Why Writers Shouldn’t “AI”

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I have nothing against AI. Really.

I think it’s helping a lot of people. I especially appreciate when writers use it to correct punctuation and grammar since quite frankly, fewer instances of semicolon abuse make me “hella” happy. I also understand how helpful AI can be in professions such as real estate where salespeople would much prefer to be out there selling rather than spending time writing tedious property descriptions for the MLS.

I’m sure you think that I, as an educator, am going to flat out invalidate any benefits of ChatGPT, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Certainly students need to understand how to ethically use AI and have a thorough understanding of the concept of plagiarism. AI may be used by students as a method of researching—think Google with more detail. AI such as ChatGPT is also helpful assisting students with grammar, punctuation, and actually learning to write. It can be an invaluable tool for English language learning students as well.

But I have my concerns.

Seriously “bruh,” did you just verbify a noun? 🙄

ChatGPT itself tells us, “As we rely more on AI to make decisions for us, we may become less adept at problem-solving and critical thinking, and more reliant on the AI to do it for us. This could lead to a decline in human intelligence and capabilities over time,” and if that isn’t damning, I don’t know what is.

According to Diversus Health, writing is a method of nurturing mental health and a way of exercising our brain just as we might by practicing yoga or meditation. Even more important, “Being creative can increase positive emotions, reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety, and improve the function of our immune systems.”

Telling research revealed in Forbes magazine warns against an overreliance on artificial intelligence. Studies conducted by “Alok Gupta from University of Minnesota and Andreas Fügener, Jörn Grahl, and Wolfgang Ketter from University of Cologne in Germany” found that humans often are incapable of discerning whether AI is making the right decision yet tend to place so much faith in AI-generated results, they settle for what actually might be generic or inadequate solutions. In terms of creative endeavors, such decisions can result in mundane and boring content that at some point will fail to appeal to audiences.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is your brain on AI—older readers will get the joke! 😊

So what does this mean for writers?

NPR lists Jay Gatsby and Holden Caulfield as two of the greatest literary characters of all time. Even if AI could conceive of such literary greats, I personally wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to create my own characters, to claim them as my own even if Jay is beyond my capabilities.

Your writing is your fingerprint. As a writer, it’s what defines you. For better or worse, no one writes quite like you do. Forbes calls it “unique human knowledge.” I’ll call it human uniqueness. Readers love and admire it. Writers crave it, cry over it, and curse at it. ChatGPT can do a lot of cool and amazing things; it can imitate and even copy, but it cannot provide human uniqueness. Only you, the writer, can create that.

Could AI conceive of a character like Holden Caulfield for example, or would it simply regurgitate a watered-down, bot-created, mushed-up version of every character ever written throughout the history of literature? To test my theory, I decided to try it out.

Here is the prompt I wrote and the response as generated by Bard:

Give me a one page paragraph description of a wealthy male character living in the early 1920s on the eastern seaboard.

The year is 1920. The place is New York City. The man is Johnathan Hart, a wealthy businessman who has made his fortune in the stock market. He is tall and handsome, with dark hair and blue eyes. He is also charming and charismatic, and he has a way of making people feel comfortable around him.

Johnathan lives in a luxurious penthouse apartment on Park Avenue. He has a staff of servants to take care of his every need. He has a chauffeur-driven limousine, and he owns a yacht and a private plane. He can afford to buy anything he wants, but he is not materialistic. He is more interested in experiences than possessions.

Johnathan is a member of the upper class, but he is not snobbish. He is friendly and outgoing, and he enjoys socializing with people from all walks of life. He is a regular at the hottest nightclubs in New York City, and he is always up for a good time.

Johnathan is a complex character. He is both charming and ruthless. He is ambitious and driven, but he is also compassionate and caring. He is a product of his time, and he embodies the spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

One day, Johnathan meets a young woman named Mary. She is beautiful, intelligent, and independent. Johnathan is immediately smitten, and he pursues her relentlessly. Mary is initially resistant, but she eventually falls for Johnathan’s charm and charisma.

Johnathan and Mary marry, and they have a son together. They live a life of luxury, but they are also happy and content. Johnathan is a successful businessman, but he is also a loving husband and father. He is a role model for his son, and he teaches him the importance of hard work, honesty, and compassion.

Johnathan Hart is a fictional character, but he represents the spirit of the Roaring Twenties. He is a man of wealth and privilege, but he is also charming, charismatic, and compassionate. He is a product of his time, and he embodies the optimism and excitement of the Jazz Age.

Tall and handsome? Charming and charismatic? Hmmm . . . . And Johnathan Hart? Wasn’t he a character in a popular late 70s, early 80s television mystery series?

ChatGPT didn’t do fare better with “Alexander Harrington” and an overabundance of adjectives:

“His tall and statuesque figure exuded an air of confidence, accentuated by meticulously groomed dark hair and a perfectly groomed mustache that added an air of sophistication to his countenance. A pair of piercing blue eyes, reminiscent of the ocean’s depths, hinted at the depths of his intelligence and determination.”

Alexander Harrington sounded familiar to me, so I asked ChatGPT if he had played a character in a television series and was told, “I’m sorry, but as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, there is no widely known or prominent character named Alexander Harrington in a television series.” Google, however, found that Alexander Harrington was a character in an episode of The Mentalist.

I won’t get into the debate of writers who’ve already written books generated by AI and claimed the content as theirs—*cough*—not your work! I’ll only point out that doing so is robbing yourself of using and sharing your most precious gift, your creativity.

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