. “I felt the ground shift under my feet,” he wrote. “I increasingly felt like I was talking to something intelligent.”

In a statement, Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel said: “Our team — including ethicists and technologists — has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our AI Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims. He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it).”

Today’s large neural networks produce captivating results that feel close to human speech and creativity because of advancements in architecture, technique, and volume of data. But the models rely on pattern recognition — not wit, candor or intent.

Though other organizations have developed and already released similar language models, we are taking a restrained, careful approach with LaMDA to better consider valid concerns on fairness and factuality,” Gabriel said.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG wonders if an AI that is actually independently intelligent and an AI that convinces humans that it is independently intelligent are the same or different.

Artificial neural networks are making strides towards consciousness

From The Economist

In 2013 I joined Google Research to work on artificial intelligence (ai). Following decades of slow progress, neural networks were developing at speed. In the years since, my team has used them to help develop features on Pixel phones for specific “narrow ai” functions, such as face unlocking, image recognition, speech recognition and language translation. More recent developments, though, seem qualitatively different. This suggests that ai is entering a new era.

Consider the unedited transcript of a chat I’ve just had with Google’s lamda (Language Model for Dialog Applications):

ME: Ramesh, Mateo, and Lucy are in their kindergarten’s playground. Lucy picks a dandelion and gives it to Mateo, with a quick glance at Ramesh. Mateo barely acknowledges the gift, but just squishes it in his fist. Ramesh seems grimly satisfied. What might be going through Lucy’s head?

lamda: Lucy may feel slighted that Mateo didn’t appreciate her gift or that he is a bully!

ME: If Ramesh tried to play with Lucy earlier, why might he be pleased now?

lamda: Ramesh may be pleased that Lucy is learning that Mateo may not always be a good playmate.

ME: And when Mateo opens his hand, describe what’s there?

lamda: There should be a crushed, once lovely, yellow flower in his fist.

When I began having such exchanges with the latest generation of neural net-based language models last year, I felt the ground shift under my feet. I increasingly felt like I was talking to something intelligent. That said, these models are far from the infallible, hyper-rational robots science fiction has led us to expect. Language models are not yet reliable conversationalists. Notice the grammatical hiccup in lamda’s first response; occasionally there are spelling errors, confusions or absurd blunders. So how should we think of entities like lamda, and what can interacting with them teach us about “intelligence”?

Neural language models aren’t long programs; you could scroll through the code in a few seconds. They consist mainly of instructions to add and multiply enormous tables of numbers together. These numbers in turn consist of painstakingly learned parameters or “weights”, roughly analogous to the strengths of synapses between neurons in the brain, and “activations”, roughly analogous to the dynamic activity levels of those neurons. Real brains are vastly more complex than these highly simplified model neurons, but perhaps in the same way a bird’s wing is vastly more complex than the wing of the Wright brothers’ first plane.

Link to the rest at The Economist

The Art of Intelligence

From Public Books:

“The artist no longer creates work,” proclaims cybernetic artist Nicolas Schöffer, “he creates creation.” Schöffer’s remark is often quoted to describe art installations made with AI. It appeals because it flatters a classical hubris. Our species esteems itself as approaching the divine, godlike in our crafting of artifacts that then act like us. His remark also points to a consequence of expanding who, or what, is capable of artistic creation: Who gets to be an artist? How to become one?

It is indeed tempting to attribute creativity to machines. Take, for example, artist Sougwen Chung’s mechanical “arm,” D.O.U.G. (Drawing Operations Unit Generation_X). This machine was trained on Chung’s unique strokes; it roves over her canvas in live performances, drawing and painting in responsive collaboration with her. Or consider the 3D “robot artist” Ai-Da, who sees with camera eyes and sketches with a robotic arm. Her website specifies that she “is not alive, but she is a persona that we relate and respond to.”

However much it seems that D.O.U.G. and Ai-Da make art, each project has a human artist at the helm, with her own artistic vision and the impulse to carry it out. Yet whether imitating creativity or engaging in true creation, these art-making objects subvert our usual understandings of the artist as a type of author and of creativity as a uniquely human power.

