Discover more from Writer Everlasting
AI and the Need for the Sublime
What, me worried?
The discussion these days about the use of Artificial Intelligence (an oxymoron if I ever saw one) is all over the place. It’s all over the place because nobody really knows what to make of it.
I want to look at it from the standpoint of a creative writer. If there are technical uses for AI, and it appears there are, will it stay there where it belongs, or will it eventually slosh over into our spaces? Is it useful to creative writers in any capacity? Are we missing something by not using it? Will it take the place of all of us? Will it turn on us as it becomes more ‘human’?
Are we really ‘writers’ if we use it to write for us?
I want to believe it’s much ado about nothing. I’m that old school writer who believes writing is a human art and a natural skill and any tools we use can never replace our own heads and hearts and hands.
We are what we write. We write what we are. I may be wrong here, and maybe it shows, but I’m wary of gimmicks when it comes to our kind of writing. I’m a purist, or maybe a Luddite, but I want to know a real writer wrote what I’m reading.
I see products like Grammarly, for example, as a kind of gimmick. I would encourage new writers to stay away from aids like that, mainly because it’s too easy to rely on them, to assume they’re all they’ll need. I’m all for spell checks, but anything else is a needless crutch. (Feel free to talk me down. I’ve never used Grammarly, but everything I read about it, including laments from writers who use it, tells me it’s too strict, it makes mistakes, and it discourages creativity.)
Writers learn best, I think, by reading and studying what works. But sometimes we find, as we’re reading, that a very good writer has thrown out all the rules and they’re doing what we’ve been told not to do. And it’s working.
‘What works’ for some writers defies all notions of proper usage and then we study their methods. How do they do it? It’s not because those writers don’t know better, it’s because their artistic side says ‘screw it, I like this way better’.
They get away with it because they’re good at it and they’re good at it because they’ve been working at it for so long they’re not afraid to plow new paths, where no writer has gone before.
But not everyone can get away with it.
It takes practice to become a successful maverick, so I’d also tell new writers not to get too frisky with the misuse of grammar and punctuation when they’re starting out. (I know. Thanks for nothing. Right?)
But I’m going off the track here. All I’m trying to say is I get it that it’s easier to take the safe way, and I worry that something like Grammarly will lead to AI, the appeal of which will be that it’s ‘safe’.
So back to AI. I worry whenever I see non-technical writers getting all giddy about the ‘help’ they can get from AI. What kind of help, I ask. What can AI do for you that you can’t do for yourself?
When it comes to aids, you don’t have to go far. If you don’t know how to use a word or a phrase, Google will help you find the answer. It’s all there. I promise. I use it all the time. Grammar, punctuation, it’s all there. A dictionary? It’s as easy as dictionary.com. When you get there, there’s a thesaurus tab. It’s huge! There’s even a Grammar Coach tab. It’s all there. Dictionary.com
So what can AI do that isn’t already out there? The only thing I can think of is that AI can actually write things for you. If that’s what you’re looking for—a ghostwriter—go away now. Just leave. You’re in the wrong, wrong, wrong place and I’ll never let you forget it.
We’re writers here. We write. We don’t go looking for someone or something else to do our writing for us. We do it because it’s in us and it’s what we do.
But this is me talking. Now I want to hear from you. Did I get it all wrong? What am I missing? Give me a single thing AI can do as well or better. Show me that one thing writers across the ages have been waiting for. The thing that will release us from our exhaustion, our angst, our need to get it right in ways that satisfy us.
I worry that too many will take the easy way out and let robots do the work for them. If we felt lost in the crowd before, I hate to think what those crowds will look like when robots take over and we have to question everything we see in print.
If the mediocrity of AI is recognizable at first, how long before it gets so good at imitating we won’t be able to tell the difference? Where does that leave the rest of us?
What will happen to the sublime?
So many questions. I hope you’ll take a minute to weigh in. I can’t be the only one who’s been stewing about this. Comments are open, as always.
ADDED: I can’t believe I left out the WGA strike in Hollywood. The strike is what got me thinking about this in the first place! The concerns those union members have about AI are all too real. All signs lead to complete productions, from script-writing to videography to musical scores, being handled by artificial intelligence. This article in Vanity Fair spells it all out.
Writer Everlasting is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.