The muse vs the machine: exploring AI

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Clarkesworld — an independent publisher of science fiction and fantasy stories — temporarily shut down their submissions page.

I have yet to submit to them because SF/F isn’t my realm.

But they’re known as a solid paying market with quick response times.

The team shutting down submission is significant because of why.

The why is “writers” submitting generative AI stories.

I put “writers” in quotes because they’re not writers in the traditional sense.

People with a passion for writing, people with an unquenchable desire to tell a damn good story that erupted from the depths of a filthy soul with sunshine and rainbows and cow skulls in the fallow fields of our minds.

Guilliean’s Three Laws of Technology

I firmly believe in Asimov’s three laws of robotics, as dorky as that sounds. They are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect their existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

I apply those thoughts to how we interact with technology.

When I talk about technology here, I’m talking about computers, phones, software, hardware, and things of that nature.

Technology and the field’s cultural advancements weren’t created to harm humans or allow humans to come to harm.

We gave that control to technology.

We can quickly take it back if we want to.

That’s the beauty of free will.

Technology does what we tell it to do.

If I type “I hate pasta,” does that mean it’s my laptop’s fault for being the vehicle in which I expressed that thought? Nope.

Technology exists because we let it.

Tech doesn’t have the capabilities to protect their existence.

For example, a friend saves his photos to a hard drive.

Imagine the hard drive failing (which it was recently in the process of doing).

Does the hard drive have the inherent responsibility to protect their existence by not failing?


It goes back to Guilliean’s Second Law of Technology: it must obey orders.

It’s no secret that we continue to push the boundaries of what technology can do.

There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Generative AI is simply another medium that allows humans to push those boundaries.

It only harms if the person utilizing the tech is causing it to do so.

Free will is what separates us from the neutrality of tech.

A history lesson in handmade arts & crafts

If we continue that thought, tech should be making our lives easier.

Admittedly, I couldn’t work from home if it weren’t for tech.

A fiber internet connection, a company-issued laptop, and internet-friendly software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Box, and Clearscope.

Because of capitalism, people want to exploit every get-rich-quick scheme that tech supports.

In the early 2000s up until the middle of the decade, sites like eBay, Etsy, and Zazzle were the go-to source for sellers with used or handmade items looking for buyers.

It wasn’t long before people found ways to exploit that, dropshipping cheaply made items from foreign companies at a considerable markup, elbowing out honest people who depended on handmade arts and crafts to make an honest living.

For some, those handmade items are their livelihood.

They were talented enough to put up the time and money to invest in themselves further.

But anyone with my work-from-home setup can take advantage of that and sell a knockoff T-shirt of a funny image with a snappy quote and make some pocket change.

But what happens when consumers knowingly or unknowingly support those no-name thieves who stole artwork that someone spent hours and days on to be perfect?

My problem with generative AI

That’s what’s happening here with generative AI.

People only see dollar signs and not the total disruption of the creative process and, for some of us, the corruption of our humanity.

Art and beauty — and the ability to have an opinion on both — make writing my preferred medium to express myself.

But people using generative AI to churn out “stories” that they think will earn them a quick buck don’t see the blood, sweat, and tears that actual writers go through to do what we do.

It cheapens the process and devalues the producers.

I’ve seen what generative AI can do to images and what it’s now trying to do to text.

Have you read some of these stories and looked at these AI-generated images?

There’s no heart, no fire, no humanity.

The art it produces is cold and unfeeling.

To me, anyway.

A photo of a a red and yellow abstract painting with a black hole in the center.

I don’t write for money. If I did, I could be churning on self-published eBooks about asinine topics and, with some grit, could be raking in beaucoup bucks.

But I have a little more integrity than that.

I’m not knocking that process.

If that’s how you make your money, that’s how you make your money.

But you must understand that human creativity trumps capitalism a million times, and readers can tell the difference.

So I’m done seeing generative AI as a boogeyman to my creative process.

I will keep doing what I’m doing because no one can tell my stories as I can.

Generative AI will never be able to tell my story as an American of Filipino descent, living in a physical, mental, and emotional desert, struggling with identity and grief through my cinematic absurdist lens.

I don’t think you should be intimidated. Keep doing what you’re doing.

The only solution is to stand and fight.

Sign the Authors Guild’s open letter to generative AI leaders

Ready to improve your literary citizenship?


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