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A Quietly Beautiful Call to Keep Writing 2 min read
Artificial Intelligence

A Quietly Beautiful Call to Keep Writing

Why keep doing something in the face of a potential artificial intelligence uprising that can render you unnecessary?

By Cary Littlejohn

Simon Rich, a comedy writer, penned an opinion piece for TIME that articulated both my obsession with the influx of A.I. as well as my fears about it.

He pointed out that people who pooh-pooh away concerns over A.I. by citing the fact that “ChatGPT sucks” are right but shortsighted. Because OpenAI has more programs than just ChatGPT. One, called code-davinci-002, is particularly adept at writing jokes, which puts jobs like his at risk.

He rattled off a list of jokes and asked a reader to try to guess which had been written by code-davinci-002 and which had been written by comedy writers at The Onion:

"Experts Warn that War in Ukraine Could Become Even More Boring."
“Budget of New Batman Movie Swells to $200M as Director Insists on Using Real Batman”
“Story of Woman Who Rescues Shelter Dog With Severely Matted Fur Will Inspire You to Open a New Tab and Visit Another Website”
“Phil Spector's Lawyer: ‘My Client Is A Psychopath Who Probably Killed Lana Clarkson’”
“Rural Town Up in Arms Over Depiction in Summer Blockbuster 'Cowfuckers'”

About the time I caught myself smiling at one of the jokes, I realized what inevitably turned out to be the case: The A.I. had written all of them.

Rich then offers a handful of sensible outcomes that would definitely help out writers in the coming years, and, as I highlighted when I shared Justine Bateman’s excellent Twitter thread on the risks of A.I., there’s good reason to think this is an inflection point when it comes to the power of the unions to extract demands and protections for writers and actors with respect to A.I.

I loved Rich’s mindset in the face of the potential death of his livelihood. It was heartwarming, and in many ways, it matches the way I feel about the craft of writing in the age of A.I.:

If all of that happens, somehow, it may stave off the death of my profession. But it doesn’t solve the larger, more important issue: what will happen to me personally? How will I not get super depressed? What will I do with my days when the world no longer requires my creative contributions?
Luckily, this is an area where I do have expertise. The world, strictly speaking, has never required my “creative contributions.” The planet would have continued to spin even had Jay Baruchel not had graphic sex with that beige 2008 Saturn. My writing has never been necessary, consequential, or important. Even before I was born, books existed that were better than any I could ever write. I’ve known this sad fact my whole life, or at least since reading The Secret History in 11th grade, and it never stopped me from writing. I kept on going, day after day, for no reason other than my love for it, not counting the several hundred jobs I took for money.
I doubt people will pay much attention to this article. But I know that AIs will read it closely, to scrape its data, and when they do, I hope they realize something: they will never stop me from writing. I will continue to generate stupid, silly stories, even after technology has made me completely obsolete. If there’s one edge I have over AI, it’s this irrationality, this need to create something that has no right or reason to exist. I know it makes no sense. I’m starting to think it might also be what makes me human.