Earlier, I was asked about AI writing apps and had to admit I didn’t know much about them. I filed the request and made a mental note to get back to it. I hadn’t expected it to happen so quickly. Then I saw a very short post about one such program over on The Passive Voice. If that wasn’t a nudge to take a look into such tools, I don’t know what would be.
The program TPV linked to is WordHero. I wish I could say I tried it but I can’t. The website is very basic and I didn’t see an option to do a trial run. Instead, it operates on a subscription plan of $49/mo or $348/yr (both discounted prices). But (you knew there had to be a but), you can subscribe and ask for a refund within 14 days if you aren’t satisfied. That’s a big nope for me because I’ve been burned before, often having to spend hours and days trying to get my money back from other vendors/sellers. So if any of you have tried it out, let me know what you think.
For approximately $10/mo or $120/yr, you can license Wordtune. This isn’t so much an AI writing program as it is a rewriting program. Again, I haven’t tried it because their free version is very limited. And I do mean VERY Limited. You can “rewrite” a grand total of 10 sentences a day. That’s it. No paragraph rewrites. Ten sentences. That’s not enough to really judge how well a program like this works.
Jasper is the last one of these programs I’m going to look at today. And surprise of surprise. It actually has a free trial. A 10k word free trial. So let’s see what happens. I’m going to step away for a few minutes and see what I can do. . .
And I’m back.
And I’m not as impressed as I was before. The 10k free words leads you to a sign-up screen. That, in turns, leads to the plan page. The starter plan lets you create up to 35k words per month. The price is $40/mo and is billed annually. The “Boss” mode (designated as best for bloggers and businesses) comes in at $82/mo, also billed annually.
Making matters even worse, imo, to get the free trial, you have to go ahead and give them your credit card information. They will run a charge through and once satisfied you can pay, they will let you have your free trial. Then it is up to you to remember to cancel, check your statement to make sure they don’t charge you, etc.
So that is a big nope as well.
I guess that answers my questions about AI writing apps. Unless and until I can actually try one hands-on and not have to give up my identifiers and financial information.
What I will warn you about are those programs that bill themselves as writing programs but are really little more than variations on Grammerly or ProWritingAid. Be sure to read everything and do your research before signing up for something like this. That includes the Terms of Service.
As an aside, I also suggest–very strong suggest–that you check the Terms of Service for any platform you’re selling your work on if you use such a program for content creation. There are some, from what I’ve been hearing, that will not accept AI generated content. This caveat goes for not only the written word but also for video and audio as well.
If you have a specific AI program you want me to look at, leave a note in the comments and I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, I will stick with MidJourney and have fun seeing what I can create.
For now, however, I need to find more coffee and then make sure Mom is ready for her PT to arrive. Until later.
Featured image created using Midjourney AI.
The thing about modern AI and machine learning is, as I understand it, it’s largely a sort of inverted Monte Carlo system. Instead of generation tons of jittered inputs to test a system, it, instead generates a ton of jittered outputs and tests them against a standard.
That can work fantastically well for things like image recognition and selecting the most advantageous move. However, I’m not sure those have any sort of memory, and any written document needs to reference a world outside itself, in a way that I don’t thing a picture or aircraft structure really does.
Basically I’m not sure neural networks have the right tools to generate good books.
I do wonder if it could be used to generate good premises, though. Though that would likely require going through a large pile of stories, codifying their premises and then training an AI on it. Unless someone could first train an AI to read books and extract their premises with reliability?
And yes, I do personally believe the Chinese Room would qualify as a person if it could have intelligent conversations about what you talked about a few weeks prior.
There are examples of AI generated books out there. I found one on Amazon. There is no preview and I haven’t downloaded it as a KU book because I don’t have anything I’m ready to return. Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/3DFFSxF
Then there is this site and color me not impressed. https://booksby.ai/
I took a look at the KU book, “Descent Into the Void.” The intro states that the program was given a sentence or idea to start off with each time, but I get the impression that it was not given additional hints for the stories. My take on it is, the grammar and sentences are quite good and the stories seem to start well with a creepy hook but then they just peter out to nothing much and the length is maybe 1500 words per story. I don’t think the AI has grasped plotting well.
Very interesting. I’m going to have to read some of those.
My guess is, they were trained on complete stories, and did not go through the proper breakdown and disassembly first.
So it can generate the introductions, but it is not generating the underlying framework of the story. I think that goes back to no-one building in any concept of time or sequence or pattern into the model.
