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The rise of robot writers

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has begun to infiltrate the world of literature as a robot has been used to try to write books and imitate classic fiction. While the experiment was not foolproof, it has sparked the question of what this venture could mean for authors if the technology is developed further.

In a nutshell, I don’t think this is something we should worry about. While robots could end up writing a small proportion of literature published, I don’t see it threatening authors as robots simply aren’t able to have the creativity that human writers do. Humans are influenced by life experiences and emotions, things that a robot cannot experience. I imagine that works by robots could perhaps have the advantage of being seen as more interesting due to the fact they are produced by AI. Remove that novelty, however, and I do not feel it will be chosen over conventional fiction.

We need a real, human mind behind fiction

Not only is it likely to lack cohesiveness, even if the technology is further developed, I imagine it will also fall short in its meaning. Although the message of the author might not be the most important part of a text, it is impossible to ignore the importance of the author’s intention in creating the text. We need a real, human mind behind fiction. In reading, we often seek relatability, a part of the real world that robots cannot replicate. After all, AI stands for Artificial Intelligence: there is no real understanding or interpretation of the world around them. The ‘artificial’ aspect must be limiting to a degree.

We already criticise authors who publish books that are too similar to one another for being too formulaic, so I can’t see us particularly liking fiction written using an actual formula. This also leads to the issue of who gets authorship over the works produced by the robots. Does the credit belong to the people who programmed it? The problem with this is that AI technology relies on gathering large amounts of data to work out the most appropriate answers and so uses existing literature, raising questions of plagiarism.

AI may be useful in other areas as the technology develops but it does not seem suitable for writing fiction, which requires emotion that cannot be programmed

On the other hand, some might argue that all authors take inspiration from other texts and this is not much different. However, when authors take inspiration from other works it sparks new ideas in the writer’s mind, maintaining a level of originality. Each writer also has their own unique style which means that even a piece of work with a similar plot will have its own defining characteristics. This is something that I don’t believe to be possible with robots and therefore fiction by robots will not be successful enough to be considered a threat.

The works that robots create could be better used as inspiration, a launchpad for writers like random word generators are used to provide starting points. Perhaps the AI could give authors a paragraph of prompts from which to create a storyline from.

In short, I cannot see fiction written by Artificial Intelligence taking over due to the need of a ‘human element’ in fiction, as vague as that sounds. AI may be useful in other areas as the technology develops but it does not seem suitable for writing fiction, which requires emotion that cannot be programmed. However, I would be interested to read a book written by a robot, even if I can’t see it becoming my favourite author. The novelty of the technology could attract a lot of people initially, but the content is where it will inevitably disappoint.  Having said that, after seeing a video of a robot ticking a box to declare ‘I am not a robot’, I am inclined to keep an open mind when it comes to the future of AI fiction.

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