AI, Writing Models and Medium

Don’t Feed the Machine

Leo Cookman

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I work for a university and much is being made about the sudden influx of AI written essays at the moment. The worry from-on-high (and certain sections of the media) is that AI written essays are the death of education and that ‘cheating’ by getting a computer to write your assessed work will now be the standard. Brushing aside the fact that this illustrates what a crock standardised testing is and how archaic and out of date the education system itself is, it also shows how uncritically people treat what they read. Every lecturer I’ve met so far can spot an AI essay a mile away. Much like AI art, the initial glance is convincing but any more than that and the sudden uncanny-ness of it becomes clear. For this and many, many other reasons, AI is not the revolution some fear and others welcome, it is, as ever, good marketing driven by people who want to sell a product. There has been no sudden leap forward in the technology, it’s just more prevalent currently. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have serious drawbacks, just look at the the Hollywood studio execs who genuinely think AI script writing is going to be a thing. But hang on, if, at current standing, AI screenplays read worse than the chimp at the typewriter, why do these executives think this can work?…

I’m reading a book at the moment (I won’t name it for reasons that are about to become clear) and, within a chapter, I said out loud “This person did a creative writing degree”. A quick google later and not only had they done a creative writing degree, they now taught a creative writing degree. Now I have to be careful here because I know people and am friends with people who have done creative writing degrees, but I do think it is fair to say that there is a particular style that comes with that degree. It’s very hard to pin down but it often falls under the category of ‘Literary Fiction’ if the degree project is published (they often are). It’s a very cerebral tone, bordering on arch, that weaves factual and documentary text with a social realist tone while also introducing very specific, often graphic, imagery. The prose is often quite clipped, adjective-less and deliberately directional, picking out specific, seemingly irrelevant, details that are used to represent some part of the subtext. In short, its a style of writing that draws attention to its…

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Leo Cookman

Peripatetic Writer. “Time’s Lie” out now from Zero Books.