Will artificial intelligence replace authors?
Listicles, op-eds, clickbait, headlines and milquetoast monoculture manuscripts—oh my! AI is here to stay?
Bring up "AI generated art" with a group of artists and all hell breaks loose. Someone will begin by saying "Corporate won't hire illustrators ever again." Someone else might blurt out: "Machines can write novels now!" Another person might worry about learning a new trade, say, programming.
As an artist, author and tech-nerd, I don't agree. I say, as calmly as I can: "Business is incapable of making real art. Especially not with a machine that can only do forgery based on stolen art data."
I'm real: If you zoom into any image vomited up by DALL·E 2, you'll see what I mean. Nothing it can create is print-ready. An artist might be able to use the work as a starter, but the amount of edits will be massive. That high-touch work can't be automated. There will always be revisions.
Moreover, training a machine on the art of real humans without permission will inevitably lead to problems. Content on the internet is not free just because it exists there. Big tech knows this.
There will be a new frontier in copyright law, run by big art estates, when all is said and done. I promise—it's not going to be pretty. Corporate may want to burp up Johannes Vermeer a mile a minute, but AI can't do that authentically. Even if it could, big tech will get sued.
Machines are business tools, not people.
AI can only mimic. It can't make decisions, it can only follow patterns that humans provide based on data and that data might be copyrighted. The abstract thinking required to create art from what one has lived, felt and fought through is something AI can't do. Sorry, tech-bros.
But AI can be a writer, at least sometimes.
How can AI be a writer if it can only mimic?
You're going to hate me for this
All authors are writers, but not all writers are artists. To be an author—or a poet, or a prose-painter, or anyone who wields words for creativity's sake—you need to be an artist.
Remember: AI cannot replace artists. In fact, it can only copy our work. Artists will need to tweak that, always. Finally, art comes from actually being a human that has experienced life.
However, AI can currently replace any writing that isn't art and has data.
AI can replace clickbait articles right this second. AI can erase a huge chunk of op-eds with the snap of the finger—but only certain types. Certain types that reflect a certain demographic for a pure business (or political) function.
AI can even replace a lot of copywriting branches—but not if the target audience is so rarely marketed to. Not if the work being marketed is different. Not if the marketing-writer is an artist.
AI is based on data and the categories big tech has crap data on are marginalized folx and vital creations.
You're going to hate this next part: AI can replace some novels already. Oops.
Better AI will probably bring a plague of flat fiction to publishing
I'm not actually mad about it
Remember the two constraints: if it's not art and it has data, it can be replaced. For certain flavors of formulaic stories, this is absolutely true. Furthermore, once publishing figures out tech isn't going away, we're going to see that flat fiction start reproducing fast, like a boring plague.
Like always, someone has to tweak output, but as there are no grammatical errors, there's no "pixel" to fix. You can take 10k free credits—right now—and pen the milquetoast monoculture blah-book of your very boring dreams. In no time flat. This very second.
What this will undoubtedly lead to will be a plague of monotony in publishing, which I'd argue we're already seeing. Don't despair just yet.
You should've noticed a trend in this article: Big tech doesn't have data on certain lived experiences, because monoculture doesn't care about the groups that have them. And what groups, exactly? Marginalized authors, authors who have experienced life, the insides of an artist, and all three.
Capitalism also doesn't care about humanity, so the data that businesses have on the fuel of art is subpar. Because big tech is business—and business is divorced from the real lives of humans—AI cannot make real art. Period.
And that—my friends—is why I'm not scared that AI will replace the arts. Moreover, what will be replaced is capitalism's own mirror image, which is at best boring, and at worst isn't art.
Authors are not in danger of being replaced by AI
No matter how hard business tries, it will never trump art
There's this hypotheses Marx had about Capitalism undoing itself. Basically, a free-range race to the bottom is unsustainable. You know it, I know it, but business apparently doesn't.
“He shows that the source of value in capitalism is living labor. He also shows that capitalism nonetheless tends to eliminate living labor as a necessary dimension of its development,” Nesbitt says. That contradiction means capitalism is never stable, but forever shifting in and out of crises: The system depends on human labor while simultaneously eradicating it.
What this says to me is that business (via tech) will try to erase the human element from writing, but won't succeed. Art isn't business no matter how much business wants it to be. It is incompetent in the face of art.
You can run a huge brand on the optics of art, but that isn't art. You can sell carbon-copy NFTs made with a generator, but that's not art. You can peddle the same monotonous monocultural manuscripts over and over, but that's not art. You can reproduce trends ad nauseum until they fail to be art.
You can plagiarize creativity with a trained robot every-which-way and pretend it's art, but it isn't. It's just a bad copy.
Art comes from humans who have lived. Art is the creative language of humanity's experiences, built over countless centuries. We will never have enough storage to hold that ever-expanding data-set, because art is part of being alive.
AI might make art suck for a bit, but I don't believe it will last forever.
Well, I could be wrong about the politics of art in tech. Let's see. If artists really are in danger, I'll fight. In fact, I'll use the same tech tools, remix every logo and wage actual IP war. Sorry not sorry.
However, you might just want to trust the queer tech-savvy artist writing cyberpunk novels about all this stuff. I'm usually right. ❤️
K. Leigh is an ex-freelancer, full-time author, and weirdo artist. Read their lgbt+ sci-fi books, connect on Twitter, visit their site, or send them an email if you’d like to work together. 🌈 🏳️⚧️