The Issue With AI

The Issue With AI

This originally appeared in the newsletter for my local writers’s organization.

As a resident of Silicon Valley, I’m sure you’ve heard about AI. And, as a writer, I’m sure you’ve heard the debates.

To be clear, this is about “generative” AI, which “generates” something based on a prompt. ChatGPT can do this, as well as specific products, like Sudowrite and Jasper. This does not include spell/grammar checks, as they cannot make something from nothing.

I could discuss how this content cannot receive legal protections (and, therefore, you do not own it), but I won’t. I could also discuss how most editors, agents, and publishers do not accept AI-generated work (and will blacklist you if you submit it), but I won’t. And I won’t even go over how these tools are trained on stolen work (including yours, if it’s posted online) but I won’t.

Instead, I want to tell you how AI is drowning out your voice and devaluing you as an artist, all for the sake for grifters and VCs making a dollar.

When’s the last time your phone rang and you thought, “Oh boy! A real human wants to talk to me about something I care about!” When’s the last time you opened your mailbox and it wasn’t full of spam? When’s the last time you looked for something on Amazon and you didn’t have to wade through repetitive junk?

Have you ever heard about a book and thought “Wow, what an awesome idea!” but you ended up hating it? Maybe the plot didn’t resolve nicely, or the characters had unfulfilling arcs, or the voice was just off.

AI-evangelists believe that the hard part of writing is having the idea. Making a machine do the hard, unfun parts allows all your brilliant ideas to be published!

But, as a writer, you know in your bones that’s not true. What transmutes ideas into art is in those words, the writer forging a connection with the reader, another human being, across time, space, and cultures. Those emotions are born because the writer has felt those things. They’re leaving a part of themselves on the page. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s valuable.

Generative AI says it’s worthless. And, when it’s used to make art for covers or narration for audiobooks, it’s saying that illustrators are worthless, too, that narrators are worthless. That all a reader cares about is having a product to consume. That the only reason to make art is to make money.

You know that’s not true. The reason you put so much effort into your craft is because it has worth, because you, as a human, have worth.

And this is why it breaks my heart to see writers use AI to “write” their stories, to “make” their covers or illustrations. It means they’ve fallen into the capitalist narrative that you, as a human being, only have worth because you can create many things for others to purchase.

You are not an idea factory. You are an artist, you are a human, because art is human. And you matter.

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