The “AI Revolution” Problem

The “AI Revolution” Problem

Image by Thomas Meier from Pixabay. Pixabay has a policy of disclosing AI images. This did not have the indicator that it was AI.

Good afterevenmorn (whenever you’re reading this!)

I’d like to talk about AI. I can hear your collective groans. I’m quite annoyed by the subject, too, but perhaps for different reasons. Still, let’s talk AI from the perspective of an actual writer (struggling, but still a writer).

The news has been filled with nothing but discussions of AI in creative spaces… or, at least, that’s what my news feed has been full of. It’s as if all of the various algorithms are doing their darnedest to keep me as depressed as possible… stupid AI, but I digress. I’m sure you’re all quite familiar with the chime of the bells of doom that creatives have been ringing since AI reared its head in our spaces. There is considerable debate raging all over the internet about where AI fits, where it doesn’t and why or why not. Many authors are feeling threatened, and not without reason. There are a myriad of reasons why. Let’s explore just a couple.

Use of the Author’s Name

We all know that we can now plug a prompt into a computer and it’ll spit out what we ask for these days. When it comes to novels, currently, what the computer spits out is usually sub-par nonsense that can only barely be considered to have all the aspects of a novel. For now, authors are relatively safe. Or are we?

I watched a YouTube video a little while ago (I think it might have been Philip de Franco, but I could very well be mistaken. My brain is cluttered with made-up things and the real world kinda blends together into a nondescript blob sometimes) that talked of at least one writer who had a bunch of books using her author name pop up on Amazon — books she didn’t write. Books she’s pretty sure were written by AI. Jame Friedman was not impressed by what those books offered to the world in her name:

The books are just bloviating garbage. It was repetitive, like a really bad student essay [and] didn’t have anything really meaningful in it.

-From the CBC article Author says ‘AI-generated’ books were published under her name. Amazon wouldn’t take them down, August 2023.

On one hand, clearly AI isn’t yet nearly as good at writing as writers (whew!). Yet. That’s not the problem here. The problem is using AI to churn out tonnes of content, which is sold — people pay — under a known author’s name (in order to generate those sales0 and it turns out to be absolute dreck. It doesn’t matter that the author didn’t write that nonsense. Their name is now associated with that churned-out muck.

That’s not the fault of the AI, I hear folks say. That is the fraudulent twit who is uploading the stuff to Amazon. Technically correct, yes. But that kind of fraud was much more labour intensive before AI, so much so that this kind of fraud was virtually unheard of before. It takes time to write something, even if that something is sub-par, repetitive, meaningless drivel. The effort it takes to write something even patently awful was too much for this kind of fraud. Not so now.

Easily combatted, comes the counter. The buyer need simply check the author’s website to ensure they wrote it. Yeah. Sure, sure. How many people are actually going to do that, though? How many emails complaining about the subpar product bearing their name would an author have to field from those who didn’t know, or think to go check the author’s actual bibliography?

Yeah. Exactly.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay. Pixabay has a policy of disclosing AI images. This did not have the indicator that it was AI.

Drowning an Already Saturated Market

If you’ll excuse the self-pitying whine for just a moment, getting discovered and read is already incredibly difficult as a writer. I’ve been at it for… a long time, and have gotten almost nowhere. That’s on me, true. I’m really bad at marketing. But even if I were a whizz, it’s still obscenely difficult to get seen.

Times are also tough. People have very limited means to spend on books. The plethora of AI generated content, churned out in a matter of moments rather than months or years it may take an actual person, will have made it that much more difficult to have anyone find one’s works and, even if they do, well, that month’s budget has been spent on books already. And sure, AI books will, for now, be less than great, they can also be sold much more cheaply. There is already a hideous problem of devaluing the real work that goes into book production, and the dismissing of the very real value a book can bring to a person (and the world, if I can get a bit grandiose).

Selling AI books for cheap creates a lot of downward pressure for authors trying to make a living with their art. In order to compete, they’ll also have to lower their already ridiculously low prices. Then what? They already can’t afford to eat off the back of their labour. So they take on more ‘real’ work, and have less time for writing. Less time for writing means fewer books get written. AI fills that gap and then soon there simply isn’t room anywhere for a writer that isn’t already established.

