No, I had issues with the AI tools from the beginning. I know several prominent artists in the SFF community, some who work with abstract digital tools, and they were all concerned about AI image generation, because of the plagarism aspect of training those tools.

Then ChatGPT emerged, and the use of it by some of those "get rich quick" sorts promoting the use of it to make money fast in writing. This piece isn't new, either. Last summer there was much discussion in a Kindle Vella forum I'm part of about how one company was spamming Vella and generating false buys in order to game the Vella bonuses.

The fact that ChatGPT and other writing AI have been trained using the writing of others without express permission is extremely problematic. The degree to which some writers are already using these tools in generative work is extremely unethical and problematic, and I'm going to call out people who use AI for prompts, expanded thesaurus, or "different perspectives" on their work. They're calling upon a tool that has been unethically trained and putting ethical concerns aside, in my opinion. I've also read and heard examples of the alleged "help" from AI drafting.

It homogenizes the voice of the writer. It purges their unique perspective into a mishmash.

Don't get me wrong. I don't fear the AI. It is stronger than human intelligence in crystallized intelligence--knowledge acquired--and in processing speed and memory retrieval. But this is a mechanical superiority over HI, caused by processing power that can grind away at the cognitive wheel. HI is superior to AI in the application of fluid intelligence--that intuitive and deductive leap that creates out-of-the-box solutions to all sorts of problems. I'm currently reading some psychometricians (psychologists who study cognitive assessment measures and devise them) on the subject of AI, and that's the leap that some believe AI cannot take.

Even given that HI is superior to AI in fluid intelligence and will probably remain that way, there is still the ethical implications of using an unethically trained tool. AI will not produce a good work of creative writing soon, if ever. The reports from Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke and other discussions I'm privy to in a private forum suggest that the AI works are poorly written and easily identified.

But. AI has many potential uses in the creation of instructions, generating certain types of promotional text, and standardizing certain documents. Were I still involved in special education case management, I'd be advocating for its use and training to construct Individual Education Plans, simply because a.) it has the potential to reduce the heavy paperwork load on those individuals and b.) the quality of some of those IEPs is staggeringly awful. It would become possible to change IEP updates from a process taking an hour to several hours to a much quicker, uniform, and more useful document.

HI will still need to be used to check and correct this sort of writing. But that is AI's potential in writing. Not in creative work.

That said, every piece of creative work I am sending out from now on, whether a self-published novel, a Substack post, or short story cover letter is going to contain the following statement:

"No generative AI has been used in the conceptualization, development, or drafting of this work."

Expand full comment
Mar 6Liked by Simon K Jones

I use all of it and I’m obsessed. ChatGPT has been so much more useful than Google for researching my essays and novel chapters. Even if I have to fact check, it’s better than clicking on a hundred links that are all SEO content that don’t contain what I’m looking for. And yes I have been loving Midjourney for creating images for my novel chapters!

Expand full comment

I can see these tools being very useful eventually. At the moment, I think they are quite problematic - sharing misinformation, using copyrighted artwork, etc - and require some real oversight. I don't use them and don't really want to, but I accept that people want these tools and they will be used.

Expand full comment

I am currently too lazy to learn how to use it. But I am sure it will get easier. I imagine AI will be great for most people until it takes over and eliminates “flawed organic life.” Thankfully, I am already old. 😉🤓

Expand full comment

Current status: energetically avoiding

Expand full comment

I dislike generative AI as an artist -- the way they've been trained and used to this point has worsened the already ubiquitous problem of art theft and the devaluing of the art people create. Anything that encourages an environment of disrespecting artists on any level is a no-go in my books. The culture of AI is not something I want to be part of.

Expand full comment
Mar 6Liked by Simon K Jones

There is a difference between using it as a tool and using it for everything to not do any work. I can already see that there are plenty of people who are doing exactly that.

