There’s a lot of hype surrounding AI right now, and not much in the way of substance. In many cases a purported AI system is little more than a concatenation of if-else statements (or even worse, low-wage workers hired to fake AI functionality) but the hype is so loud right now that media outlets continue to speculate about what AI could do next.
On Friday Quartz decided to show us just how little we had to fear from AI actually taking writing jobs away from human beings.Under the title “Amazon has everything it needs to make massively popular algorithm-driven fiction”, Quartz published a 1,283 word piece that was clearly written and published without any human intervention whatsoever.
Yes, just to show us what AI can really do, Quartz has handed control of the content on their site to an AI. This is clearly the case because no human would publish such a long piece without making sure it included an argument or at least a topic sentence. This piece has neither, and while this piece was coherently written, its lack of key details gives away its AI-generated source.
Kudos, Quartz, for showing us the limitations of AI.
O O O
Since my sense of humor is sometimes obtuse, I want you to know that I am actually mocking Quartz here. That piece is so badly written that it really doesn’t have an argument for me to counter. It is a rambling recital of facts that never approaches a point or reaches a conclusion.
It is so bad that one could honestly use it as an example of human-generated content setting the bar so low that an AI could easily replace a writer.
Edit: This piece is so badly written that someone had to explain to me that it was really about garden variety analytics that is commonly used by news sites, and not algorithms at all.
But could AI replace book authors?
Sure – I don’t expect it to happen, but it is technically possible. Computers have been writing books for over 30 years, just not at scale. At this point the concept is more an idea than a reality, and I don’t see there being enough money in AI-generated books to motivate anyone to create an AI that could credibly write books.
The thing about the book market is that it is neither high-volume nor high-profit compared to many other markets. The ebook market really isn’t that big (not compared to games, or finance software, or just about anything you can name). There are any number of B2B uses for AI that will generate a much better return for Amazon than AI-generated books (as I am sure Amazon has already concluded) which is why I have to wonder why Amazon would waste their time with this idea.
Furthermore, there are so many examples of human-powered fake AI (even for things like receipt digitization, a feat much simpler than writing a whole book) that I would put good money on the probability that any commercial publisher claiming to produce AI-written books will actually be lying to us, and will actually be sourcing their books from ghost writers.
It is easier to fake AI than to make AI, after all. (And when it comes to books, it is also probably cheaper.)