Let’s not talk about all the spare time for marketing the folks who only have to write one sentence in order to get a novel will be able to do that writers doing the work of writing simply have not.

I can already hear a chorus of ‘so what’s’ from the AI crowd. ‘Adapt or perish.’ And yeah. Authors will have to hustle even more than we already are. And that’s a problem. We’re already working insanely hard trying to be seen. Having many someones churn out a book every week will be nigh impossible to compete with. No cries of ‘if it’s good enough…’ will ever convince anyone who has been through the grind of being published and trying to be seen that luck doesn’t play a pretty major role in what books get seen and catch on. Hard work and talent don’t guarantee success in this industry. Some incredibly talented, hard-working writers will perish forever in obscurity. Maybe they’ll get lucky and be posthumously popular.

Platforms requiring AI-written books to be labelled as such to permit consumer choice is a good step towards helping writers along.

From the game Detroit Become Human – a fantastic exploration of AI what makes a person a person.

Sure, authors can rest easy-ish that AI can’t actually write very well… yet. But to quote Philip de Franco, this is the worst AI will ever be. It will only improve from here on. As such, it does, as much as people want to hand wave it away, pose an existential threat to the lives and livelihoods of writers. And that threat isn’t some hazy thing in the far future. It’s right on our laps. And writers are uneasy. Scared, even.

Strange how instead of turning AI to things that would help free up time for people to sit down and write (and now we will have to address how such implementation would affect the earning power of these menial tasks that AI is particularly suited for; not a consideration extended to artists, I’ll note), the powers that be have decided instead to try and replace the writers (and other artists) altogether.

I can get the appeal. Really, I do. How cool would it be to have an idea, and then have something else do all the hard work of bringing that idea to life? You get to chill on the couch and watch Netflix. Excellent! Congrats! You’re a writer.

(Note here that I’m not talking about writing assistance. I’m talking about inputting a sentence and having 100,000 words you had barely anything to do with spat back out at you)

Except that you’re not. You’re the benefactor of a ghost writer you do not have to pay. You are no more a writer than a person who commissions a very specific piece of art from someone else is an artist. You just commissioned the art from a computer instead of a person.

Writing is a craft. It’s an art. It takes discipline and practice. Part of it are the artistic choices a writer makes in order to execute their vision – from writing in the voices and perspectives of different characters, or turning tropes on their head (or not), specific word choice, all intended to paint with words, to evoke emotions, realize a vision, and to transport people into other worlds. We often agonize over a single word for hours, even days at a time because we want to get it right.

Writers don’t always hit the mark, it’s true. But that’s part of the practice bit. And the discipline part. It’s a lot of work to be a writer; and that’s just the writing part. Never mind everything else that it takes to be successful at it.

AI has a ton of potential to make the world a better place, but it can also make it a thousand times harder for those already struggling. Authors know that AI isn’t going anywhere. We know we’re going to have to adapt to a drastically changed artistic landscape. What already felt hard is now going to feel impossible. And in all the discussions about AI art and writing, I sometimes feel like the artist and the writer is forgotten.

Anyway, that’s what has been on my mind of late. Well, one of many things, to be frank. I’m almost dreading the comments, but sound off below. This will surely be an interesting discussion.

When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, and a cuddling furry murderer. Her most recent titles include Daughters of BritainSkylark and Human.

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Thomas Parker

I figure the game is already up when I spend half my time being asked by robots to prove I’m not a robot.

K. Jespersen

Imagine when we have automated tools so we don’t have to bother with such proofs. “Go on, robot, prove I’m not a robot for me. I really don’t feel like spending six minutes clicking on pictures of bicycles until there aren’t anymore.”

Thomas Parker

You know. sometimes “find the bicycle” is the high point of my day; it’s like being back in kindergarten!

K. Jespersen

Very true!

K. Jespersen

Definitely one of the conflicts of our age. Here’s hoping we never get to the point of AIs going on strike for our grandkids because we used their progenitors to sort our experimental datapoints without pay.

