Let's Talk with Terry Ambrose

February 1, 2024

A storm is coming

Henri Camus, CC BY 1.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Henri Camus, CC BY 1.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve always been captivated by technology. While some people find it intimidating, it’s like a thrilling adventure for me. These days, artificial intelligence (AI), is making loads of headlines. Just like a mythical creature from long ago, AI is shrouded in mystery, fascination, and a lot of misunderstandings. The fact is, the storm is coming in fast. Do you know what changes it will bring?

The Next Big Thing

About six months ago, a Sisters in Crime webinar caught my attention. In the webinar, one of the topics was AI. The attendees were all talking about AI as The Next Big Thing. I was intrigued. While some were freaked out and ready to run for the hills, I wanted to check it out. What I discovered is that AI has been around for a while. Its roots can be traced back to the 1950s, with the development of the first programs that could play checkers and solve word problems. Fast forward about 70 years and almost everyone has a cell phone and is familiar with Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, or Amazon’s Alexa. Who knew that we’ve all been carrying around a form of AI for all these years?

Government of Singapore - Land Transport Authority, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsWriters, beware

As I dove into what an AI can actually do, I was confronted with several “facts of life.” The biggest was that an AI cannot write a novel all on its own. Left to its own devices, the little bugger tends to veer off-topic, become extremely repetitive, and lack depth. I recently read a blog post that repeated the same phrases and points numerous times. It became almost painful to read. If the author is human, he’s one of the most monotonously repetitive writers on the planet. Otherwise, it’s a good example of why, at least for now, you can’t just let the AI out to play.

One of the other myths had to do with diversity and reducing bias in writing. You might expect that since an AI is a computer, it’s automatically unbiased. Not true. Why? Because humans trained the computer. To be trained, an AI must read millions of documents from the Internet. Need I say more?

Readers reap the rewards

What I quickly realized is that AI is a golden opportunity for readers. It can help writers brainstorm better plots. Create more diverse characters. And even do something like find an ingenious way to commit the perfect murder. In my opinion, all of this translates into higher quality writing and a better experience for readers.

While researching this post, I learned that AI assistants who can personalize your reading experience aren’t that far off. As a reader, I find this an amazing opportunity. Rather than using general search terms and having to sift through dozens of sponsored ads for a book that meets my criteria, I might be able to ask for “a list of five cozy mystery novels that have good reviews, are set in a small American town, and have a likable, female protagonist.”

I wondered if my AI was up to the task, so I tried it. Want to see the results? You’ll have to solve the jigsaw puzzle below to see what books were recommended. What I will tell you is that the titles are fairly well-known. You’ll also notice that the puzzle only contains four titles. That’s because my AI made a mistake and mixed up the title and author on one. (Another example of why writers should never just let these little buggers loose!) The good news is, like Siri, an AI is always polite. He said, “Apologies for the confusion. It seems there was an error in my previous message.”

We’re moving rapidly into an amazing, and perhaps, frightening, new world.

Please leave a comment to let me know if you are intrigued by this new world, afraid of it, or somewhere in between. You’ll be entered into a drawing for a Kindle copy of one of my books when you comment. The contest will close on Wednesday, February 7. And, if you like jigsaw puzzles, visit my website, where I post a new puzzle each Friday.

While you’re here, check out our February contest, which runs from Feb. 1-22 This is our site’s anniversary month, so to celebrate, we’re giving away 7 first-in-series mysteries, one from each author! CLICK FOR THE CONTEST PAGE.

Want to know more about author Terry Ambrose? VISIT HIS WEBSITE.

Posted in Let's Talk, with Terry Ambrose • Tags: , , , |  44 Comments


44 thoughts on “A storm is coming

  1. Hi Terry, I’m intrigued with AI, but concerned that it will overwhelm our already overwhelmed senses with low-grade noise. I’m prepared to change my opinion, but time will tell.

    1. That ever-increasing noise factor is an unfortunate consequence of’progress’. I agree that it has the potential to escalate it substantially, especially when it’s misused.

  2. I am in a hold pattern regarding AI. I am sure there are good uses for it, but as always new technology is corrupted by bad actors. The question for me is, just how do we police it?

  3. Wow! I know AI is gaining a lot of attention and I can see pros and cons to using it. Since I’m not a writer, I wonder if I will know when I read something written solely by AI. I do hope authors will use it as a tool, rather than relying heavily on it. I also hope, if it IS heavily relied upon, that authors will disclose this information.

    1. How much authors rely on AI is going to be an interesting issue. I think every grammmar checker on the market is using AI already to some degree. If someone uses Grammarly, for instance, they may not ever realize that the suggestions for improvement are AI influenced.

  4. I’m not going to worry about A.I. I have enough trouble keeping my 7 year old i-7 series computer functioning. I have the tecs card but dont have the spare cash yet to pay for his home visit. I also need to replace my battery backup box. When the power goes off so does the back up. LOL

    1. Computer equipment can certainly get expensive fast. As for backups, we’ve switched from a local backup to a service. You might want to look at https://www.idrive.com/. They’re very affordable if you only need a small amount of storage. Like anything else, the more you need, the higher the price tag.

