Why All Authors Should Conduct AI Experiments

Even if you waste a few minutes now, familiarizing yourself with this powerful new batch of tools is a long-term investment worth making.
Mar | 19 | 2024
  Mar | 19 | 2024
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BY Phil Simon
  Phil Simon

Why All Authors Should Conduct AI Experiments

Even if you waste a few minutes now, familiarizing yourself with this powerful new batch of tools is a long-term investment worth making.
Phil Simon
Mar | 19 | 2024

Why All Authors Should Conduct AI Experiments

TL;DR: Even if you waste a few minutes now, familiarizing yourself with this powerful new batch of tools is a long-term investment worth making.
Phil Simon
Mar | 19 | 2024

If you’ve got a case of AI fatigue, you’re hardly alone. Google Trends shows the precipitous rise in news stories over the past five years.

Never mind blog posts like this one. #selfawareness

Even for geeks like me, hearing every day or hour about some newfangled tchotchke, fail, prediction, or advancement gets old. I get it. Still, it’s incumbent upon all writers to keep abreast of these increasingly powerful tools. Yes, even you.

In this post, I’ll explain why.

Using AI to Change Tenses

After Spotify’s recent outrageous attempts to appropriate its authors’ audiobooks, the Authors Guild forcefully responded. Its statement finally nudged me to join the organization.

For professional scribes, the tax-deductible, annual fee is modest. More importantly, authors can only wear so many hats. Hell, if doctors have joined advocacy groups for nearly 200 years, why shouldn’t scribes? Strength in numbers. All that jazz.

Like most organizations, communities, and networks, AG wants its members fill out profiles—including brief biographies. I keep a third-person one on my main website to assist conference organizers when I book speaking gigs. For the Guild, though, I thought that referring to myself this way would be pretentious. Plus, I’m no Jimmy.

Two years ago, I would have spent five minutes rewriting my bio in the first person. It’s not exactly rocket surgery. The prevalence of generative AI apps today, however, makes me reconsider spending even a little time on manual writing tasks like these. To wit, I decided to give Gemini a go:

Gemini didn’t hallucinate, but I didn’t love the results. In a word, meh.

For starters, I use one space after periods, not two. Fortunately, Gemini quickly handled that simple change:

Also, I use italics—not quotes—for book titles and the names of shows, like my pod. (You should, too.) Gemini made those changes when I requested them. See the whole chat here. You get the idea.

Meet RacketHub

Additional Tweaks

Let’s move beyond supercharged find-and-replace commands. Time to put a little polish on Gemini’s output.

The length and structure of its second sentence rubbed me the wrong way and seemed bland. The third is a tad clunky for my liking. The next one unnecessarily contained the passive voice. I spent a few more minutes tweaking Gemini’s output myself. Here’s my final bio on the AG site:

Ironically, the user interface on AG’s primitive site prevented me from using those italics, but I digress …

The Verdict and What Writers Need to Know

Ultimately, my little tense-changing experiment didn’t save me much time. Maybe I even wasted a few minutes. So I should consider it a failure, right? Maybe I should eschew GenAI altogether and stick with what works.

No. That’s precisely the wrong mindset to adopt.

Ignore genAI at your own peril.

GenAI isn’t replacing editors, proofreaders, and professional writers like me—at least not yet. At the same time, though, these doohickeys aren’t going anywhere; they’re rapidly improving. Regardless of when you read this post, they’ll be better tomorrow than they are today.

For routine, low-stakes tasks such as changing tenses, there’s not much of a downside to using Gemini, Claude 3, ChatGPT, and their ilk. Along these lines:

  • I’m playing with advanced features in Notion.
  • On my iPhone, the Arc Browser is now my go-to for traditional web searches. (Maybe Gartner’s recent prediction is right?)

These actions are deliberate. They advance my long-term goal of building comfort and proficiency with them. I find them less weird.

Make no mistake. In 2024, it’s essential for any professional to know what AI can and can’t do well—and where they fail spectacularly. It’s critical to be curious. Look for innovative ways to use them, as Ethan Mollick routinely does.

The alternative? Get left behind and become obsolete.

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