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The AI-Driven Author Time Shift

Some musings about what to do now that anyone can write a passable book about anything.
Apr | 22 | 2024
  Apr | 22 | 2024
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BY Phil Simon
  Phil Simon

The AI-Driven Author Time Shift

Some musings about what to do now that anyone can write a passable book about anything.
Phil Simon
Apr | 22 | 2024

The AI-Driven Author Time Shift

TL;DR: Some musings about what to do now that anyone can write a passable book about anything.
Phil Simon
Apr | 22 | 2024

Up until the mid-1990s, non-fiction authors often visited libraries to do research. If someone checked out a key book or magazine in 1988, then you’d be out of luck. Card catalogs still mattered. If you wanted to interview an expert, you could email an author and ask for some time—if that person used email, that is.

Fast-forward to the end of the century. With an increasing percentage of all content digitized, you no longer needed to visit a brick-and-mortar location to access content and do research. The idea of checking out a book, journal, or magazine applied less and less. At least you needed to read the content—or a summary of it—in order to properly cite it. Doing proper research became much, much easier thanks to Netscape, Yahoo!, AlltheWeb, and, of course, Google.

The AI Razor

Where Are We Now?

We’ve entered an era of generative AI. You don’t even need to read a book or academic study to cite it and pretend that you really understand it.

Here’s a quick visual:

Recent AI advances mean that everyone can access industrial-strength tools for free—or modestly monthly sums. If you’re considering writing a non-fiction book, this reality should concurrently inspire and intimidate you.

AI’s Double-edged Sword

The arrival of ChatGPT, Gemini, Claude, Perplexity, and their ilk mean many things. The thirty-something Python newbie can write a plausible book about the subject and, in the process, seem far more authoritative than she actually is. We’ve reached a point at which anyone can pretty much write a passable text about anything.

By themselves, AI tools won’t differentiate your book from myriad others on the subject.

On the positive side, genAI can vastly reduce the time you spend doing secondary research. (I’ve started to see posts about how people have penned books in 30 days.)

Great, but before you rely primarily or exclusively on these tools, know this much going in: They won’t differentiate your book from myriad others on the subject.

How to Make Your Book Stand Out

This begs the question: What should you do with all of this time saved? Here are some ideas.

  • Conduct your own primary research. (Yes, the very type that generative AI cannot produce without hallucinating.)
  • Find your unique angle or perspective.
  • Writing exceptionally well.
  • Telling fascinating stories—preferably new ones.
  • Connecting surprising dots.
  • Developing your own theory.
  • Making bold, fact-based predictions.
  • Creating compelling visuals.

I recent walk with my smart, tech-savvy friend and neighbor inspired this post.

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