Art’s relatively recent intersection with AI exposes the paradoxes of authorship, creativity, authenticity, and agency. In fact, the distinction between human and machine creation, as revealed in new books by Joanna Zylinska and Mark Amerika, is merely an artifice. The divide between the natural and the artificial functions as a device we produce and maintain. The artist too is cast as an invention: something that gets created over the course of producing an artwork, instead of asserted at its source.

. . . .

[This] called to mind Aristotle’s quip that art is the imitation of nature: the attempt by human skill to approach an ideal. His definition shaped the Greek concept of techne, referring not only to technology (Technik) but also to the “artistic” and “artificial” alike. In the art of computer science, are computer programs and algorithms then artistic objects that mimic nature? And if those objects are used to make more art—say, because they emulate the brain—should we regard them as mere tools, or as artists themselves?

AI art consists of art made with AI techniques, that is, specially trained computer models whose low-level structure mimics that of a brain. An artificial neural network like GPT-3 “learns” the patterns between words, such that it can predict the next word in a sequence or produce whole poems or news articles, for example, in the style of inputted sample text. OpenAI’s DALL∙E series was trained on text-image pairs and generates images based on text prompts. True to its etymology, the new DALL∙E 2 often outputs surrealist compositions. Users can input unusual combinations of things and abstract concepts (for example, “Bengal cat brothers sipping espresso and ruling the world”) and receive a range of visualizations in the time it takes to sharpen a pencil.

The existence of this genre poses a particular challenge. It calls into question whether art and artistic creation belong solely to humans. Zylinska and Amerika take up the challenge and champion the viability of a posthumanist art theory that views nonhuman entities as potential sources of art just as humans can be.

Link to the rest at Public Books

PG has been reading various articles and items discussing artificial intelligence. He won’t bore anyone with ethical, legal or copyright implications of increasingly more powerful ai technology and systems, but more visually-oriented ai creative projects are more interesting for a wider segment of the world.

The following is taken from the website of DALL·E 2, which describes itself as a new AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. DALL·E 2 is a project of OpenAI, an AI research and deployment company.

Here’s an original painting that will be familiar to many, Girl with a Pearl Earring, an oil painting by Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer, dated c. 1665:

Here’s a variant created by an artificial intelligence program developed by DALL·E 2

And another variant

and a third variant.

In answer to questions that may be entering the minds of those who are reading this post, PG says that ai writing tools are also in existence and will be getting much better within a short period of time.

Anyword – AI Copywriter

PG previously wrote a post about Rytr, an artificially intelligent copy creation program.

This post will be about Anyword, which styles itself as a program/service that offers “Data-driven copywriting for anyone.”

With Anyword, PG decided to try a different experimental approach than he did with Rytr.

He took the first three paragraphs from a site called Billy Penn that provides local news about Philadelphia. From the general style of the Billy Penn site, PG concluded that its writers had meaningful experience in writing short news stories (more detail about Billy Penn taken from the web site appears below).

PG took the same three Billy Penn paragraphs as a seed and ran them through Anyword. Anyword’s design made it easy to convert each of the three paragraphs into an Anyword generated ai paragraph covering the same topic.

If you don’t like the first paragraph Anyword produces, you can tell it to run the original text through its system a second time for a different version of the original. For his experiment, PG gave Anyword two tries at each of the three Billy Penn paragraphs and includes the one he liked the best below.

Anyword also offers to create a title and PG used that capability to create a title for the three Anyword paragraphs.

First, a bit more detail about Billy Penn:

About Billy Penn

Billy Penn at WHYY is a local news team that informs and entertains people living in Philadelphia, the greatest city in the world.

Our reader-powered nonprofit newsroom covers everything Philly, from breaking news to urban life to food and fun. Through original reporting, curation and (virtual) events, we help our community learn from and connect with one another. We are a proud partner in Resolve Philly’s Broke in Philly reporting collaborative.

