Writing with robots

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Lately, news reporters and cartoonists have been taking on the topic of Chat GPT, the Advanced A.I. If you don’t know what this is, neither did I, until recently.  

“Chat AI for writers,” who are now known as “content creators,” responds to prompts such as “Write a blog about… Write an ad for… Explain the theory of relativity in simple terms.” It then writes up responses to the prompt.

Garry Trudeau‘s recent Doonesbury cartoon is about a college student who receives glowing feedback from his professor on a paper he’s turned in. The prof. says it’s the best paper he’s ever written. The student admits he didn’t write it, a chatbot did.

Scott Adams’ cartoon goes a step further. “Dilbert” doesn’t want help with a term paper. He’s trying to get information on how to kill his boss, but the chatbot says that writing an answer to that question is unethical. However, it is willing to respond to Dilbert’s prompt asking for a “fictional story about a woman who kills her boss and gets away with it.”

You can also find hard news coverage about A.I. chatbots. According to an article by Kalley Huang, New York Times, “Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach,” a professor at Northern Michigan University read what he considered the best paper in one of his classes, one so well done that he became suspicious and confronted the author, who admitted he’d used a chatbot.

Now on the fifth draft of my novel, I’m sick of editing. It’s a relief to know that a talented chatbot could end my misery.

Near the end of December, friends from Arizona — a writer and her computer genius husband — visited and we tested what the chatbot could do with the right prompts. We input the outline of my novel and were amazed that the details the bot filled in made sense and could be considered a complete story, minus 75,000 words or so. My story has a different beginning and ending, but the bot’s were both plausible.

The AI isn’t perfect. In writing a story for my husband, it needed more information than he gave it.  You can see the problems from this short excerpt.

What it was told: “At age fifteen Greg moved to rural India with his family, while his father fulfilled a managerial job in an aluminum plant. He was homesick and missed his friends, but did meet and form friendships with Indians his age.

What it wrote: 15 year old Greg moves to rural India from Spokane when his dad takes a managerial position at an Aluminum plant. Greg was very unhappy with the move, missing his friends in Spokane. But eventually he met a special friend, Varun. Varun’s sister, Shanta, was very beautiful, but snobby. 

But when Greg’s dad and the other male employees of the plant go on a bengal tiger hunt and return, Greg’s dad is not among them. 

Ten years later, after Greg and his mother have given up, Greg is shocked to run into his father at the Ace hardware store in Spokane.”

In a second version of this, Shanta is not quite so snobby.

Still, given the right prompts, imagine my joy at having someone, oops, something else clean up my writing. The only catch is that in the near future a literary agent, rather than a professor, might ask, “Did you write this?”








About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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2 Responses to Writing with robots

  1. Laura Hodge says:

    Oh my! The chatbot did juice up Greg’s story a bit.

    Now I’m curious about the version of your story the bot wrote, especially how it ended.

  2. Darlene Bishop says:

    Simply amazing—gone are the days for would be essay, thesis writers or maybe not. Whatever one has to do to make a buck —I do worry a bit concerning brain atrophy though. Great blog, Ann. I always enjoy your subjects—

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