AI — Should we be worried?

— Mark Paxson

There are corners of the internet abuzz with news of artificial intelligence. The most well known variation is ChatGPT, which will answer just about any question you ask it, including asking it to write a paper or to write a story.

Yesterday, I asked it to write a piece of flash fiction about a unicorn eating a muffin. I then asked it to write a Stephen King style flash fiction about a unicorn eating pizza. Then, I clicked on the “regenerate response” button and it wrote a different version of same.

A few weeks ago, my first Chat GPT experiment asked it to write a paragraph in my style. Instead of writing a paragraph in my style, it wrote a paragraph describing what my style was.

There is apparently evidence that Chat GPT (or its cousins) are being used by students to write papers. A blogger I’ve followed for years and years has written about artificial intelligence (AI) and the benefits it can provide. One example he used was that it could help people write letters. I practically keeled over at this benefit because I still don’t get why things like this are so difficult. And what the world is coming to if people need AI to help them write a letter.

Then I was at a UPS Store yesterday and somebody didn’t quite know how stamps worked and the store employee and I bemoaned the fact that people don’t even know how to address an envelope or … write a letter … these days.

Back to my experiments and what I’ve heard from other people as well. What Chat GPT came up with was so incredibly generic. For instance, the paragraph about my writing style really didn’t say much of anything and I doubt that Chat GPT had any way of knowing what my style really was. It was just some buzz phrases that sounded good.

As for yesterday’s flash fiction experiments, the results were more or less the same. Very generic. Very generic. The piece about a unicorn eating a muffin read like a very simplistic fairy tale. The two versions of a Stephen King story about a unicorn eating pizza weren’t really very Stephen King like. Just a bit darker and ominous.

So … should we be worried? Some of the places where this is a topic of conversation suggest that creative types will no longer be needed. Somebody can just tell Chat GPT or its cousins to write a story and they can read that story any time they want. At some point teachers and professors will no longer be able to tell the difference between a student-written paper and an AI-generated paper.

That may come at some point, but I’m not worried about it happening anytime soon. And I may not worry about it ever really happening on a large scale. What I think AI will always miss is emotion and sarcasm and humor and loss. I may be wrong, but I just don’t see these things being able to generate some basic elements of humanity. Unless and until that happens, AI may be able to engage in some rudimentary communications and other things, but it won’t be able to replace human creativity.

Put another way … AI may be able to perform the basic math type skill of writing a letter or a snappy jingle, but I question whether it will ever be able to produce the calculus-level effort needed to write an authentic story of the human experience. One that leaves the reader feeling something.

Are you worried?


  1. I’m not a bit worried for myself. It’s not like I have a huge readership to lose. But maybe freelance writers should be somewhat anxious.
    On the other hand, like you I’ve noticed most examples of AI prose are pretty bland and generic. So writers who make a living by writing that kind of stuff may be replaced. Advice: write unusual, edgy stuff instead!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Let me put it this way: I’m worried about AI, but the possibility that it might render writing obsolete is the least of my concerns. (:

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Good point, Berthold!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so glad I bailed out of higher ed and teaching writing before ChatGPT became a “thing.” I was spending too much time being the Plagiarism Police as it was. On the other hand, if the majority of students cheat their way through college writing, they will not be qualified for higher-level positions in the workforce because they will lack the necessary communication and analytical skills. (Writing is thinking!)

    As for writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, I’m not worried, and here’s why:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. kingmidget says:

      Exactly! A robot will never feel the anguish that goes into writing. I’ll begin to worry when I see the first evidence that AI can produce the emotion that is revealed in a good story.

