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Will artificial intelligence like ChatGPT put an end to all writers?


When I was much younger, there were a few popular movies warning of the dangers of runaway artificial intelligence.

The first is 1983’s “WarGames,” in which a young hacker played by Matthew Broderick accidentally sets off a countdown to the launch of the full arsenal of US nuclear stockpile in the Soviet Union because the Pentagon ceded control of it. the intercontinental. ballistic missile system to a computer program, following the failure of humans to carry out launch orders during a training exercise.

The second is 1984’s “The Terminator”, where the killer robot Arnold Schwarzenegger is sent back in time by the sentient AI (called Skynet) in order to assassinate the resistance hero who will fight the AI ​​in the future. . I think I have that right. Honestly, I never understood the whole time travel aspect of the “Terminator” franchise. I watched the kicks and explosions, like everyone else.

The common moral of both of these cautionary tales is that humans should be careful not to leave too much control in the hands of algorithms. In “WarGames”, the world is saved when they successfully teach the computer a lesson that some games – like tic-tac-toe and global thermonuclear war – can’t be won, so best not to. not play.

I think the ‘Terminator’ franchise is too lucrative for Skynet to get one last lesson once and for all, but the warning is the same: when the artificial intelligence realizes how terrible people are, don’t be surprised if she decides that is not the case. necessary to keep us.

I was thinking of these two films in the context of the recent and extended public discussion of ChatGPT, the large language model artificial intelligence algorithm made publicly available by the OpenAI project.

ChatGPT can produce perfectly fluent prose for any question or prompt in seconds, and the first time you see it at work, it seems like a wonder. Its proficiency and fluency has some people freaking out about how ChatGPT has avoided most of what students are asked to write for school, given that it can produce an infinite number of B-level responses without triggering any type of plagiarism checker.

For me, this mainly challenges the type of writing that students do in school. Why do we train them to write like an algorithm?

But some people go even further by suggesting that this is the end for writers of all kinds, novelists, poets, journalists, etc. If an algorithm can deliver error-free prose on any topic in seconds, why would we accept the inevitable flaws that attach to human-generated writing?

Let me suggest that we look at the lessons of those movies from 40 years ago, where the limits of computerized “perfection” are illustrated, and perhaps see these human “flaws” as what makes that something is worth reading.

Of course, we should think about how to live and work in a world where this technology exists, but we also need to remember that as responsible humans, we have choice and power over technology. “WarGames” and “The Terminator” are about what happens when we abdicate our collective responsibility to honor what makes us human, our flaws and all.

ChatGPT cannot think or reason or make intuitive jumps. It’s a syntax-fixing machine, and writing isn’t just about fixing syntax. Even if creative writers start using ChatGPT as a tool, it will be human intervention that will determine if the product is really worth our time.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities”.

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Biblioracle book recommendations

John Warner tells you what to read based on the last five books you read.

1. “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles

2. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin

3. “That’s Happiness” by Niall Williams

4. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

5. “Young Mungo” by Douglas Stuart

—Alissa P., Chicago

Karen Joy Fowler’s “We’re All Completely Missing Us” has the right blend of character-driven narrative and in-story surprise that Alissa seems drawn to.

1. “On the Move” by Oliver Sacks

2. “Trust” by Hernan Diaz

3. “The Netanyahus” by Joshua Cohen

4. “Less is wasted” by Andrew Sean Greer

5. “Chang and Eng” by Darin Strauss

—Michael T., Wilmette

Kevin Wilson’s “Nothing to See Here” blends the real and the fantastic while adding a touch of humor, traits that are collectively represented in Michael’s recent reading list.

1. “The Wedding Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell

2. “Our Missing Hearts” by Celeste Ng

3. “Copperhead Demon” by Barbara Kingsolver

4. “Sea of ​​Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel

5. “Little things like these” by Claire Kegan

—Georgia M., Naperville

It’s a novel I recommend often because I think it’s a great combination of the emotional and the intellectual, as we see a man trying to get his life back after a major loss, and the world he believed in Formerly is challenged by new ideas and new people: “The Explanation for Everything” by Lauren Grodstein.

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