A note on AI tools

April 18, 2024 in Blog

You know AI has arrived when your elders are texting you ridiculous questions about it. The difference with AI is that a goodly number of the ridiculous notions about AI turn out to be true. And of course I’m using “AI” in the popular sense here, where we’re probably referring more to generative LLMs.

Anyway, you didn’t come here for that. You want to know: what percentage of my books came about with the assistance of AI tools? That’s easy to answer, so let’s get that out of the way first: zero percent. I don’t employ AI tools for any books or stories you buy from me, from cover to cover, from top to bottom.

Why is this important to say? Well it’s mostly about training data. And this is another topic that’s been thoroughly hashed out, so I won’t dwell too much. Essentially: LLM technology isn’t problematic in itself, but generative tools have largely been trained on data that’s unethically sourced, which taints anything they spit out. If one trains an LLM on non-problematic data, the problems by definition go away.

So how do I use AI tools? Well, for anything that’s not meant for creative, commercial purposes, AI can be a good tool to have around, in similar ways to a good search engine or an image editor. For ephemeral things like ad copy or book blurbs LLMs can be a time-saver, and for noodling on concepts or prompts such generative tools can be a good partner when your creative friends are otherwise occupied. Blog images? Fine, use an AI image generator, since that’s not something you’d traditionally pay an artist to do. (In the old days I’d grab some images from the net and composite them by hand. AI image generators essentially do the same.)

In short: AI-derived content can inspire or save time, but creative folks can’t pass it off as their own (nor should they find the idea desirable). If I write something and put it out there, it’s because I want to connect with you. And you—presumably—are interested in hearing an odd twisty story that came from an odd twisty writer. Stories are how we connect. AI tools can’t write stories, they can generate output. And no matter how lifelike their output, it’ll never be about human connection.

I do believe there’s a place for creative work that isn’t generated by humans. Club music is an example. Games are another. Interactive fiction has been around since the 70s, and that’s more about tailoring an experience to the individual than it is about connecting with an author.

There will always be a place for both things. But if you read one of my stories with your meat eyes into your meat brain, know that it was manually typed by meat fingers as instructed by my meat brain.

Okay now I’ve made myself queasy.