Just Say No to Artificial Intelligence in Your Creative Pursuits, Please

From Chuck Wendig: Terrible Minds:

Art is about people.

This is obvious and simplistic on the face of it but I think it’s important to remind ourselves of this–

Art is about people.

It is by people. It is for people. Art — and by proxy, storytelling — is a conduit between the maker of the art and the witness to that art. I made this, the maker says, and they did so for myriad possible reasons. They did it because it was beautiful, because it was horrible, because it scared them or enraged them or titillated them, or some combination of all of that. They were driven to portray a thing, or subvert a thing, or invent a thing.

The art forms a connection. The witness to the art — the one on the other end of that connection — experiences it however they must. They relate to it. They rebuke it. They adore it. They obsess over it. They detest it even as they can’t look away. Art, story, music — they form this ephemeral thing that is a way for us to talk to each other metatextually, across spans of distance great and small, and even across time itself. We scream our strange creations out into the void in the hope of being heard. A signal that we’re not alone. And we witness art in much the same way: as a reminder that we are not alone.

. . . .

The introduction of so-called “artificial intelligence” — which, really, is just a keenly-designed high-tech mimeograph — has gunked up the conduit between artist and audience with great clotted gobs of digital snot. It’s a pipe crawling with the Too-Many-Fingers monsters waggling their many bent digits at you while screaming twee authorial pablum and dipshitted disinformation in your ear. It’s gunk. It’s a mess.

I’ve spoken before about how “artificial intelligence” is really about the fetishization of idea —

. . . .

Artificial intelligence isn’t a person. It’s not even really, despite how I describe it, a machine. It’s the representative of a company. It’s the tool of not just one corporation, but many.

And it only exists because real people did real art.

Without something to chew up, it has nothing to spit out.

It steals our stuff, milks it, and kicks it aside, then shows it proudly to the world as if it did anything other than bleed an actual artist dry. It turns the artist and the art into dirt, then just regrows stuff from that same earth.

It’s a thief.

Link to the rest at Chuck Wendig: Terrible Minds

PG says that Chuck reliably produces some of the best rants on the internet.

However, PG believes that AI is another tool an author may choose to use to write more easily/better in the same manner as typewriters were selected by some authors as preferable to fountain pens and word processors were selected by some authors as preferable to typewriters.

Does anybody want to get rid of SpellCheck or Grammarly because they’re a form of computerized writing assistance?

If AI works for you as a part of your writing toolkit, PG says you should use it. If you don’t like AI for any reason, don’t use it.

17 thoughts on “Just Say No to Artificial Intelligence in Your Creative Pursuits, Please”

  1. OK. Consumers will buy and consume stories that are not art. People who produce them will make money.

    American homes are filled with CNC produced particle board furniture. Others have solid wood items produced by the same CNC machines. And some have cherrywood items designed and made by an artist using only hand tools (nothing with a motor). Price moves with them. Which one is art? Consumers who care will pay. Most won’t.

    Who knows? Ikea might produce novels.

    CNC means Computer Numerical Control. The machine are controlled by computers.

    • And increasingly the designs that feed the CNC or additive manufacturing machines are created not by humans on autocard or whatever but by other computers running software written by a third computer.
      And yet, nothing happens until a human says what, how, and when.

      And we’re not yet a quarter if the way into the 21st century.
      Buckle up.

      • There is an important distinction between activity and accomplishment. Another way of saying the same is the distinction between production process and the product.

        People engaged in the production process are always very concerned about maintaining their jobs and livelihoods. That is natural and expected. They have worked very hard to perfect a certain set of skills and want to continue as they have.

        Consumers are more concerned with the product, and they vastly outnumber the producers. If they cannot see a material difference between two products, but do see a significant price difference, they will choose the less expensive version of the product.

        I expect AI assembled books will undercut prevailing book prices, and consumers will react by buying them. Note independent authors will be in a much better position than published authors in the price war.

        Today we hear about about “gobs of digital snot” from AI. Ten years ago we heard about about the “Tsunami of Dreck” from independent authors.

        • Good indies prospered, others…not so much.
          Indies took control of their IP, figured out the sweet spot price for their genre, figured out the math of subscriptions versus “going wide”, the value of freelance editors and art…
          With that track record they’ll figure out how to leverage AI to meet *their* needs.
          They’ll survive.

          I will however, offer up this: corporate publishing, the home of ” the same but different” is more likely to turn to software book assembly. For proofing, editing, covers and market research (a first!) with good results. Eventually. After everybody else.

  2. I use Spellcheck, but I’ve adapted mine so many times over the years that it’s as much a reflection of my personal spelling as anything else (it’s a great timesaver–for example, I type in Eliz and out comes Elizabeth).

    No interest whatsoever in using AI or any plotting tool or program or outline. However, I don’t have a problem with genuine writers who choose to use these as tools, not substitutes for writing.