  5. I am not fond of AI, especially when it is used to narrate a story, or when it “reads” anything out loud. It makes so many mistakes I can’t concentrate on the story or what I am listening to.

  6. I guess like all new technologies, AI needs a chaperone and some common sense. Oh, that’s right! Common sense has all but disappeared!!!

  7. What worries me is AI in the hands of bad actors. I’m already seeing it being used to try to disrupt our upcoming elections, and there’s no way to put a stop to it because much of it is coming from overseas. There are already too many people who have fallen down the rabbit hole. Deep fake AI is only adding to it. I fear it’s going to get much worse.

  8. My fears about AI are who is going to monitor the use or misuse of it and what measures will be in place to handle the issues from misuse? Granted AI could be a positive but my fear is the negative. My biggest fear is the implementation for authors and the impact for their creativity and lifesource.

  9. AI kind of scares me. I don’t like the idea of putting people out of business because a computer learns to write and draw and narrate. I feel better now that you said that AI doesn’t do a good job of those things now, but it will probably get better in the future.

    1. I understand your concerns about AI, Carol. For now, AI is still evolving and has limitations in tasks like writing, drawing, and narrating. The hard part will be finding a balance where AI complements human capabilities rather than replacing them entirely. I think it’s essential to talk about this issue and the ethical implications of AI as it progresses.

  10. I use AI to help with plot brainstorming, condensing blurb descriptions and other marketing tasks. I regard it as a springboard for inspiration. It was also good at pointing out tropes that I could use in my ads.

    1. I agree with you Tracey. As someone who’s become familiar with it, I can see both good and bad. And some of that bad can be very scary. Sadly, it all comes down to the ‘bad actors,’ those people who use technology for their own malicious purposes. They take advantage of the benefits of technology while ignoring its potential harm.

  11. No, I’m not a fan. I’m not ready for that kind of change or for others to have that control of it.

  12. I have to say that I am more concerned about AI. At this time it is able to entice many people into thinking that they are important people (ie. President Biden, Taylor Swift). Depending on the programmer, what could this program be able to do in the future in regards to world issues.

  13. While I don’t deny AI can have many positive uses, for right now, I’m not a fan. I don’t like how it pulls words/phrases to use/learn from existing books without any compensation to the authors who wrote those books. Plus it can also use an actors image or voice without compensation to them.
    I’ve heard there are several authors who have filled suit against some big AI companies for “theft of intellectual property”, or something close to that.

  14. I’m not liking AI very much but then again I don’t like change. I use Bing for my search engine and it uses AI and I’ll ask it a trivia question and most of the time it gets the answer wrong. I don’t use it anymore.

  15. I think it’s coming whether we want it or not. I am ready to have a Star Trek replicator in the wall and order up my food. We already have phones and computers that can talk to us and hear us. It’s in GPS systems, the older standalone versions and in our mobile phone versions. It’s probably in missile guidance systems and so many other things that we don’t even think about. I am always curious about new technology, though I admit it is becoming harder and harder to figure out the allegedly easy stuff in technology! With any change, there are hardships, jobs lost, and a potential loss in quality of product. But having descended from fishermen who made their living from the sea, I’m here to say there is a place for the Old Ways and the New Ways in the world. Our shrimpers were nearly put out of business by imported shrimp raised in ponds. Those cost much less than the ones that live in the ocean and must be caught by fuel-powered boats with nets. Luckily, there is a steady demand for wild-caught seafood, and so we are still shrimping coastal waters. For those whose jobs may be at risk with the approach of AI, find a way to present what you do as hand-crafted. If you follow the same paradigm as our shrimpers, you may find you have fewer customers but they will pay more for your product.

  16. Not a big fan of AI. I think mainly because I really don’t understand it that well. I know how these tools can be corrupted and I am very leery. We will see how things go in the future…

    1. I agree, Jody. There’s plenty of opportunity for corruption. Hopefully, there will be controls to keep the bad guys in check. All we can do is cross our fingers for now.

  17. This was a very interesting post about AI. It is interesting, a bit scary, and I guess I am in the “somewhat in between” camp!

  18. I fall somewhere in between. I see the both the pros & cons of it. I guess you just have to hit that happy medium, which is often difficult.

  19. Leery would be an apt description of how I feel. I “think” it could be a helpful aid, but I fear that like most things it will be turned into someone less than ethical or used to take over the literary field as we know it. Honestly, I think we are taking so much away from the use of our own brain with a lot of this “new technology”. It’s like with all the “new” math and ways of teaching might work in some instances, but not many cashiers can tell you how much change to give you if the register didn’t tell them. Maybe I’m the dinosaur decade that is about to become extinct, but I’d take learning to use the brain and then doing so better than having some machine do it for me. 🙂
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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