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AI, Winston Churchill & the Future of Books


The proliferation of generative artificial intelligence, specifically ChatGPT, has brought out the doomsayers. It seems like everyone from your friendly bank teller to call center operators to the UPS guy could lose their jobs—and soon! Many have predicted the end of literature, art, and media as we know it. If the click of a mouse can generate avatar-based lead actors in movies, a wonderful digital image, or the next bestselling novel, why would anyone bother to create those things without its help? Imagine the time and cost savings.


I don’t buy it. Anyone who has played with this new tool has run into its limitations.


As an example, here’s one of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” I asked ChatGPT if Churchill really said it. Its reply: Yes, the quote "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm" is indeed attributed to Winston Churchill. This quote reflects Churchill's resilience and his perspective on the journey to success, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a positive attitude even in the face of setbacks.


Yet, the International Churchill Society says, “No attribution. A number of sources credit this to Abraham Lincoln but without attribution.” If I could find that out, why couldn’t ChatGPT?


In my last blog post, I pasted a ChatGPT essay about writing a novel. I got lots of replies from readers who said it was too dry and lacking wit. One put it this way: “No emotion, no pithy observations, no beautiful metaphors…..I give it a human ‘F.’”


Still, many people have predicted the demise of authors, particularly those of us who are still striving to make a name for ourselves. In the early weeks of 2023, as worry about ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools was dominating the public conversation, some in the tech world convinced themselves they understand the desires of readers better than readers themselves.


Unacademy—India’s largest e-learning platform—announced a new offering. The product, Cohesive AI, “aims to make content creation more accessible to anyone who writes.” The company’s cofounder tweeted, “Imagine if every Book is converted into an Animated Book and made 10x more engaging. AI will do this. Huge opportunity here to disrupt Kindle and Audible.”


In my view, this is an attempt to “fix” something that isn’t broken. I suspect these theories have been developed by people who don’t enjoy reading books. Some have suggested books would be enhanced by making them interactive. A reader could, for example, have a discussion with one of the book’s characters.


In that case, is it still a book or just another new medium? Would it disrupt the book industry or the streaming video industry?


Those of us who love fiction and novels are hooked by the aesthetics of the experience. Who’s asking for big changes? Not readers. For us, plain old reading suits us just fine.


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