    The first two novels I sold were written on a typewriter. I bought one of the first IBM PCs (the ones with the giant floppy discs) and was thrilled. Some people used to ask, snarkily, Do you write your books or do you compute them? (Yes, seriously). To which I would respond, I write the old-fashioned way, with a stick and a clay tablet.

  3. To be honest, I don’t use spell check or grammarly either. It’s usually wrong, occasionally right, and highly annoying for a poetic-style SFF writer who makes up too many non-English words.

    I’m not interested in AI writing tools, but I’m interested in translation and the art for generating “stock” components for much more involved graphic design, aka a very small percentage of the finished work. Once all the copyright fusses finish shaking out.

    • My interest in analyzing a document for inconsistencies, properly spelled but incorrectly used words, and on the graphics side, line art chapter header graphics. All within the scope of the tech…once the software can run *local* and with local memory.
      At current development speed, another year. 😀

  4. Beg to differ as to the term “creates”.
    AI creates nothing.

    “Creation: the act or process of making, producing, or building something, or something that has been made, built, or produced: the creation of wealth.”

    Creation requires the output to be an expression of vision, agency, and will. Software has neither.

    The term its *creators* use is generative which is precise and accurate. The software generates output based on the vision, agency, will, and *pocketbook* of its human operator. It is a machine to manipulate information. Input in, output out; garbage in, garbage out. GIGO.

    Yes, software output is rendered in digital form becuause that is how information is stored, manipulated, and transmitted these days. But functionally, generative software is no different than the cotton ‘gin or the looms the legendry Ned Ludd railed against. Both took in raw material and processed it to be more useful but created nothing: cotton is cotton whether raw, seedless and baled, or processed into cloth is still just cotton. Its form has changed through human vision, agency, and will but nothing has been created.

    To shape wood we use lathes, drills, and saws; to shape information we use word procrssors, grammar checkers, and (unavoidably) data sifting and collating generative software. Generative software tools are not even new: they are simply the newest, most sophisticated form of database query software. The category of software goes back to the 50’s and the darluest digital computers. Its past forms include names like dBase, SQL, ORACLE, ACCESS, WESTLAW, and other proprietary tools. Also, and most notably, ALTAVISTA, GOOGLE, BING, and DUCKDUCKGO among many tools for searching and organizing the world’s online databank called the internet.

    Generative software is like the chess playing turk of the 18th century, an illusion. A useful one, mind you, but still a trick of human ingenuity.


    Today’s digital robots are more sophisticated and actually useful instead of a sideshow scam to dazzle the credulous but they remain a tool of the human using it. Input defines output; garbage in, garbage out. GIGO still applies. Give sloppy or generic inputs to a chatbot and you’ll get sloppy, minimally coherent, even “hallucinatory” replies. For some limited uses, that might be acceptable.
    Anybody can feed a bunch of data to EXCEL or ACCESS or whatever and find a correlation. Which might be useful or worthless in the real world. (Correlation does not imply causation. Or usefulness.)

    It take actual skill to manipulate a loom or a database managers app. GOOGLE FU, is a real skill.
    And so is prompt engineering for today’s first generation of generative software. The software will evolve but it will always be a tool in the service of human vision, agency, and will. (And pocketbook.)

    The market recognizes GIGO output. If anything, it will become more discriminating which is not a bad thing. A decade-plus ago the emergence of Indie ebooks led to the mythical “tsumani of dreck” that suppsedly threatened “vetted” traditionally publshed “literature”. Didn’t happen. Some scammers tried it, failed, and left. Because the market understands GIGO and it learned to avoid it.

    No need to fret over software tools.
    Generative software is no magic bullet for “creation” and nobody will be shot with it.

    But, as repeated all over, but not often enough, generative software will not take anybody’s job; humans using generative software will. Technology is a RED QUEEN’S RACE. The survivors are those that use it.

    Don’t shun it, use it.

    • Sigh. JFC. Yes, Felix, you are correct. I misspoke. AI does not create. AI constructs. Whatever.

      Writers write. Those who use generative AI are not writers. They are prompters. They cheat. Even if they put on the cover in bold print WRITTEN BY AI. PROMPTED BY Prompter B. Prompter, Esq.

      If a student admits, even in a small note on the test paper itself, to having cheated on the test, does that admission somehow make the fact that s/he cheated more acceptable?

      People who use generative AI to turn out fiction may be likened to vendors along the side of the road, selling bags of plastic or wax oranges out of the back of their pickup truck and hoping buyers will believe they were picked fresh off a tree.

      They may be likened to rustlers of old who, having stolen cattle from a neighbor, change the brand with a running iron and present them for sale as their own at a stockyard.

      I”ve written 83 novels since October 2014. I will have written 101 (or more) before the end of 2024. Without the use of generative AI.

      I’m surviving just fine. And I’m not a cheat.

      • Good for you.
        But why even bother thinking about a theoretical cheat then?
        The market has never welcomed scammers so why would it start now?
        Why not just ignore them?