…Sarcasm aside, I’ve heard people proposing “healthier” and “more copyright-respectful” ways to use AI, and I have a favorite system of thought, but as a never-been-paid writer and an only-been-paid-a-little artist perhaps I’m missing some problems with it. Tell me what you think about this?

1. Authors who sell/lease their work to publishers should have an additional copyright (or it needs to be included under the “performance” aspect of copyright) in the contract, which is the right of inclusion in/exclusion from AI training data. Authors who sell the inclusion right of course end up paid more. The AI-training companies must pay the publisher a certain amount per book in order to include the text (and thereby the author’s signature voice) in their training data. Some portion of that payment also accrues to the author as “royalties.”

2. AI-production companies can then charge increased fees to users for AIs with specialty training sets. $12.99/mo for basic pall-E GPT. $15.99/mo for pall-E GPT + Asimov, Tolkien, and Hobb. $39.99/mo for pall-E GPT + the entire Harlequin/Silhouette catalogue from 1990-2005. Users buying these services sign an agreement that any short stories or novels produced with the input or by the action of these AIs are for personal use only, and if shared (not sold– never sold!) must bear the tag “generated in the style of [author(s)] by [AI].”

3. Both authors and publishers are permitted to sue for damages in the case that materials are found falsely published in an author’s name, or there are indications that an AI’s training data has included an author’s work with a particular publisher without license. If (in a process similar to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s practices) the AI output and the author’s work are found to be substantially similar, damages will be awarded.

This would allow for the legal personal-use-only creation of in-the-style-of works by readers who are dying for “one more, please, just one more” from an author who stopped publishing for some reason, with funds going back to that author. For example, I would really love just one more Ghatti novel from Gayle Greeno, and will happily buy a real one if ever it appears. But I’ve read the bindings to shreds on the ones that exist, can probably quote them, and have tired of my own speculations in that world. If there was an AI that I knew legally incorporated Greeno’s work and contributed to Greeno or Greeno’s estate, I could pay to run off a short story to tuck in the back of one of the books to surprise myself next time. I’d know it wasn’t Greeno’s work, but it could more reliably simulate the original corpus than much of the fan fiction, hopefully!

Of course, this sort of arrangement would probably have a chilling effect on the current enthusiasm for free-access serialization by authors who earn their living through patron sponsorships. There’s almost no way to preserve such a serial from data-scrapers except by putting it behind an account wall, which would make getting discovered by prospective patrons once again more difficult. It’s another authorial bind, just a different one.


I love AI, chatbots, emerging AGi. Getting me back into programming and gadgetry to make them. As far as my writing since I’ve had rejections by publishers – “Not what we are looking for”, “Content of story made me vomit” etc. my websites tend to be ignored by Google and I even got mocked publicly a year before lockdown in a coffeshop by “Artists”… The latter didn’t know me, just random cruelty to a stranger, but they said “AiWriting was going to Turk Mur Jurrrb” – there was a mini ai scare around that time…over some very expensive automated writing helper that IMO Donjon (for TTRPG content generation) did better. hehehe. Drink their TEARS over AIArt proving to do that quicker, eh? We “Writers” (storytellers) were already scabbed by endless amateur submissions, ghost writers and a limited locked in ‘market’. Way before AI.

Thing is if you are a real artist, writer, storyteller you do it because its in you. Even if you don’t see any success in your lifetime but vultures swoop in after you are dead. That’s the cruel brutal truth as painful as a Divine Emperor of Ancent Rome’s FIST in your…. We creatives are fools, no? I insult myself as much as anyone. I only hope AI proves as destructive as they fear because too many are in it to make money first. Not that I’d not like a bestselling novel that becomes a movie with some foreigner like an ex Taliban terrorist playing my brutal half-Djinn character… BUT today’s monopolized, rigged up system I’d have to compromise my works into bland sludge I’d not touch. If it chases away 99% of the so-called “Pros” us in it because we have some inner flaw and have to inflict it on the world that causes us pain will have an edge versus “Content and professionalism” people.

