Artificial Intelligence Writing

What Upsets Some Writers about the Use of AI in Writing?

I recently listened to a panel discussion of authors reflecting on the use of ChatGPT. Although I agree with their broad skepticism towards using AI, there was an underlying attitude in their discussion—a negative attitude toward something else, something other than AI.

The critique against using AI, e.g., ChatGPT, in writing often rests on the assumption that its use takes us away from the purity—and the nobility—of the ‘blank page.’ But the page is never truly blank, not really. No writing takes place without reference to a structure. Recall how Cervantes taught (and lived!) this lesson in his masterpiece, Don Quixote.

Language carries within it frameworks that shape our thoughts and expressions. The first drafts we write are often a reflection—repetition—of those frameworks.

In using ChatGPT for getting a first draft, what becomes apparent is a more vivid representation of the structure that underlie our use of words. Could it be that this ever-present structure, and being reminded of it, is what really scares or unsettles the writer?

Rather than encouraging the writer, AI reminds them of how overwhelmed they already are in how they are positioned in language, how difficult it is—nearly impossible—to take a step in a direction that could be claimed as one’s own, as original.

The ‘blank page’ isn’t blank, but invisibly saturated with the constraints of language, culture, and other forces that define the space of speech. ChatGPT brings these forces into the foreground.

As I write this, I am reminded of the panelist who said, “When I think of using ChatGPT, I lose my desire to write.” Isn’t it more accurate to say that it is the machinic (artificial) desire/force of ChatGPT produces an overwhelming amount of force against which the writer’s desire is no longer felt?

The question we ought to take seriously: What does the ChatGPT first-draft contain? What does it express? From the perspective I am considering, the draft reflects the ‘inhospitability of language’, the inherent resistance of language to accommodate individual expression. The ChatGPT first-draft reveals the forceful structure of language in a way that isn’t visible to the writer confronting a blank page. But, either way, the writer cannot avoiding confronting those (forceful) structures.

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If you’re interested in this line of thought, you might be interested in our series of discussions on Understanding Post-Structuralism available through Patreon.

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