        Just remember that there are plenty of honest applications for the tech that have nothing to so with assembling words that can nonetheless make your life easier and/or safer. The new software is going everywhere (it isn’t already). From phones to cars.

        Pretty much everything has something to do with information these days and that is only going to increase; we live in a sea of unmanaged information. Better control systems, better quality control, better materials; better, newer drugs. Better everything, really, because humans are sloppy and easily distracted whereas machines, whether mechanical or digital constructs, are relentlessly OCD and are really good at dull, repetitive things. And there is no limit to their use. “When its time to railroad, the trains will come.”

        Never mind media hype and FUD, it’s going to happen anyway so ignore the whole thing, pro and con. The world changes daily on its own, whether we will it or not. As you said, you have better things to do.

        • A “theoretical” cheat? Okay.

          Again, I was talking only about fiction writers using generative AI. All the rest is for those who deny AI will cost people their jobs to consider. That’s already happening too, but then that’s been happening since the first automated assemly line came into being, and maybe before. Not my department, and I really couldn’t begin to care less.

          I was just disappointed in the first place to see typewriters, etc. (machines) equated with AI and spell check etc. referred to as “writing” tools. Such tools might help clarify something for the writer (when they are not wrong), but they are not part of writing. They are part of proofing (or not).

          Anyway, I made my own position clear today in my own blog for the fiction writers who follow it. And yes, I included the “if you like it use it and if you don’t, don’t” statement. I’m not the GM of the universe. I only recommend. I do not mandate, and unlike companies that depend heavily on AI, I do not provide suppositories.

          • Of course AI will end jobs.
            Tech always does. And it creates new ones, innevitably better paid ones.
            ebooks did *that* even in the backwater publishing industry.

            So did the first mechanical computers (computers used to be women), Mini computers ended the steno pool, PCs turned secretaries into AAs, Powerpoint decimated corporate art departments…need I go back to the mechanical looms,cotton ‘gin, etc? Or will the shopping mall apocalyse do?

            Change is an ongoing process. An unending process. You live with it whether you believe in it or not. Adapting to it is optional, as PG’s Deming quote today says. Nobody is forced at gunpoint to adapt. Self-interest usually sufices.

            Technology makes human labor more productive which means more work from the same number of people or less people for the same kind of work. AI is no different but, oddly enough, it is the most *timely* new tech in memory because of demographics:

            – Boomer generation, peak size 1999: 78.8M
            (note legal immigrants count)

            – Generation X Peak size 2015: 65.6M
            (legal immigration is reduced)

            – Millenial generation, peak size: 74.9M ca 2033
            (after that legal immigration will be outweighed by deaths)

            – Zoomer generation, peak size: 70M est, ca 2048
            (assuming border crisis does not lead to raids, expulsion, reduced legal migration)

            -Millenial kids? TBD ca 2040.

            That is a 13M shortfall in middle managers and up, and older mid-career skilled workers. Did you see this?


            Signature quoted quote: From Business Insider: “AI is saving sales professionals more than two hours of work each day.”

            That is already today, 20% productivity boost.
            More to come.
            Roughly the numbers from boomers exiting stage left. As I said, timely: AI *will* replace human jobs, the jobs of the boomers retiring. That work, and much more, will be needed over the next 15 years until the economy waits to see see how many kids the millenials raise.

            Business are rushing to generative software but it is just in time solution to a pressing problem. And that is just to maintain the economy at 2019 size.

            But with globalzation phasing out in favor of nearshoring there will be even more demand for jobs for manufacturing but not the old “strong back, weak mind” labor of earlier generations.

            The needed workers are mechanics, skilled machinists, technicians, truck drivers, river barge crews… Productive workers, not xxx studies graduates or baristas. The new workers are the operators of the CNC and additive machines of the new manufacturing plants springing up.

            As China withers, exploiting India and Vietnam (and the “univited”) will not fill the gap and, anyway, the skilled american workers are so much more productive China itself is no longer competitive on price and never was on productivity.

            In about five years the new AI driven US economy (with the lowest energy costs on Earth) will need every competent, tech-savvy worker it can find. And if the humans aren’t ready, the robots will be. Those that adapt will prosper.

            Corporate publishing? Probably not.
            But Indies? Yeah, I’ll bet on them. They’ve already shown their adaptability.

            Main thing is the future will not be the past with a different calendar. It may be better, it may be worse, but it will be a different place.

            • I’m late to this post, but F, I’m going to copy your posts here and translate them to Spanish to have a bookmark on my thoughts about AI for anyone that asks me in the future.

              As I work with computers, I’m the family and non-tech friends expert, so I’ve been asked before, but this is much more articulate than what I could explain.

  5. Neither the spell-check nor the greatly flawed Grammarly creates CONTENT in a story. AI does.

    I don’t care what other writers do, but if s/he creates content with AI, s/he should admit that boldly in the front matter or the back matter.

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