Ai helps me a lot as right now I’m stuck in a situation where I have little free time and near constant interruptions for the next year at least. I can’t have it just write my novels for me because … well… for any criticisms I’m NOT bland mainstream sludge so too many “This account locked and under review” issues. Until I train/make a custom chatbot at least. However it’s good at helping me get the momentum going again and again and (naughty/extreme stuff coded) work out plots and have ideas as if I had a neutral paid reviewer. It’s also VERY good helping find a direction with too much information everywhere.

My suggestion:
Save the activism and politics to argue for UBI – Universal Basic Income. Proposed by Nixon originally. We could pay for it, at least return Welfare in a newer form (Secure the general welfare) by removing the tax breaks, subsidies, zero interest loans then forgiven given to rich elite and giant companies. It does NOT help them hire anyone, they’ve already exported or used illegal labor in every job they could – the ‘trickle down’ is to their Cayman island accounts. Pull the rug out of “Corporate Welfare” and give struggling people a minimum $ – welfare is cheaper than jail. We already pay this. Aritsts and writers might get small but comfy apartments in what used to be malls and divided mcmansions and some $ they could then do miscellaneous part time jobs for extra $ but not be slaved by 3 jobs and barely any time or money. Ultimately public AIs could organize everyone so people could do spot jobs from cleaning to coding to building based on skill and desire and we’d have a “Jetsons” style world. It’s clearly an AI ruled thing but lets humans still make businesses, trade, just keeps it sane and merciful even for low end schlobs.

Steve Davidson

Pulling no punches:

The encroachment of AI into the arts (particularly art that is commercialized) is INEVITABLE.

Not only that, but every stage of advancement of the technology is going to happen faster, and better, than you think it will.

And THAT is about to get even more so. NVIDIA recently introduced a “super chip” that is designed specifically for AIs and allows it to handle an enormous number of “tokens”. Their recent presentation stated that they’ve increased computing capabilities 10,000 times in just the past 8 years.

Now here’s the real story: that new chip will now be used to create even better AI programs (and probably the next chip that increases capability by another 10,000 times, probably in 4 years time).

You can see that video here –

It’s more than an exponential growth curve, and that curve is only going to get steeper and steeper.

Adding more pain to this equation is the fact that all of the economic pressure on commercial operations is firmly in the direction of adopting AI in place of human creatives, as the incentives are just too enormous to ignore. Think about it: if your, say, publishing company, invests in an AI platform, you’ve got to get your investment back. Why buy books from authors with advances and then having to pay someone to track royalties? Eventually, why hire editors? No cover artists or interior design or layout people needed either.

“But”, you say “they turn out trash”.

Yes, as the post states “for now”. But what this post also didn’t touch upon was two other aspects: A: the audience of casual readers generally can’t tell “good writing from bad”; B. who cares if a title doesn’t sell all that well when it essentially cost you nothing to produce it and, C. as the market becomes increasingly AI, who cares? Publisher/Author A’s books are just as crappy as Publisher/Author B’s are. Absent brand loyalty, there’s hardly any difference between a McDonald’s burger and a Burger King’s burger.

This is absolutely, in some ways, a race to the bottom. Less discerning readers will have MORE content available to choose from – so where is the incentive to do better? Where does the money go – to the books that are really good but don’t have much of an audience, or to the pile of dreck that’s marching out the door?

Of course, AI will continue to improve (rather than decline, like most human authors inevitably do), so this will only be in play for maybe a year or so (once everything really ramps up).

Figure out some way other than advances and royalties to support your “hobby” of writing (good) fiction, because my estimate is, we are well less than 3 years away from the first AI derived best seller. And well before that, AI work is going to be encroaching on genre markets, like romance and fantasy, sports stories, history, not to mention probably dominating non-fiction works (other than heavily researched subjects).

Don’t scoff: every single time I’ve previously predicted where AI will be over the past couple of years, I’ve been wrong. What I predicted took place SOONER than expected.

Sorry to be such a downer. Hoping this doesn’t come to be, but….

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