Legitimate & Utterly Useless Fear of Generative AI

This document is certified 100% AI-free

(It’s kind of a joke, and also it’s not)


It’s not really surprising, but I’ve seen — like everybody else — the concern over AI rising in proportion to the ascendance of AI itself. It’s a concern not without cause, but often it is presented without reason. That is to say, the dramatic and very tangible effects of AI cause visceral fear, and this fear drives arguments which do not always reflect the most well-reasoned possibilities. It’s a level of technological fear possibly not seen to this extent since the original fears of automation in the ’70s.

Those fears were genuine then, and they are genuine now.

But the legitimacy of the fear of change and what disruptions it may cause to life and livelihood do not justify any and all arguments that we might choose to make against AI. If anything, we should take stock of exactly where the danger does and does not lie, build for ourselves parameters of fear, a kind of foundation upon which to build a credible argument in those areas we want to change.

Concern that generative AI may cause mass layoffs in the near future? Reasonable (in fact it has already begun, though the decisions for those layoffs often reflect serious misunderstanding).

Concern that generative AI is evil, cruel, and should be governed out of existence? Unreasonable, and not based on critical thinking if we pause and evaluate.

Concern that generative AI may revolt and take over the world? Unreasonable…for now, but we should check back on this in a few years, as the emergent properties of AI become more quixotic. But it’s the human use of AI that is worrisome, not a sentient AI, not yet at any rate, and it’s there which we must draw a dividing line and marshal our arguments.


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Yes, there is grave danger in the misuse of AI. Yes, it can be used for harmful and destructive means (which, certainly, is a first for any technology ever /s). Yes, there is a looming pitfall ahead which may cause us to easily fall into a hedonistic, meaningless fantasy world in which nothing of real value is created, and endless remixes of artificial realities play on repeat in our minds.

However, used thoughtfully, AI can supplement, rather than supplant, the human effort.

One example: An author who has created a beloved fantasy world over the course of several equally beloved books. These books, which are the product of years of effort, represent the tip of the iceberg of the creative landscape sitting largely dormant in the mind of the author, who cannot possibly explore this landscape via the written word on anywhere near the scale on which he can imagine it. Exciting and innovative material that a multitude of fans positively slavers to read and explore remains locked up in the author’s head. Probably he will never have time to write them all — without generative AI.  But with generative AI he may create far more books exploring this world for his fanbase, using AI to flesh out short sketches of material, bare guidelines that can be turned into fully-fledged works in a fraction of the time it would take to write every word himself. These products remain the author’s material (in principle; the legality is more complicated), they are guided by his input, they expound his own ideas and build a world that he alone thought of, and not the AI.

However, it is true that these new books will not be literary masterpieces. Probably the original books were not either — true written works of art are rare. But high-quality writing, just a step or two below the level of the masterpiece, are an achievement, too, and all the more so when they are turned out at a truly inspiring rate, chock full of interesting material with fans waiting ready to digest it.

It’s important to recognize that only humans, at this point, may create truly original material or generate new and original works of art (of any kind). But there is value, sometimes, in being able to produce more of something of average quality than less of something in slightly better quality. Fantasy novels are one example; others can include levels or characters in a game, endless catered background music, any creative work you might think of (a blog post, perhaps?). None of this takes away the need for true human endeavors of originality and inspiration, and we should recognize that, too, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not something wonderful in what we can do with AI if we do it right.

Well, what is the difference? What makes one AI-generated book good and another wasted content?

Here is one case where the end justifies the means. Amazon is being flooded with AI-generated e-books. Most of these, it seems, are created by “authors” taking advantage of the virtues, as such, of generative AI. Are any of them good? Probably. I haven’t looked to check, and I suspect most other readers haven’t, either. If we run across a book we like we might not know it was generated by AI, or we might suspect it by some quirk or subpar direction of the writing — but who knows? Regardless, most of this drivel passes directly from the maw of OpenAI and others to the waiting chasm of Amazon’s endless list of $0.99 e-books which sit largely unread. There is no audience, even if one occasionally gets picked up; there is no benefit, other than to Amazon and the occasionally lucky generator of the text.

The author, however, who has written — with the aid of AI — a purposeful book, based on an idea of something interesting to write, rather than to take advantage of a trend, launched with a spark of creativity, who has generated interest, gained an audience, finally produced a work which is received with pleasure by at least some niche audience — this author has used generative AI well, whether or not I or any particular individual thinks the end result is “good quality writing.” The point is that it exists, and has been appreciated. That’s what matters. It originated in the author’s mind, not ChatGPT’s, and whether the assistance given by AI was 5% or 95%, the result was an original idea brought to fruition and accepted by one or more willing and satisfied readers.

This justification, this differentiation, of the use of AI is a microcosm of the entire “battle,” for lack of a better term. There are so many dangers on this path we’ve started on, but there is so much promise, too.

And, most importantly, it is very, very rare and very, very challenging — if not entirely impossible — to put the genie back in the bottle. We may already be past the point of critical mass. We might not be able to foresee or avert all the pitfalls that lie ahead. But if we approach the issue cognizantly, and take to it not as fear-mongers but as arbiters of good judgement, bringing practical and useful and balanced standards, easily understood and easily accepted, then we may just be able to help guide how AI is used, and set the example ourselves.

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