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When humans write for machines

Really, I have little interest in chatGPT, or AI in general. Even the AI science fiction I read as a teenager left me cold – for some reason, my reaction to a machine becoming sentient and devouring its human progenitors wasn’t My god how terrifying or How ironic, but So what?, a 🤷‍♂️how could you let that happen?

I only note that our latest dystopia has, unlike its predecessors, dispensed with the naïve, optimistic “we can use this technology to lead lives of leisure and learning” phase and headed straight to the end of days main course. And this only reflects 44 years of there is no alternative, our failure to summon the will to argue the toss with it, or conceive that what some Silicon Valley dude says isn’t necessarily the way things are and will forever be.

What I do find interesting is AI’s inverse – when humans communicate in a way that seems like AI. After all, this is a two way street, a process of give and take between man and machine.

[AI] is so good at simulating us because a lot of our own school and business language… is largely simulated. Oliver Reichenstein – The end of writing

Perhaps the most obvious example we can find is when we chance upon an article that has been written to be findable by a search engine. As a fully signed-up human being, you can feel it: the repetition of keyword phrases, the headings posed as questions, the headings for headings’ sake. All the fucking headings. We feel cheated. It can also seep into our more formal work dealings with each other, when we have a meeting with a certain number of people, especially when a fair proportion of them are senior. Often, the words are there, but they become detached from meaning, a semaphore of acronyms and clumsy phrases, signifying we understand the (language) game we are involved in, but little else.

If AI does mean we automate writing for machines, then that’s not a bad thing – if we start writing for humans.

…SEO: a programmatic set of instructions for gaming search-engine algorithms. If you write the keyword-laden babble for Emily’s Scrummy Kitchen, or monetised blog posts angling for answerboxes, or bludgeon-headed political takes that go viral every weekday, or flatly competent student essays, or little inspirational poems in lowercase, or absolutely anything to do with cryptocurrency — if your writing can be done by a machine because it is already machinelike—then ChatGPT will take your job. If you do screenplays for Netflix, it may have already done so. Sam Kriss – A user’s guide to the zairja of the world

That does perhaps leave Google in a bind. As the creator of machine algorithms that analyse machine generated language, at some point search engine results will presumably devour themselves, becoming completely detached from human intent and meaning, a form of minimalist poetry. That would be artificial intelligence, your AI irony.