Your Writing Superpower in a World of AI

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

I’ve been concerned about various threats from artificial intelligence for several years — threats to the economy, threats to our civil society, and even threats to human existence. I became even more alarmed about artificial intelligence when I discovered that AI systems are chronic, pathological liars.

In early 2023, I began using a “large language model” artificial intelligence system to research a nonfiction book project. It didn’t take long to discover that the AI was giving me wildly inaccurate information, again and again. I asked for citations and sources for the information it gave me—and it offered up authors, book titles, and web addresses that didn’t exist. I asked for quotations from specific scientists. The AI made up quotations the scientists had never said — and which sometimes contradicted their actual views.

When I pointed out these errors to the AI system, it admitted its mistakes, apologized for the “inconvenience”— then proceeded to dispense more misinformation. I later learned that AI developers see this behavior all the time. They have a name for it: “hallucinations.”

I found these interactions disturbing. They reminded me of the deviousness of HAL 9000 in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I wondered: Why do AI systems lie?

So I was inspired to write a novel about the AI extinction threat. I conceived it as a science fiction suspense tale with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. The novel took five weeks to write, and it was published in June 2023 as Its Name Is Legion: A Human Novel about Artificial Intelligence.

. . . .

As I pondered the possibilities, I found myself waking up several mornings in a row before dawn, my head was swimming with ideas. On February 19, 2023, I woke up at 5:40 and knew that I had to start writing.

That day, I produced 2,000 words, a good down-payment on Chapter 1. I wrote in my journal, “This book won’t let me sleep! It’s off to a good start. I’ve never begun a project with so much confidence.”

The next day, I finished Chapter 1 and launched into Chapter 2, a total of 3,100 words. I journaled, “Speed is increasing. A good sign.”

I completed the first draft on March 25, 2023, exactly five weeks after I began. It was not a long novel, about 50,000 words. But I felt inspired and energized the whole time.

Though I used to be an outliner, in recent years I’ve followed the wisdom of Ray Bradbury: “I’ve never been in charge of my stories, they’ve always been in charge of me. . . . Jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down.”

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris