By Guest blogger/author Naomi Hirahara
Artificial intelligence, especially ChatGPT, is on people’s minds these days. ChatGPT is developed through OpenAI, a company Elon Musk co-founded with a controlling and growing investment by Microsoft, which is beta-testing artificial intelligence in its search engine, bing. Instead of doing a simple Google search in which you type in a word, phrase, or even question, resulting in a list of search links, chat bots can provide full narratives. They are interactive, too, and can simulate a conversation with the user, albeit with mixed results. (See https://www.kpcc.org/2023-02-27/how-microsofts-experiment-in-artificial-intelligence-tech-backfired)
These developments have Google on the run and the whole high-tech community both excited and nervous about what disruptions may take place. Certain authors savvy about this world have also expressed the whole range of emotions—fear, anticipation, and indifference. Artificial intelligence is already used in narrating audiobooks for outlets like Apple Books in lieu of “real people.” (For an interesting conversation about AI audiobook narration, listen to the last story on this page: https://www.kpcc.org/show/airtalk/2023-01-23/lunar-year-massacre-in-monterey-park-leaves-ten-dead)
I’ve been listening to and reading such conversations as both a novelist and co-chair of the Imagine Little Tokyo short story contest. Regarding the latter, some journals and magazines mostly in the science-fiction realm have been recently dogged with a flood of short story submissions created on AI. (See https://www.theverge.com/2023/2/25/23613752/ai-generated-short-stories-literary-magazines-clarkesworld-science-fiction) Could someone input our guidelines on ChatGPT with locations in Little Tokyo and come up with a semblance of a good story? I can’t imagine how teachers in the future will evaluate the veracity of student essays with the spread of AI.
Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn podcast has been discussing AI for years, pointing out how writers already utilize artificial intelligence, which predicts language based on patterns, in checking our spelling and improving our prose through software programs like Grammarly and ProWritingAid. She’s also now utilizing AI exploring various creative storytelling options.
As an author who writes very specific historical and ethnic stories, I haven’t been that concerned that I can be possibly replaced by a robot. But for fun, I did go to ChatGPT and asked the bot questions about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The answers it gave me were both encouraging and unnerving. Encouraging in that the answers were correct and factual. Unnerving because the prose was clear and well-written. Then I asked ChatGPT specifically about the topic of my recent historical mystery, CLARK AND DIVISION, which is set largely in 1944 Chicago, where many Japanese Americans released from the ten detention camps sought refuge for some months and years. For this question, ChatGPT picked up none of the historical nuance and came up with a completely wrong answer. (See screenshot.)
As I discussed recently at a Sisters in Crime Los Angeles meeting, when writing historical mysteries—or perhaps any kind of fiction—look for the gaps of knowledge. Let’s surprise our readers, take them to places and situations that they have never been. If a robot can easily replicate our tropes, characters, or plot points, maybe we should seek to create fresher tales that only living, breathing person can tell. Let’s go to those archives and open those dusty books that haven’t been digitized or engage in vulnerable, emotional conversations with people who share stories that they have never told. In this way, I see artificial intelligence as a good challenge more than a competitor. I seek to stump the robot instead of destroying it.
For a headier analysis of ChatGPT, go to science fiction writer Ted Chiang’s article in the New Yorker, in which he likens the new technology to a bad photocopy of source material: http://Ted Chiang’s Article
(Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar- and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series and the historical novel, Clark and Division. Evergreen, the sequel to Clark and Division, will be released this August. For more information, go to her website, http://www.naomihirahara.com.)
(Naomi Hirahara’s article is posted by Jackie Houchin)