I keep seeing this crop up, and I’ll be blunt – the overall concern of random individuals coming in, generating AI novels and kicking us out of business is unlikely in the short term.
Realise that ‘full self driving’ has been promised for years now, and that final mile of development still hasn’t happened. There’s a limit to the way the current tech works, which requires a significant change in the tech (or addition or something) to make it workable. Until that happens, it won’t be punching out full novels.
Right now, AI tech has major issues remembering plot points from one part to the next (see people getting basic MATH problems answered wrongly and then the AI breaking itself trying to fix itself), nevermind minor details like the colour of eyes, etc..
So, worrying about them writing a 120k word book is a non-issue right now. Or even a 20k novella without some editing.
Can someone take a beat sheet, punch in some prompts, get 4000 words of semi-decent content and paste it together to make the 120k work? Sure. That’s a ton of work though but I would not be surprised if some people are more willing to do that then try to learn to write properly. As Dawn says, some others are already dumping out AI books and I’m sure more sophisticated operations will come along with work that is harder to tell is AI written.
Then we come into a few different problems, that all these new self-published authors run into.
Right now, this very second, the market is flooded. There are a TON of decently written works (or even good works!) just in our small (not super popular market) who have not made it big. Each year, more books are added to the pile and we’re all competing with books written 20, 30, 100+ years ago.
Problems of awareness, recognition, branding and promotion; of bad covers or blurbs or just bad luck stop these authors and their works from being seen.
Adding AI books to the flood when there are thousands of books already coming out isn’t going to change the base problem of getting recognition. A LOT of these one-off wannabe authors who think it’s easy will ‘write’ a book, maybe two or three and then… realise it isn’t worth it and walk away.
Readers will recognise that fact, start focusing on older authors, people they know, people they recognise and give fewer new books a chance. Which will make it even harder for newer authors to get in, probably. And give an advantage to companies that have a ‘brand’ behind them.
So there you have the marketing problem. Will there be corporations (the Big 5, entrepreneurs who have some marketing savvy) who will come in and hire people to basically churn books out using AI, cleaning those works up as they go along and making those writers no more than employees? Yes.
But real writers, will they survive? Yes.
Outside of the point that many of the writers I know write because it’s what they do.
But writing isn’t just about hitting a button and figuring out which sounds best. Understanding tone, theme, mood and pacing is important for authors. Understanding pacing and character arcs are important. Knowing why a specific opening works or doesn’t work, why a specific scene is filler and which one isn’t… Those are skills. They require time to learn, and I’m sure people learning to use AI can learn them (and might learn them differently!); but… the writers who write the old way will also have learnt it differently and (in my opinion) much, much deeper.
That won’t go away. Writers willing to put in the work will still have that advantage in their craft. Especially when you realise the poor employee writers will, as usual, get forced to churn out the minimum quality work in the shortest amount of time.
Two more things. One about AI and datasets.
AI (machine learning right now) is based off datasets. Feed it information, it learns from that information and replicates it. Great. Think about what it’d look like if you fed it say, badly translated Chinese xianxia webnovels (i.e. machine translated work) and then asked it to write you a xianxia. Your carp is going to be leaping off rainbow gates all over the place while young masters shy away from jade beauties.
Heck, ask it to parse LitRPG systems and create a system that actually works… I’d LOVE to see it try that.
Second thing (and final). Author voice. Yes, yes. It’s an all encompassing thing – but author voice is basically another way of saying ‘the writer’s way of viewing the world and telling you about it’. AI has already a hard enough time figuring out plot, asking it to keep to author voice (and their views) is going to be tricky.
But if you follow or read a specific author, you do so because of their author voice. The thing that makes everything that they write unique. Whether that’s Terry Pratchett’s silent rage and humanism in all his work. Or Bujold’s quiet faith in people.
And maybe that is one good thing that AI users will force on writers, to force themselves to figure out their author voice, to put more of themselves into their work. To let their own stories and experiences ring so true, no machine could ever replicate it.
Will AI take over our jobs? Not unless we get real AI. I’m more worried about our corporate overlords using it to flood the market further, using their $’s to bury the competition. But the AI itself? Nah, not a real concern.
PS: Look around in my Business Post, I’ve discussed this in other terms too.
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