The hero isn't always the good guy, or girl.

Let’s talk AI.

Or, as I have deemed to call it, Automated Idiocracy.

Every once in a while I drag the soap box out and get people upset. That’s because I’m human. If I were a machine, my goal would be to appease as many CONSUMERS as I could. (Note, deliberate word choice there in all caps.)

But, I’m not a machine. I hope it comes out in my blog posts, my social media, my ad copy, and these blogs. I might even video post about stuff. That way, you see the me that I am. Again, not a machine.

This week, (18 Aug 2023) Judge Beryl Howell upheld the U.S. Copyright Office’s decision to deny a copyright registration to Stephen Thaler for an AI-generated image made with the Creativity Machine algorithm he’d created. (citation: https://www.theverge.com/2023/8/19/23838458/ai-generated-art-no-copyright-district-court)

This decision will have a ripple effect for some authors as well. (One could only hope) As machine-generated content blocks flourish, the courts would deem works created using generative AI ineligible for copyright. The questions swirling around the drain right now are “How much content?” and “What if I…(insert stupid examples like spell check here—FYI spellcheck is basically using the dictionary and writers have used dictionaries for a long-ass time. So it truly is a stupid example to use in a pro-generative-AI argument.)?” There is a line somewhere and the embracers of AI (again, Automated Idiocracy) of this world NEED to know how far they can put their greedy little toes over it so they can make money without the work, and not lose it by getting sued for FRAUD and/or PLAGARISM/copyright infringement.

Oh, YES. I went there.

Here’s the nuances of what those greedy little toe-owners are doing to YOU, the reader. They are commodifying your eyeballs for their AI (you know…) grubbery. Their books get in front of your search results. Their images get slapped in every stupid pop up social media “info-news-entertainmment” site that wasn’t there four days ago. You’re EXPECTED to ooo and ahhh over this wizardry and (drumroll) BUY THEIR BULLSHIT because you, a person, no longer matter. Only your money does.

As long as your money is good, these scammers do the absolute minimum to churn out more cow manure for you to consume.

Meanwhile, craftspersons, artists, writers, people who have dedicated YEARS to learning the trade, are feeling the bite. Sales are down despite Amazon Kindle payout pools being at a high-water mark. I wonder if when the floodwaters will recede and expose the scum and debris lying at the bottom of the broken levee?

I’ve been pursuing the craft of writing since 2001. That was the year I stopped dabbling and started cracking open the books, taking courses, lurking and posting on author forums, attending conferences, researching trade organizations, and began living, breathing, sleeping, and dreaming stories. It wasn’t a whim. It was an obsession.

The more I wrote, the more it grew. The muses (plural) who graced my childhood, began lurking in my home. Art, writing, music, they were WELCOME and still are. Their aid sustained me through some extraordinarily rough times. Quite literally, the arts saved my life and my children’s by existing and flourishing around us and giving us something beautiful to numb the pain, or something painful to help us counteract the numbness. By letting these things take root in my house, our wounds were given the chance to crust over and heal.

Images from H.R. Giger’s work.

In 2015, I finally said “why NOT me?” and began publishing the stories I created. I made a ton of mistakes. But, you see, that’s human. Those errors, that RAW work, the imprecision of it all, is human, not a polished, souless machine-driven output packaged so slickly you can’t help but click on it. Because I didn’t write it for consumers. I wrote for me—for my wounded, but healing soul. Down in Blood especially so. It’s disjointed and chaotic and horribly paced. But if you peek under those flaws, you get a glimpse into the weight I’ve carried in my own scars. I predict that no machine will know those things, because by iteration, the flaws will be removed. By automated idiocracy, readers and viewers will be reduced to commodity status. A click here, a purchase there, and all tracked to better hone where your money flows from your pocket to theirs.

Meanwhile, dinosaurs like me with wounded souls will wither. Their funds dried up by the winds of change. This “technological advancement” has added more cuts on top of wounds that never healed quite perfectly.

Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I would have been better served to live in a different age. But I will continue to be extremely wary of any writer or artist who dumps the craft in exchange for Automated Idiocracy. In my GUT I suspect they are supplementing a lack. Whether it is talent, emotion, or simply a lack of morals, I don’t know. Maybe a combo of all three. For me, I’ll continue to develop my sarcastic, Gen-X-feral tone and plug away on my work. Because doing it in those new-fangled ways doesn’t produce the same amount of flaws that tell a HUMAN story. There may be typos. There may be horrible grammar. There WILL be fourth wall breaks and crazy first-person narration where my characters speak in their voice to the reader. Because that’s how I do this story-telling gig. I don’t want to be as polished and flawless as a robot. I have a soul. I have wounds. I have messy baggage and quirky mental blocks that cannot be fixed by a machine.

Nor do I want them to be.

One day I’ll be gone. Hopefully these things I create will live on, if only in the archives of an era as antiquated as stone tools. Someone somewhere will see my words and KNOW they were created by a human, not a commodity. I can only hope.