Could the next Leo Tolstoy or Jane Austen be a well-engineered AI software programme? It’s a question that is becoming increasingly pressing as machine language learning software continues to evolve. No one likes to face their own possible obsolescence — especially not writers, who prefer to believe that literary talent is unique and irreplaceable. Much of this is just nerves. Today’s AI creative writing programmes are not yet at a stage of development where they pose a serious threat to Colleen Hoover, say — or Charles Dickens. But while attention continues to focus on the possibility of a blanket takeover of human literature by AI, far less consideration has been given to the impending prospect of collaboration between humans and AI. It’s a scenario that is — depending on your point of view — either already here or hovering just around the corner. Earlier this month, American sci-fi writer Ken Liu, who has a clutch of Hugo and Nebula awards to his name, joined 12 other professional authors for a writing workshop on Google’s Wordcraft. This AI tool, which is based on LaMDA, a non-sentient language learning model, is not yet publicly available but is billed as an “AI-powered text editor” that can, when given the right prompts from the writer, chip in with helpful descriptions, create lists of objects or emotional states, and, at a pinch, brainstorm ideas.
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