Writing with generative AI is like…

Bugs, dogs, dinosaurs, neighborhoods, cities, countries, civilizations, planets, and, now, human creativity: They live, they die — fast, slow, brutally or gently.

Generative AIs like ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, and Jasper are bringing plenty of violence and speed to the demise of writing.

Or perhaps just a way of writing.

Words, sentences, paragraphs, stories — making these, for me, is a way to express and understand and fall in love again and again with human desire, create and celebrate deities, and commune with the mystery that, as you peel back the layers of what we know, holds up everything.

It is a craft, yes. A tool. A hammer you swing. But it is holy, and the holiness is bound with and arises from how I do it, not what comes out at the end. I stare at emptiness, pray for a reason to write, listen to what mystery has to say, and give tangible shape to that intangible act of hope one letter at a time.

Talking to a robot isn’t the same.

It is like going from directly interfacing with language to … interfacing with a human-imitating creature (that knows nothing about mortality or desire or faith or foolishness) interfacing with language. I go from pulling the strings of a puppet to pulling the strings of a hollow puppeteer.

I imagine it is like the horror adventurers felt when cars began to replace the horses that took them on their journeys. With the difficulty of traversing hundreds and thousands of miles eliminated by the press of a pedal, the rituals and skills they developed to survive and make sense of that challenging trek — which are the building blocks of faith and awe and love for mystery — became optional. Became artifacts for a museum. Appreciated, sure. But dead. Cute memories.

It’s an imperfect comparison. Language isn’t just another technology. It is us. We make reality by using it. It is not a screwdriver we pick up and drop. It is not a horse we mount or train we board. It is inside us. It invents the world by connecting our senses, desire, and imagination. Asking a machine to handle it kills more than jobs or those so-called “inefficiencies” that our delusional worship of profit compels us to foolishly dismiss. It kills what makes us human.

Perhaps that is our fate. Perhaps we are bound to become like the machines we are so good at creating. Perhaps thinking, wondering, and dreaming will seem as quaint as traveling by horseback seems today. Perhaps prayers like this will become artifacts.

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