Artificial intelligence, or AI, is in danger of posing a threat to novelists around the world. For some time, the likes of ChatGPT have been able to write short paragraphs of passable written prose, but we are still worlds away from the sophistication required for it to emulate timeless classics penned by the likes of Charles Dickens and playwright William Shakespeare.
However, the technology is rapidly accelerating, and writers have become so concerned that in the fall, a group of novelists filed a joint lawsuit against tech company OpenAI. The issue is proving divisive among the creative community, with some people fearful, while others embrace the technology and use AI as a tool to help them create unique works of fiction.
More than a dozen authors were involved in the lawsuit, stating that the ChatGPT system is able to summarize entire works, which suggest that the program is fed the whole book, unauthorized, and stored in large language learning models, without due copyright processes.
The novelists were shocked when they asked ChatGPT to elaborate on the details of minor characters in their works, with the program having details that were not available through online sources without reading the original books.
The case comes at a time when encroachment on the creative industry by AI is causing huge unease and disruption, and is the latest in a long line of lawsuits from creators looking to find legal pathways to halt the march of technology. The main worry from writers is that copyrighted material is taken and fed into databases without their permission, meaning that it will soon be easier for AI to emulate and copy their works, threatening the very sanctity of their creativity.
However, other authors are embracing the trend for technology. Far from it being something to fear, they interpret AI as something to be tamed, and which can even be useful in making the creative process more efficient.
AI can play a vital role in developing rough ideas, rapidly generating potential outcomes for scenes allowing the author to cycle through thoughts faster. Programs can also be taught to rephrase sections of writing and offer alternatives to make them more concise, meaning that writers can avoid becoming bogged down by linguistic blocks, and focus on the ideas that make them works of art.
AI image generators can also help writers by quickly illustrating scenes to visualize what is going on. This can help authors elaborate on concepts physically existing in front of their very eyes, and help them to fill gaps, come up with new ideas and plug any potential plot holes.
While novelists are understandably concerned about AI and how it impacts the creativity and legal integrity of their works, for now the likes of ChatGPT are still far from replacing them. Prose written by the platform is vulnerable to cliche and remains unconvincing to keen readers.
However, the ability of some authors to tame the beast of AI does usher in an interesting conversation on just how this technology could be used to open up literary creative opportunities, to create masterpieces of the future.