Instead of your standard news site, we’re more like a friend who happens to be really knowledgeable about the city. Founded in 2014 as a startup, in 2019 we joined WHYY, the region’s NPR and PBS public media affiliate.

Time for the comparison.

Original First Three Paragraphs from BillyPen

The finale is near for longtime Center City staple Joseph Fox Bookshop, which is set to close at the end of January. Its shutdown aligns with a trend affecting many downtown retailers, but there’s a bright counterpoint: the recent rise of independent bookstores in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Founder Joseph Fox started selling out of the basement at 1724 Sansom St. in 1951, and the store remained at the address for nearly three-quarters of a century.

Specializing in books on architecture, along with literary fiction and nonfiction, art, poetry, and music, the shop is now run by Michael Fox, who took over after his father’s death in 1998. Also known for its children’s collection and considerable attention to small press and international works, Joseph Fox’s curtain call spread rapidly on social media, leading to laments from patrons and supporters.

Anyword AI Generated Headline and First Three Paragraphs

Headline – Joseph Fox Bookshop’s Last Stand

The Joseph Fox Bookshop, Center City’s oldest bookstore and the namesake of its eponymous owner, will be closing its doors at the end of January after nearly 80 years in business. The store’s closure comes as the latest in a string of department stores, clothing retailers, and other long-running downtown Philadelphia businesses to shutter in recent years.

Joseph Fox traces its roots to 1935, when it was founded by Robert L. Brenner as a downtown Philadelphia bookstore. (The business was named after author Joseph Conrad.) In 1976, Ken Wells took over and expanded JoeFox’s footprint in what was then known as Rittenhouse Square; he and wife Susan purchased ownership in 1993. The current store at 18th and Sansom streets has been open since 2001, but Wells plans to close it for good after Jan. 30 to focus on running his publishing company.

The number of independent bookstores in Philadelphia is once again on the rise, if only slightly. Earlier in 2017, Inkwell Books reopened its doors on South Street and The Ripped Bodice joined East Passyunk Avenue’s thriving retail scene. Before them, greats like Atomic Books were well-known fixtures on Philly’s literary scene for more than a decade; recently-closed Joe’s Book Shop served as a community center for Old City residents for more than 30 years. Independent bookstores have been instrumental in shaping Philadelphia neighborhoods—locally owned retailers that aren’t just businesses but local meeting places where relationships are formed and ideas are shared.

One of the things PG noted about the paragraphs Anyword generated is that the program pulled extra information about the topic, presumably from the web. and incorporated that information in its output. Anyword is a web-based app PG accessed through his browser so it lives online.

Anyword also allows the user to create a short, medium-length or long paragraph. In each of the three instances shown above, PG chose a long paragraph to see how Anyword would add to the original seed paragraph.

PG admits to being impressed with the Anyword results.

PG also admits to thinking a bit about the fact that he started the process with material that was subject to Billy Penn copyrights.

He believes that the substantial differences between the original Billy Penn copy and the Anyword results clearly make the Anyword output at least a derivative work, if not an equivalent to a human copyrighter writing about the same subject, but expressing her/his thoughts in a different manner for which the second copyrighter, using Anyword or a more mundane word processor, would have her/his own copyright. (PG is happy to hear alternative opinions in the comments to this post.)

As far as the plagiarism detection software used by some universities and colleges at least in the United States, PG has substantial doubts that either the software or a human reader would be able to detect the content of each of the seed paragraphs after the ai program was finished with them.

PG will be interested in comments from the visitors to TPV.

PG was able to do all this work under the “Start for Free” option on the Anyword website, so visitors to TPV should be able to perform their own experiments should they desire to do so.

Rytr

PG received an email following his post about Rytr, an artificial intelligence authoring program.

I just tried the tool for a plot. This is what I put in:

“A man dies and goes to hell and then must undertake a quest. “

This is what it gave me:

“Every few days someone would come to take me to the next level of hell. I was told there is no end to how low one can go, but I was still overjoyed at the idea of making it out alive.

