In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at whether AI will write really good poetry in 2023 and how Covid will continue to influence the shape of the book world.
Do listen to November's Self-publishing News podcast here. Howard and I are talking about the question everyone's asking: should we leave Twitter and if we do, where do we go?
AI Is Writing Poetry: will it be as good as humans in 2023?
If the week before Christmas was a time to look back, then the week before New Year is a time to pick some stories that present an opportunity to look forward. What better way to start than with a fitting finale to one of the rolling stories of the year? One that offers us a glimpse both fascinating and alarming into what the future might hold. The year started with really good voice narration. By last week we had reached a position where we were talking about Open AI trying and failing to watermark ChatGPT content because AI chatbots were getting too good at mimicking human words.
But it turns out 2022 wasn’t done with us. This past couple of weeks has seen stories in the relative mainstream media of AI creeping into that most seemingly human of creative areas. Poetry. A fascinating article by a professor of psychology has been doing the rounds. It analyses the so-far less than Wordsworthian achievements of AI poetry. And there is an acknowledgement that future efforts should not be prejudged based on present ones. I agree wholeheartedly. But at the end of the article, Professor Holyoak outs his prejudices. AI poetry will never achieve what a human poet can, he opines, because it lacks “inner experience.”
I suppose a psychologist should not be expected to be objective about the mind-body problem, but that still feels painfully naïve. My 18-year-old philosophy students would have had something to say. Indeed, the general retreat of the “creative AI” deniers – moving from one “OK, so AI can do this but it will never do that” to the next as AI catches up faster and faster – feels like a rerun of arguments about the existence of God 200 years ago from which neither side, it seems, has learned anything.
One thing I am certain of. If AI is now writing poetry, that’s sufficient to get people saying it’ll never be really any good at writing poetry, it’ll soon be winning awards. Probably in 2023.
How Covid Continues to Shape the Book World
When I gazed into my crystal ball at the end of 2019, I had no idea the extent to which 2020 would turn not just the publishing world but the whole world on its head. Covid changed the way the book trade meets at a global level to do business; the way workers meet at a company level to do business. It accelerated changes in streaming, in audio, in the genres we read, and in how freely publishers took to lending out their lists. And it led to mass re-evaluations of our lives as employees and employers alike came to realise that people would no longer stand for practices that had been taken for granted for decades.
Publishers’ Weekly has a really interesting look at the way in which Covid, and the world’s (and industry’s) response to it, continues to influence publishing. It cites the growing activism of employees that has led to the strikes at Penguin Random House, and the ways the book fair circuit has attempted to reinvent itself, along with a growing politicization of everyday life that has leaked into a worrying growth in censorship.
My sense is that there is a lot of shaking down still to be done as we reflect on the last 3 years. In particular, large institutions continue to struggle to respond adequately to the challenge not just of a changing landscape, but workforces that are increasingly demanding to be allowed to be themselves at work in their full individuality, and more fragmented, fractious, and discerning audiences. It feels like a time when niche, and direct contact with customers and suppliers alike, really matters. And when we need an agility to pursue different platforms and media for our rights in different countries with their different climates. Not to mention, to go back to our opening story, the agility to decide whether and how to adopt and work with new technology. In other words, it’s the time to be indie.
See you all next week in a new year, and wishing you all the very best 2023, and success for whatever goals you will be chasing.Self-publishing News: AI is Writing Poetry. Will it Get Good at it in 2023? Click To Tweet