Why Artificial Intelligence Can’t Kill Your Next New Favorite Poet

As you may have noticed, a tsunami of existential dread is sweeping creative writers and writing professors. The basic chorus of post-apocalyptic dread goes something like this:

  • AI will make student essays as easy to generate as the calculator did math computations, eliminating the need for students to learn to write and eliminating the need for writing instructors;
  • AI will replicate human prose so well that misinformation and fraud will overwhelm free, fair, and healthy civilization;
  • AI has already reached the singularity, that is, it can write programs that generate new AIs. AI’s will replicate themselves beyond the control and awareness of humans—it’s an invisible golem, a digital Frankenstein’s monster (learn more here, “Can We Stop Runaway AI?”);
  • AI will soon write stories, poems, and scripts so masterful no publisher or producer will need to hire another quirky, cantankerous, and starving artist again. Writers are witnessing their own obsolescence.

However, happily, the 2010 poet laureate of Texas, karla k. morton, author of Madville’s Turbulence & Fluids, has a surprisingly upbeat take on the future of poetry and language arts. She gave me hope, and I know she’ll raise your spirits too. If you want to get right to it, scroll down and push the play button!

Why some writers are worried:

Experts agree AI has already achieved a fearsome imitation of “intelligence,” and it’s accelerating. Perhaps human or human-like thought isn’t limited to neurons any more than transportation is limited to feet. Just as humans transport themselves faster and farther by bicycles, cars, trains, planes, and rocket ships, so, perhaps, will AI speed us—and itself—ever more rapidly from one notion to another. It’s progress, destiny.

You could say AI is just another man-made tool created by humans to make life easier for humans. It’s just rendering the arduous skill of writing obsolete. The art of cooking once included collecting, drying, and storing firewood and other combustibles, then arranging them to maximize and maintain the right temperature. What a chore and a bore! We went from wood- or coal-fired ovens to gas to electric to microwave. Now we cook in the Instapot that takes up too much counter space or use a smartphone to order DoorDash that writing instructors can’t really afford.

Writing as we practice it may get phased out gradually. Soon writing students may see an evolution in their craft similar to those in visual arts, who may never hold an all-lead pencil and for whom the origin of the word “palette” is lost. The art of writing, likewise, may be rapidly evolving, perhaps into multimedia forms. My friend Rick Wilber says soon tourists will pay to watch writers work the way they do blacksmiths in Gettysburg. Maybe I can get a job using my magnifying glass to look up words in my OED. I’d probably make more than I did teaching at the university.

My Oxford English Dictionary in a two-volume box set with a drawer for the magnifier, copyright 1971.

karla k. morton says “Bring It!”

The truth is, AI isn’t about to pen the thirty-ninth Shakespeare play or put John Grisham out of business. Here’s a reality check from technology reporter Cade Metz, “Understanding this Moment in Artificial Intelligence.”

It the brief interview below, karla and I discuss whether it matters to readers or listeners if the writing is created by AI rather than a real human.

We ponder what AI will mean for writers in a world where readers and audiences may consume a glut of AI-generated writing and blockbuster scripts and bestselling novels fall from the cloud like snowflakes: cheap, easy, and free. karla doesn’t see that happening. The spells we humans weave for each other will always thrill more than a yarn spun by AI.

Just as certain videos haven’t fully replaced lovemaking, there’s something in the human-to-human transaction that AI can never replicate. It takes an artist and an audience to cast the spell of duende; karla calls upon us all to rise to the challenge.

She may be your next new favorite poet–if she isn’t your favorite already.

karla k. morton on Mad About Writing


1 reply »

Please join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.