AI is not creative. But it’s probably great for generating click bait content and maybe in the future could generate formulaic books, songs, etc.
The thing to remember about AI and computers generally is that they are nothing more or less than a zillion light switches turning on and off again, really fast.
That’s it. No Guiding Presence, no Ghost in the Machine, nothing. The only thing that makes them better than clockwork or an analog computer like a carburetor is the ease of programming, and the speed. A carburetor you have to change parts of the machine to reprogram it, the digital computer you type the program. Like a Jacquard loom writ large.
There is no room in this model for creativity. WE are the ones who use the machine to create. It only ever does what it is told. It literally can’t do anything else.
Therefore, I do not expect AI to be creating Great Works of Literature, or even decent pulp novels. It might be able to manage cover burbs, if you trained it on every cover blurb ever written.
Think of a Roomba. It goes where it is programmed to go. Will it get that fluff in the middle of the rug? Eventually, if the programmer did a decent job. Does it know to go and get that fluff? No.
Will it change what it does if there is cat poo in the middle of the carpet? No. Sadly, it will soldier on regardless.
Will Midjourney replace artists for book covers? Mmmaybe? Because market forces are driving things to the point where no human artist is going to work for that money. The AI can create something ‘good enough’ to catch the eye and sell the book… for now.
Until the sameness of the pictures starts to really bother customers, at which point the cover created by an actual human will stand out like a beacon.
It is all down to what people will pay for, right?
Midj isn’t necessarily more coherent than any writing AI I ever heard of, it just benefits from an overall trend, starting about a hundred years ago, towards more stylized, less representational forms of painted/pencilled/etc art. By the same token, writing AIs could probably do a better imitation of Finnegan’s Wake than they could of the Affair at Styles.
Drop Midj (or some kind of magical analogue) into Michelangelo’s era, and nobody would be much impressed with its funky take on things like fingers, eyes, horses, and perspective, however much they were impressed by the magic involved. If the art AIs take off, I’m kind of expecting a shift by live artists towards proving their mettle by getting right the things that Midj tends to be bad at, and possibly a tendency to either keep their art off the web or in closed communities beyond the reach of the web indexes that Midj and some of the other art AIs seem to rely on.
As far as sameness in the art AIs, if you’re ruthless about continuously rerolling a prompt or tweaking a prompt, you can still get something relatively unique. You become George Lucas, hovering over the concept artist’s shoulder and telling him “no, like that one but different,” over and over again, but you’re not hassling a live human being.
See that is the thing. AI right now is very much like a very simple, but very fast, spare set of hands.
Michelangelo may not have been impressed by the hands and eyes, but he would have been awe struck by the speed.
I don’t see that this will be a binary AI Replaces all Authors/AI is useless, does nothing. This is going to be a tool in our toolkit that we can leverage to get better, more meaningful results, if we choose to.
I suspect it will be as disruptive to writing as word processing was. Word processors did not eliminate authors or secretaries, but it did radically change how they did their jobs, and may the ones who could adapt to it significantly more productive.
And I think that’s the way we need to approach this. Think about what does it do well, that consumes a lot of our time and where can we leverage or to produce better content more efficiently?
Now, right at the moment it does look like most AI writing systems are just cashing in on the AI buzwords, but it does seem to have a capacity to generate idea seeds, that we may or may not think of initially.
True. The first halfway decent unicorn I got out of Midj, it took me a couple of hours to fill in the sketchy nose and tail, and use clone stamping to reposition the horn and create a second hind leg. But I couldn’t have create the baseline image or anything half as good, in any amount of time, on my own. And yes, the process of guiding Midj towards that baseline image consumed a certain amount of time, but it was more like texting in between doing other things rather than a big chunk of time solely devoted to that.
This isn’t exactly an AI writing app, but https://henk.tech/aid/ has a link to download a copy of an AI text adventure thing that might possibly be interesting and give an idea of what such things can and can’t do (and, because you run it on your own computer, you don’t have to worry about fees).
Unfortunately, you need some fairly good hardware to have it not be painfully slow, and it’s a couple of years old, but it may be worth poking at nonetheless.
There’s an AI chapter in Atlanta Nights. Even by that book’s standards, it’s bad.
Update on “Descent Into the Void,” having read further: Congratulations, AI, you’ve re-invented really bad creepypasta. The world did not need more of this.