AI – What Does It Create?

A caged bird: the modern writer, imprisoned behind the laser bars of technology that generates stories, paintings, calls to action, and lo, it is art.

(This is an out-of-sync post based on reading so many articles on the subject matter today. Not a good way to spend an already hot Sunday morning.)

These links lead to how people are discussing the dilemma, and the last one is a site, the only site so far (that I’ve found), that enables creators to disallow their work to be scraped from the internet and used as training for/part of the new technology.

How does it affect you, and what are you going to do about it?

A humorous look at an AI story from the people behind the podcast Green Cows Don’t Fly

My response:

I think it would take emotional, human-written and empathetic story inputs to create a better story AI output – because a machine mind, no matter how many words go in, can’t create the beating heart in a story or in a reader.
It takes someone, a living being, to understand how to use words to create that emotional response, even if the words aren’t directly correlative to the emotion implied. It’s called subtext, in most cases, and whether the reader understands overtly or simply feels it, that’s the part of the story that machines don’t get.
Maybe that’s it – machines can’t imply, or feel, or snark; there is no subtext to machine text. Not even for planning purposes (and more likely, it will have the ‘context’ of the person coding, the one who chooses what to fill the machine with, and I expect it will reflect their reading/opinions, and that they’ll use stories whose copyright is in the public domain – yes, old works, not contemporary. Do I believe that last part? Am I such a fool as to believe everyone plays by the rules? Yeah, right.).

And, if you have reservations about your work being used to fill in the databanks of an AI, find something like the last link and deny permissions for your work (although, it is stealing to take/scrape from internet sites without permission from the site owner, I also have no doubt that it still happens – how do we protect our creative work from these thieves who take it and codify the shape and sound of it to financially benefit themselves?). Seek out any of those other sites that have a section for creators to deny use and share it around as widely as possible. Before it’s too late.

Ring the bell, warn the world: ‘Beware, Beware, the monster is in your world, and you the canary in the cage.’

What’s your take, and does it matter to you?

Photo by cottonbro studio on

20 thoughts on “AI – What Does It Create?

  1. Yes, I think inputting a story and getting a refined version out could work in the near future. But not yet. When I tried inputting a story plot, the AI apps merely padded it out with more words, they didn’t add anything of value. — Eventually, I expect AI will be able to even come up with real stories by itself. However, it seems that day is still far in the future.

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    • Even if the story is ‘real’, can it ever be one of the stories that creates the sense of something new and exciting, or a deep emotional bond to the story and characters? Not in my view – it can only copy or imitate, not create.
      I wouldn’t mind putting in my basic outline and getting out a good flow of something to help me work through the tough bits, but that’s the thing that takes the most time and effort, and sometimes it takes days, weeks, months, years even, to come up with something ‘same, but different’ exciting.

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  2. I think it’s pretty unlikely that AI trainers will scrape works by obscure indie authors with minuscule sales. 🙂 But writers about to sign contracts with one of the Big 5 (or is it 4 now?) may wish to add something about that. In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised if corporations, including Google and Amazon, aren’t already experimenting with AI-generated books.

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  3. What AI could potentially do has been generating disquiet for some years now but it appears we are heading towards peak AI, which of course is a peak that will just keep growing higher. Some of the impacts, including the ability to write satire better than their own staff, are outlined in The Chaser’s decision to set up a paywall to survive.
    It seems, at the moment, the technology can simply imitate rather than genuinely create, which still could be for a problem for the likes of Mills and Boon (I know I’ll get hate mail for saying that) and news outlets. But no doubt it will improve over time through scraping every written piece as its published and making just enough changes to a novel to make it all but impossible for the original author to sue for plagiarism without having impossibly deep pockets.
    I think that’s probably still a long way off but I have to say, being a lazy git, I am intrigued by the possibility of creating a short story and then having AI fill in the boring bits to make it into a novel draft for me to edit. 😉

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  4. It doesn’t worry me, but I’m interested in what AI can do. There’re two parts to a story – the plot and the mechanism of storytelling. I’m quite happy that you could one day teach AI the mechanics. a computer might write better than any of us. Plot is interesting, though. Imagine a computer that knows about everything that was ever written. For every subplot, the computer knows all the next steps that have ever been written, and might pick one. So if you iterated this maybe 50 times, it’d come up with a plot of its own. By the law of averages, if you repeat this exercise enough times, one of them is bound to be a bestseller. That’s not really AI – I suspect most plots have already been written at some point so it’s more a case of the computer having access to various plots and choosing one -but don’t you think that’s fascinating?

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    • It’s interesting, and I’d like to be able to use such a tool to help me shape and plot a story, but it doesn’t. Plot seems beyond the capabilities (atm), maybe because not everyone defines plot the same way. Even a master list of all the plots ever written disagree on just what plot is, so how can AI take this ethereal matter and make it real?
      I know there are people who say ‘give a monkey a typewriter (or is it 100) and one day it will give you story’ – I doubt that hypothesis, because there’s so much undefined about a good story, a good plot, and not everyone will agree on the result as ‘good’ let alone that it’s a ‘story’.
      Writers make and break rules at liberty, and there’s no way to formalise how these choices are made.
      Anyway, from what I’ve seen and heard, the AI storyteller creates good advertising (I wonder if it got permission to scrape all the advertising slogans/blurbs/headlines, and who the copyright owner would sue if they found their work was plagiarised?) and maybe some interesting essays, but stories come out as childish, amateur, and without meaning (in the end, the monster was defeated, for example).
      The things a computer can’t do is create novel ideas, or break rules, or understand the concept behind how a plot adapts to suit the story.
      Definitely an interesting study, but I’m not sure it can ever create more than a mash-up of mass clichés.


  5. I agree with you, Cage, that the really good stories will continue to need a human touch. I’ve played with AI-generated artwork, and there’s definitely a skill to shaping the language that generates an image. It’s huge fun to play with, but there are limits for sure. I couldn’t actually describe the picture in my head well enough to recreate it. That would take a true artist. But “scraping” our written words from the internet and morphing them into something different seems closer to piracy. Thanks for sharing the articles. I’m off to browse.

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    • I can’t create an image with AI artwork – but then, I’m not a visual thinker (also, colourblind). It takes an artist to know how it all layers together, as it takes a storyteller to know how the layers in a story are applied.

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  6. AI will generate beautiful, heart-felt stories in the future, I’m sure. Then I can imagine a campaign ad from human authors about “authentically generated” stories. Everybody will jump on the human bandwagon because it’ll be old-school and retro-fun to read the authentic stories. I hope.

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