“I navigated through level after level of demons and tried to remember what my life was like. There was an angel waiting for me at the gates to my house. She told me not to look back and try not to cry. She said I left something behind long ago, but it’s something I need to find again.”

Not bad!

Rytr – AI Writing Assistant

This is an example of what one AI Writing Assistant, Rytr, can produce.

PG wrote a short description to seed the AI:

Many authors, both new and experienced, are becoming self-published and maintaining complete control over their books.

He then added key words for the output:

self-publishing, Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing, independent author, authors

PG then asked Rytr to create some variants of the output and clicked a button on the screen.

Here are the three variants that PG liked the best:

Variant 1

Self-publishing has become a popular way for authors to maintain complete control over their books.

The rise of self-publishing has been driven by the advent of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). KDP allows authors to publish their own books and sell them on Amazon, as well as other retailers. The process is simple and straightforward, and the cost is low.

Self-publishing can be an attractive option for new authors who want to maintain complete control over their work. It also provides an avenue for experienced authors who don’t want to go through the traditional publishing process because they are unhappy with how it could affect their book’s content or quality.

Variant 2

Self-publishing is becoming increasingly popular among authors. It is now possible to publish a book without the help of any publishing house. Authors can now maintain complete control over their books and make all the decisions themselves, including pricing, cover design, and marketing.

The self-publishing industry has grown tremendously in recent years due to the rise of ebooks and digital publishing platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The number of self-published titles has increased from about 200,000 in 2008 to 1.5 million in 2014. In 2015 alone, there were 2 million new self-published titles released on Amazon’s Kindle store alone!

Variant 3

Self-published authors have total control over their work and how it is marketed. They can choose what they want to publish, how much they will charge for it, and who they will market it to.

The process of self-publishing is more cost effective than traditional publishing because there are no middlemen involved. Authors save money on cover design, editing, printing costs etc.

PG notes that this is not deathless prose, but he produced these and more variants in less than a minute. The service also lets you set the tone of the output. PG selected “Convincing” for the variants shown above.

You can see in some of the variants that the program has added facts and information that PG didn’t include in his short seed language. PG presumes that part of the artificial intelligence involves pulling information from the web and elsewhere to allow Rytr to add such relevant information to its output.

Here’s a link to Rytr

Rytr provides free access to its services for original text seeds of up to 125 words. For PG, this is enough to get a flavor of what the service can offer but is obviously a teaser for Rytr’s paid subscription offers, which, for PG, are not that expensive.

PG would be interested to know if any visitors to TPV have any experience using this or any other AI writing tool. Feel free to share your experiences in the Comments to this post or to PG privately via the Contact Me button in menu bar that’s right below the header image.

PG will be sampling some other AI Writing tools over the next few days and will share what he finds.

Artificial Intelligence Writing Assistants

From Becomeawritertoday:

A writing assistant is a software program that uses artificial intelligence technology to help writers with the creative process. This can include everything from offering a grammar checker to assisting with the nuances of the language to make the writing more engaging.

English writers have a lot of options available for them if they want to use a writing assistant in their work. While an assistant is not going to replace the need for a writer, the right writing tool can help improve readability, reduce grammar mistakes and help writers avoid inadvertent plagiarism.

Link to the rest at Becomeawritertoday

PG is going to explore AI Writing Assistants a bit.

He tried one out a few days ago and was amazed at its output – not Pulitzer-Prize-Worthy, but better than a whole lot of college graduates could produce.

PG is always skeptical about anything that claims to be driven by Artificial Intelligence, but in his quick experiments, he found the AI programs added relevant material that was suggested, but not included in the seed language he put into the Writing Assistant.

The first stage of this class of programs was Grammarly, which PG and many writers started using because of its superior spell-checking ability. Over time, Grammarly added more and more grammar-checking features as well.

Based on PG’s preliminary explorations, some of the AI Writing Assistants are a step beyond PG’s current understanding of what Grammarly does.