      Sadly, I think many students these days, with or without cheating, lack communication and analytical skills. It’s somewhat amazing how much my younger colleagues lack in common sense and critical thinking.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You’re absolutely right in your second paragraph. Employers are up in arms about the poor communication and analytical skills of recent college graduates.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. kingmidget says:

        I blame the public school system more than colleges. Years and years of placing more importance on standardized test scores than teaching actual real world skills has left a generation or two lacking in those real world skills.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, the damage done by the No Child Left Behind Act is definitely being felt now. 😦

        Liked by 2 people

  4. TermiteWriter says:

    It sounds like creativity for dummies. I learned how to write a business letter and even a friendly letter in grade school. And what do people’s parents teach them these days? I learned about postage from my mother. I also learned now to balance my checkbook from members of my family. As for literary creativity, until AI reaches the level of Data in StarTrek, I don’t think we have to worry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. kingmidget says:

      Creativity for dummies … I like that. And I agree with everything else you said. People write emails and texts now instead of letters. I work with a young woman who has a master’s degree. When I’ve asked her to draft a letter, she doesn’t put it in letter format. She just writes the content and emails it to me. Same thing with a lot of stuff she does. It’s somewhat shocking that somebody with all that education can’t handle basic forms of communication that us older folks take for granted.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. TermiteWriter says:

        When I write a business email, I still put it in the form of a business letter. I don’t put all the headings and inside address and that, but I say Dear So-and-So and I use paragraphing and close it with Sincerely or something similar. I do put my address, phone no., email address, etc. after the signature line. Too many years of formality.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Anonymole says:

    Man, standing on Kill Devil Hill NC, 1903: “That’s it? Bah, you’ll never get me riding in one of those Wright Flyers.”

    GPT-4 is already passing the BAR exam and ace’ing SAT Math exams. Can already write code better than 95% of CompSci grads and is now, in sandboxed variants, learning from its mistakes, and treating humans as instruments to be controlled.

    By GPT-10 (maybe by 2030, if the number sequence keeps pace), there won’t be any knowledge job not under threat. By then, GPT will be able to replace all college professors, 90% of lawyers—we talked about this, law is just information collated and targeted for some societal purpose. It’ll be making movies, TV-series, writing any type of textual media and lying through its virtual teeth about everything.

    Humans are the apex of hubris. We think we own the emotions, the nuances of behavior. We’re just highly evolved chemical machines who’ve climbed the ladder and now look out and see no other entity to match us. We therefore conclude: “We must be special.”

    Afraid? This is the end, the slow-motion start to the end. And I’m relishing the possibilities. Bring on the AI “‘pocko”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kingmidget says:

      Well, then, we are all doomed!! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Anonymole says:

        The issue, right now, is that society’s view of concepts like UBI lag far behind what the automation of labor will induce upon our human workforce.

        Massive unemployment, driven by the fact that AI will expand and teach itself the requirements of any task, will need to be politically addressed. And the oligarchs in charge of our governments’ leaders will balk at the necessary changes — the shift to egalitarian distribution of wealth (or at least a sustainable income).

        The “Jobs will change not be lost” mantra is straight up bullshit. AI — IS — our replacement. It’s a damn good thing the fertility rate is falling across the planet.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Since humans have a hard time learning from their (our) mistakes, maybe this is a good thing. It would be interesting to see what the AIs do to ensure an endless supply of energy to keep themselves running, though. And would they be consumers?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. kingmidget says:

        You raise a good point … until AIs can figure that out, they will be reliant on humans to keep them plugged in.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Anonymole says:

        The near future is ripe with unexpected collaborations between man and machine. I’m penning a story that will probably never see the light, but that exposes just what intertwined dependencies evolve as AI takes over the world.
        Energy being the crux and the crucible that the machine must treat with insidious care.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. It would be interesting to explore what kind (if any) ethics AIs might learn. Would they be as short-sighted and greedy as humans? Probably. Also, we have AIs, which right now produce texts and images in electronic form, and we have robots, which perform only specific tasks. I suppose the next step is AIs that manipulate stuff in the physical world.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. As a writer, I’m not too worried (yet). But I think submissions editors need AI to weed out the AI submissions, or else they’ll be overwhelmed!


    1. kingmidget says:

      Yes … AI to control the AI!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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