This is a slightly more optimistic post about the potential of A.I. in case you, like me a couple of months ago, are in the throes of depression, working your way through a half-gallon of Butter Crunch ice cream, and having a crisis of purpose. A friend just sent me an article about A.I. coming to its slow end.
Okay, it did not say “end.” It said slow-down, generating less interest, yada yada.
I think it’s not so much going away as two other things: people are less likely to use it willy-nilly as a shortcut, and the A.I. itself is being reined in with regard to copyright infringement.
There’s no denying, A.I. has the potential to be a powerful tool. But that’s it. It does rely on personal information – input over decades – and that input is potentially flawed (like Wikipedia, to which anyone can make edits faster than the crawl bots trying to keep up with corrections). If you use A.I., it’s buyer beware. You get a conglomeration of other people’s work, for which you are responsible if A.I. infringes upon someone else’s work and you pass it off as your own. I believe the writer who does that is guilty of copyright infringement. You had something create something that you passed off as your own, so there you have your messy little bed in which to lie.
What if you did not claim it as your own work, but gave credit to the chatbot, but turned it in for a grade? I would suggest you give credit for that potential mess to the mess-maker. Let copyright infringement sit squarely on the shoulders of whoever made it… and allow your grade to reflect the effort you put into that work. (I had a professor once who could look at your art and tell you almost to the minute, how long you worked on it. Don’t fool yourself that your A.I. generated term-paper will be any less transparent.)
It’s like the Dylan Thomas closing statement I asked chatGPT to create for a previous blog post. Giving full credit to A.I., I noted that it was beautifully written, possibly the death knell of my own career, but then it occurred to me, wait a minute, is this guy’s work still copyright protected? Yes. It is! He died in 1953 at the age of 39 (and yes, I did just snap that up from Google,) but that would mean, if correct, anything he wrote after, I think it’s 1926, so anything he wrote after the age of… (don’t make me do the math… born in 1914, so 1926-1914= 12) twelve years old, is still under copyright protection. Whew. Sure as hell glad I gave credit to chatGPT for that closing statement in the voice of Dylan Thomas. No telling how many words it pilfered from the man’s copyright-protected work!
Alternatively, when I asked it to create a cozy mystery short story in the voice of someone I KNOW to be alive and still copyright protected, (this was for my personal edification and never shared outside of an anecdotal retelling) it created a jhank short story, then at the end, it inserted a paragraph with the staples of that author’s voice. The purpose of my experiment was to assuage my fear of any of the publishing giants to begin creating content, cutting out the, er, middle man, a.k.a., author. (Is that what we have become?) It was eerily correct in its summation of what makes up that author’s voice. I can only speculate, because that author is still alive (and there would be more potential for a lawsuit against the creators of chatGPT) it did not recreate it in the text, but only gave a summation of the author’s voice.
Then just Thursday, a group of writing buds and I were chatting about the ramifications of AI in the context of a recent blog post, warning self-published authors specifically (why specifically?) and the culpability of those who would try to publish A.I.-generated stories as their own work. I think the conversation just nicely solidified my belief in the fact that you have to decide where you draw the line with regard to A.I.
Is it a helpful tool? Sure. Does it have the potential for abuse? Absolutely. You can ask it to write an outline of an essay, and it will give you a lovely bulleted framework, suggestions for an opening and closing statement (albeit boring), and set you up with a direction in which to do your own research/writing. That said, you had better fact-check it against something else, and woe to the fool who checks the facts using only AI. Then you have to add your own voice to it. THAT’s why people are reading your work vs. a chatbot’s work. It’s a flawed reference tool, a potentially jhank structure tool, and a grammar tool open to error, but it does not replace the human element that does more than insert commands. Sure, it can steal from people, but it’s because we allow it to. I think that’s going to be the next big iteration – a chatbot that offers references, i.e., “In the story, FRANKENSTEIN, OR THE MODERN PROMETHEUS, Mary Shelley has created a man – Dr. Frankenstein, Captain Walton, and a daemon that might well be one and the same person, a character experiencing split personality disorder.” (Couch-Jareb, A. 2001.)
I think it will have to pivot in that direction to save itself a passel of trouble with copyright violations down the road… and maybe THEN it will be a useful tool, with references that can be cross-checked against primary sources, and other reliable references. Am I worried that it will someday replace me? No. It will never duplicate my random, hair-brained order of operations, my voice with its touch of inbred southern twang, so no real worries there…, but just in case…
“I do not give permission for any form of A.I. to duplicate my words, voice, etc. for inclusion in any form of A.I. generated work.” (Yeah. Like that’s gonna help.) 🙂