A Professional Writer Thinks About AI

As a professional creative writer for more than 40 years, the seemingly overnight emergence of Open AI’s ChatGPT felt like an earthquake. Hundreds of years of fantasy and speculation about artificial intelligence (AI) was instantly replaced by the reality of a type of AI, generative AI, that was here now, and capable of changing everything — including maybe, replacing writers like me. 

That existential threat resonates around the creative communities of every artistic, commercial, or creative endeavor. It is totally understandable. But like the anxiety created by virtually every new game-changing technology, I believe the bark appears worse than the potential bite. New technology eventually tends to benefit creative artists. 

A little perspective

I am certainly not alone in crediting Steve Jobs for making my professional career as a writer possible. Prior to the introduction of the Apple II, a writer’s productivity, and therefore, income, was limited to how fast they could type and edit on a typewriter. Changing one line in a script or document often meant being forced to re-type every line of every page from that page forward, regardless of the length. 

Then came the first Apple II series computer and the possibilities for what writers could do changed overnight. From that point on, whole pages, or even documents could be edited and revised in just minutes by cutting-and-pasting. It dramatically increased the ability of writers to increase their earnings. The new technology augmented writers’ skills and opened a vast new world of profitable opportunities for them to seize and make their own. 

New tech, new possibilities? 

Now writers like me confront the reality of AI that has been trained on virtually anything that’s ever passed through the internet from every possible news, literary, or artistic source imaginable. Commercial writers and artists have few options: we learn to use generative AI to augment what we do best, or we will become roadkill.  

Welcome to the machine

So, where does generative AI find me? I’d be less than honest if I said the issue isn’t complicated. I do not feel any urgent need to write with ChatGPT. But I keep an open mind about how it can help me. 

For example, though I love sci-fi, write often about advanced technology, and maybe even won the girl of my dreams by learning to like Star Trek: The Next Generation, physics was never my jam. So, when I come across an item in the news like the recent discoveries about gravitational waves and black holes, I turn to ChatGPT and ask it to explain it to me at a level that is useful to me. 

One of the most boring tasks for a writer is creating a series of emails or social media ads that are essentially a variation on an original message. I fully intend to utilize ChatGPT to handle any such job in the future. In this way, generative AI makes my job both easier and more productive by allowing me the time and freedom to focus on bigger projects versus spinning my wheels  coming up with endless variations of the same thing and guessing which one will do best.       

That’s a serious benefit. Add to that the capabilities of new AI apps like Purposely.ai, which tells you exactly which text and visual elements perform best, while also streamlining creative production, and there’s no question AI and generative AI can augment a writer’s productivity and success. 

A force for progress

And that’s my reason for optimism when I look to the future. Will generative AI wreak a toll on certain types of jobs in the writing profession? Probably. That’s why the recent contracts with the Hollywood Writers and Screen Actors Guilds focused so heavily on the use and compensation for writers and actors that could be affected. At the same time, it opens new avenues that we can only just begin to imagine. Like the introduction of the Apple II, it is my reason for feeling confident that it will ignite a whole new era of creativity and capabilities for talented people to do more with less.

Ultimately, it will be up to us — the people who use generative AI and our elected representatives here in the USA and around the world — to determine the future of AI. If we pay attention and act in our best interests, I believe that generative AI will be a force for progress in all our lives. Maybe that’s a big if, but then again, it will be ours to decide. Being open-minded is a start. I think if we are, the regulation and rules that will be needed to control how and where generative AI is allowed will follow.

A little lagniappe

And since we’ve focused so much on ChatGPT, it only seems fair to give it the last word. Here is ChatGPT’s 50-words or less summary of my article:

The article discusses the impact of generative AI on writers and the creative industry. The author, a seasoned writer, reflects on the potential of AI to revolutionize writing, drawing parallels to the transformative effect of the Apple II on productivity. While acknowledging concerns about AI replacing jobs, the author sees opportunities for writers to enhance their skills and productivity with generative AI, ultimately predicting a positive force for creativity and new possibilities. ChatGPT

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