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Why ‘AI’ Ain’t so ‘I’

Author: Pete Court

Artificial Intelligence is really beginning to push its way into our everyday lives. In recent weeks it has taken over discussions at schools and universities about how to cope with the fact that in minutes, a computer can do the work a student would normally spend hours creating. Or spend weeks procrastinating about.

I teach creative writing at tertiary level so I’m hearing all the arguments and wondering why I bother teaching people how to become effective writers when their smartphone can do it better than they ever will. But then I notice one thing we have done that makes it scarier than it should be. We see it as ‘Intelligence’ instead of focusing on the bit that says ‘Artificial.’ Like finding that cherry-flavoured lollies don’t really taste like cherries, because the flavouring is artificial. Okay, artificial flavourings still sell, and artificial Intelligence will have its place, but will it wipe out the skill of writing and communicating? No. Not if you want to communicate with human beings. Why? Because humans like to feel what they are reading, not just read it. Take any great piece of writing, chose your own favourite book or poem, songs even, and see how much they are more than just words. Real writing, good writing, reaches your heart, not just your head. For an even clearer explanation of why I’m not worried about losing my job as a novelist to a laptop, let me share this little conversation I had with a prominent chat bot.

‘What can a chat bot NOT do?’ I asked it, feeling a bit like I was asking a Coke bottle what was so good about Pepsi. The chat bot looked at me, thought a moment, and then spewed out seven Dot points. Each with a brief explanation and no referencing. Bot said, and I quote:

Chatbots, like myself, are powerful tools for generating text, but there are certain things that we cannot do. Some limitations include, (And I paraphrase from here on because all this chatbot can do is state, it doesn’t self-edit or refine itself at all!)

  1. Lack of understanding of context: Chatbots are not able to understand the nuances and subtleties of human communication.
  2. Lack of creativity: we don’t have the ability to create something truly new and original.
  3. No emotions: Chatbots are not able to respond emotionally to a user’s statement.

The ‘bot then added another four good reasons why it wasn’t really writing. It was simply regurgitating. And this is why, as a writer, I’m not really that worried. As long as I continue to appeal to people’s hearts and heads, I will continue to be a good writer. So, nothing’s changed there. What I won’t need to do, however, is waste my time writing contract boilerplate or the bland factual twaddle that some professions rely on. In other words (See what I did there?) the people who need to worry about losing work to AI chatbots are Lawyers. And certain newspaper journalists. For the creative world, Chat bots may be just the thing that makes good writing even more important, to make writers focus on reaching out to human hearts and minds. Just like we have since people first started writing and reading.

In short, the short coming of so-called AI is simple. A good writer can make you laugh, cheer, fume, even cry, just with the understanding in their words. Ask a chat bot; “Write something that makes me cry,” and all it can do is show you how much of your life you waste on Instagram

Dr Pete Court Lectures in Creative Writing and Communication at Tabor College.

He joins Aiden in the Arvo on Wednesdays to talk science and is a novelist and writer.

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