Expand full comment

I've used writing tools a little bit to "prime the pump" on some writing for my day job. Often they just got me unstuck by showing me exactly what I didn't want to say. Useful, I suppose.

I guess I just find the work they produce uninteresting and they kind of miss the point, at least for me. The point of art, one of the points, is to facilitate a relationship between and among people It's not just the thing, it's the person and their world and the interaction therein that led to the thing that is now in conversation with a different person in a different world.

I suppose sooner or later we will become more machine and machine will become more human and we will relate to one another as equal-self to equal-self, but we're not there yet.

Expand full comment

I used the Dream by WOMBO app for quick image generation for my substack posts, then read negative articles about its effect on artist and theft of styles, so got uneasy and quit. I still use filters that make my photos look like paintings.

Expand full comment

I use midjourney-generated images for the main illustration of my substack posts. I see it as a tool to express myself better. Just like a painters brush + paint are tools that make it easier to make a drawing than painting with bare fingers and charcoal.

I also use it to make coloring pages for my kids based on their own desires/prompt ideas.

I’m not really for or against in general. It really depends on the use etc. I do feel that when someone uses a specific artist’s style in the prompts they should mention them as a source/inspiration at least.

Expand full comment

Ah. Forgot to comment here.

A word of definition - I'll assume, Simon, you're specifically referring to GENERATIVE AI tools - those that seek to "create" with minimal input from a user. I make this distinction as, among other tools, I'm typing this on a smartphone using SwiftKey - a keyboard app which can be set to read one's emails and social media accounts to learn how I wrote and use AI to improve its autocorrect and predictions.

Thus, yes, I do use multiple AI based/enhanced tools, from SwiftKey to On1 PhotoRaw to Vegas Pro and Topaz Video and beyond.

Here we get into different "classes" of AI tools. On1 PhotoRaw uses AI based tools extensively - especially with version 2023. However most of the tools are based around "smart masking." Let's say I have a photograph of a person standing on a beach, looking out across a lake. On the far side of the lake are hills with some buildings. PhotoRaw now uses "AI smart masking." If I select the "AI superselect" tool it will attempt to isolate elements as I mouse over them - the person, sky, foreground beach, background hills, buildings, water; even the foliage. Once an element is isolated I can either left click then move my mouse over another element to add to the selection, or I can right click and assign effects or filters to that element. In practice, this means if I want to tweak the color balance of the trees, I mouse over the trees, right click and add the color balance effect. However, this is basically speeding up the tedious process of masking (note also the AI masks aren't always perfect, but I have manual masking tools to clean up). The software isn't making all the decisions for me.

Ok, fine, there's an AI exposure tool, but I rarely use it because the AI doesn't adjust images to my personal taste. I may use AI exposure in culling to get a better idea of what an image can look like, but I reset and redo shots I'm keeping.

But PhotoRaw even now has "AI presets." Click a preset and it does X to the water, Y to the land, Z to the sky, A to the person, B to the buildings and C to the foliage. Pretty sweet. Of course it's applying masked, non destructive filters to all the elements, and I can go in and tweak everything. Still, I LOVE these. Now I can work on a single image and really quickly stick the same looks on everything else in the set without tedious masking or copy/pasting filter settings. Thanks, AI tools! You've removed most of the boring bits and let me get onto the fun bits!

That's the type of AI tool I like. It's doing the annoying tedious bits for me - pretty well, usually 99% there, sometimes only 80% - and letting me get onto my creative work.

Generative? Not for me. I'm not the best artist, photographer, editor, anything-else-I-do by far, but I worked to develop what skills and techniques I have. With a Generative thing I don't feel I have control - because I don't. I also get bored because I'm sitting waiting for the random AI thing to spit out, and, more often than not, it isn't giving me what I want.

Simon, I like to think our discussion on WhatsApp two days before you published this influenced the article. For any not-Simon person who may read this, the discussion was on how certain of my friends were admiring some YouTube channels that do quick, boring slideshows of AI generated content. Think "Star Wars, but it's 1950's."

