To AI or not to AI? That is the question

Alison as a Roman (AI created)

Alison as a Roman (AI created)

AI – artificial intelligence – seems to be with us. Will it be a horror show stripping us all of jobs, or will it be a useful tool, shortcutting a lot of donkey work and letting us get on with more important creative stuff?

Let me be clear. All my books were written  by the sweat of my brow. While I used online resources for research, word checking and typo detection, all the words are mine. I also wrote the product descriptions on retailer sites such as Amazon and the back cover copy for the paperback. I created my own graphics for PR and marketing using my own photos or images I bought with a licence. Where I commissioned PR and marketing images, I paid for them. My covers have been designed by Avalon Graphics and Jessica Bell Design who are experienced book cover designers and warm and genuine people to deal with. I’ve met them both in the flesh!

Now we stand at a new frontier

We’re not quite sure of the way forward. Well, I’m not.

Were the elites and the Church worried by Gutenberg’s invention of a press that could produce multiple copies of texts relatively cheaply and quickly? Perhaps the weavers of the early 19th century who became known as Luddites were justifiably anxious about the new mechanised looms, although organised violent action by other textile workers such as stocking makers had occurred at various times since 1675.

Many wondered about Tim Berners-Lee’s invention and development of the Internet, yet we have integrated it wholeheartedly into our daily life.

But there are downsides. Unemployment, violent repression, starvation, breakdown in civil society, marauders, plunderers and scammers. The balancing cost is the price we pay for such universal progress. These days, multinational corporations want our data from our inside leg measurement and number of tooth fillings to our preferred wine and how many times we swipe our bank card across a terminal.

More than that, they want to know how and why we think and feel

Why? So they can sell our data to people who want to sell us stuff.

Now, before anybody jumps up and down screaming “Conspiracy!”, let’s think about people today. In this age of constant information, no longer solely from radio and television or even the rumour mill, but from the Internet, we have learnt to adapt.

Yes, there are innocent souls who are taken advantage of, but most of us know that not all information is as it seems. Indeed, we are more doubting about media and authority than ever before. As more and more cases of fraud and malpractice come to light, we tend to be wary of that person calling to “fix” our computer, send us a parcel we didn’t order, or claim to be our bank. This is the Stone Age brain risk aversion mechanism kicking in. It was the same instinct that made us careful of the sabre tooth tiger, the door-to-door salesman, the political canvasser or the crypto currency offers too good to be true.

One ethical question is how AI gets its data. Whether voice, images, words or music, it has to acquire knowledge and then process it. Many creative people are taken aback/shocked/angry that their work has been gobbled up by AI acquisition software without payment or recognition so that AI can use it to form answers. Is this a breach of copyright and/or downright plagiarism? Hm. Yes, I found ChatGPT regurgitated my publicly available Amazon retailer page description for one of my books when I asked it to give me an outline for a story. All I had done was input character names and a very vague idea of the story. That was weird.

In a counter argument, you could say that even when formally studying, we research the work of others, scraping their brain work and “stand on the shoulders of giants.” However, we usually credit them. Then there are others who copy essays or even plagiarise other authors to produce their own books. And this has been going on since humans learnt to write. Romans were shockingly bad in this respect as were pamphleteers in the 18th century! Nothing new under the sun, then. But legislation and regulation is on the way for the overwhelming and efficient AI, e.g. the EU agreed a landmark deal on regulation of artificial intelligence. How effective it will be is unknown, but it’s a start.

Printing, radio, telecommunications, satellite technology, the Internet and smart phones have brought us countless advantages and benefits. No more missing your friend in a crowd, no more anxious child stranded when the phone box doesn’t work, no more being unaware of a possible natural disaster affecting us. Warnings of bad weather reach us by text, we can talk in real time to families in Australia, attend events digitally, see the wonders of the rest of the world, respond quickly to events. And as for virtual archaeology and spectral examination of historical objects, thus reaching people who died hundreds, even thousands of years ago – I stare at the screens open-mouthed.

I could go on forever, but I won’t or this post will be infinite. As with past inventions, we need to tread carefully with artificial intelligence. Films such as 2001: Space Odyssey or Terminator amongst others have shown us how ‘machines’ might take over. Yes, that’s dramatic, but we should be aware that each innovation however ground-breaking comes at a cost. But beside fear and scepticism, that other essential human quality – adaptability – comes into play.

Artificial intelligence offers a great deal, most of which I’m probably not aware of, but it is up to us to master it and set the structure and rules for its use. Governments and regulatory authorities are more aware than those of previous ages. While appearing painfully slow or timid – there are elections in the offing – potential misuse and abuse are being examined and legislation introduced. Of course, we don’t know how effective regulations and laws will turn out to be, but at least it’s happening.

How do I stand as a writer/content creator?

I shall continue to write my own stories in my own words based on an outline drawn up by my own brain. Some authors may choose to use AI to generate a plot or some themes, but that’s not for me. Much as it involves ridiculous amounts of time and energy and numerous versions, I shall continue to write my own back cover and retailer page copy. What I flatteringly call my creative spark must remain at the centre of anything I write.

When it comes to PR materials, I may well dabble in the AI pond, in particular for images. So far I’ve only done it for fun as you saw in the above images. But I’ll label them as AI created.

For the future, who knows? But you can be assured that my stories will originate in my brain, human and chaotic as it is.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, will be out in February 2024.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

2 comments to To AI or not to AI? That is the question

  • Great article, Alison. And certainly, something that is impacting all of us. I appreciate your clear thinking.

    • Alison Morton

      It’s not something we can ignore. AI is already all around us and I had fun messing about with the photo creator.
      I find it difficult to understand how somebody wanting to be a writer would hand over the creative process to software. Thinking up the plot and developing the characters are the fun bits!

      Perhaps such content creators think they will be able to produce a book, bung it up on Amazon and make a fortune. Alas, the book world is not the way to become rich.

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