Today it came to my attention that one of the major online magazines in the field has temporarily closed to all submissions until they figure out a way to deal with the tons of incoming spam slush that, wait for it, was clearly written by AI, probably ChatGPT.
Yes, this is a problem which we all should have seen coming. I’ve written about it before now, but so far as I know this is the first time a magazine actually shut down submissions over it. A certain class of hopefuls and maybes and probably nevers have always existed, and like Merida, want to change their fate, and would try anything and see this as their big chance. Or maybe the clueless just wanting to make a quick (hah) buck? How it’s going to shake out is anyone’s guess, but I do take some small satisfaction knowing that Fritz Leiber was already there in 1961 with his book, The Silver Eggheads. This was a future where all books were written by machine and “authors” were simply the people assigned to tend a particular machine. There was more to it, of course, but a review would say something like “Joe Scribbler writing on a Worderizer 3000 produced…” etc. The end product, if I recall correctly, was referred to as “word wooze.” Part of the problem we have now is, with a decent prompt and some example text, ChatGPT can do a decent job of it, likely more literate than any of the hapless. It’s only a matter of time before a purely AI-written story appears in a major magazine of the field. Maybe it already has. An AI written self-published story/novel? Probably already there or very soon will be.
Yes, I do know there are online “AI detectors” which can take a text and determine with fair accuracy whether or not it was written by a human, but that’s beside the point. So far as most editors are concerned, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” They get a lot of submissions that have to be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. Slush readers are either volunteers/interns or the lowest editor on the totem if there’s more than one, which often is not the case. I don’t pretend to know what the solution might be, but there has to be one. Stopping people from submitting AI written stories probably isn’t going to happen, because “how”? Especially as the AI gets better and I can see a day when such stories are indistinguishable from human created by any objective measure.
Just as Stable Diffusion and Dall-E are shaking up the art world, now it’s our turn. Fair is fair, I guess. Sort of.
I take a very little comfort in knowing that it does still take some skill to get the result out of AI that you intended. As I noted above, a decent prompt is required. I’ll give a personal example. I asked ChatGPT to write a routine in C++ to print the Fibonacci series. Worked perfectly. I asked ChatGPT to write a function where, given an integer, it would produce the previous two numbers in the Fibonacci series.
Total train wreck.
Some of you may have already seen that coming. I asked it to take an integer. I didn’t specify that the integer was actually IN the fibonacci series.
Whoops. Garbage in, garbage out.
So there is still some skill involved, and a human, as in The Silver Eggheads, has to provide that skill. Likely that’s where it will all go wrong. For the cheater, that is.