Not only are the images generative AI, but the videos are straight static slideshows without the editor even bothering to "Ken Burns" pan/zoom or even crossfade between slides. They're straight static images with no rhyme, reason or attempt to order the images into a narrative flow. They are likely the images taken in the random order generated, dumped on a timeline and rendered out and it's so boring and utterly fucking lazy that I'm actually offended this utter shit is garnering 10's of thousands of views.

So to prove a point to these friends I allocated one hour to generate as mamy "Avengers, but it's 1920's" images as I could. To take a step of effort beyond what these YouTube channels did (where their "Princess Leia in the 1920's" images all had different faces) I even specified actors! Errol Flynn as Tony Stark, Lou Costello as Hulk, Eddie Anderson (best known as "Rochester" from Jack Benny's shows) as T'challa. Among other things the limits of the AI model's training became clear. Let's just say the AI didn't know who any of my non-white actors were, and Stable Diffusion has only one black male face - high cheekbones and a goatee. The racist training of the AI is a different topic...

But, to finally get to my goddamned point after paragraphs of setup, I moved on to "Avengers, but it's 1950's. Here we ran into issues. I gave myself an hour to generate prompts. 45 minutes were wasted, because no matter which prompt I used the AI was utterly unable to ever understand that "Peter Lorre as Hulk" means "Give me a shirtless, green muscular man with Peter Lorre's head." (Yes, I tried that as a prompt.) Basically I ended up both bored after an hour of watching a scrolling Discord thread, AND annoyed I didn't get the image I wanted and PISSED because I could have done it myself in Affinity Photo in a couple of minutes.

I don't like the AI tools because they aren't very good. I'm better. But I'm slower. I've already lost work to generative AI tools. A friend working for a major game studio is fighting to keep 50 jobs from being replaced with an intern and a generative AI. I wouldn't give a rat's arse if people used the tools, but the bottom line is they are going to cost jobs (hey programmers, ChatGPT can code!)! Which only matters because we remain on an antiquated, millenia old model across most societies of tokens (money) earned through labor for food and shelter, and AI art tools, AI self driving cars, robotic factories, et al remove jobs without creating new jobs to replace them.

These disruptive technologies have appeared for centuries - sewing machines took work from seamstresses, automated factories took work from laborers, synthesizers took work from musicians (don't argue with this, the average Broadway or West End orchestra was 50-100 musicians before 1980, now it's 15-30. The synthesizers and backing tracks took over half the jobs). The AI revolution will take more.

And that's a real problem when we're on the "work to eat" kick.

Yup this comment just took a turn into advocating a "Universal Basic Income" brand of socialism!

Expand full comment

I haven’t used or noticed AI in writing-related activities, although I did read what you wrote about deciding not to use it.

Generally I’m afraid of AI and really don’t want to see humans become obsolete, so I won’t be using it for anything.

Expand full comment

The hardest thing to do as a creative is to start with a blank canvas Ai allows you not to do that.

I feel writers and artist should treat Ai the same way we treated our vision boards or inspiration Pinterest.

You use it as a way to model what you are after but you still need to do the work yourself

Expand full comment

I have started to use it more for software programming and I can see the value immediately. While associate programmers with only a few years' experience may not find it as useful, because you don't know what you don't know, I can very precisely narrow down a problem domain and have a polished solution with little editing. The code is production ready in minutes vs. hours. In the past I would have been concerned about this progress, but it's a large leap from that to AI is going to steal my job.

One thing I mentioned in my recent post about this, is simply the disruption it's going to cause in traditional publishing. Con artists will find ways to manipulate systems using AI as their slave assistant. They will overwhelm the little guys who can't keep up with the influx of submissions and attempts to make a quick buck. I'm trying to recognize the trend and make adjustments to my strategies as a writer.

Expand full comment