Writing with AI is not writing

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.


Out of curiosity, I followed the instructions in Steven Macdonald’s post on LinkedIn to have ChatGPT create three questions and answers about this essay. The prompts are “Read the blog post below and suggest 3 questions that a reader will have that are not answered in the article: (Add URL)” and “Now answer the questions. Avoid bullet-points.” Enjoy:

How do generative AIs like ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, and Jasper contribute to the demise of writing, and what specific aspects of human creativity do they fail to capture?

The blog post discusses how generative AIs like ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, and Jasper are changing the landscape of writing, potentially contributing to its demise. However, it doesn’t delve deeply into the specific mechanisms through which these AIs impact writing or elaborate on the nuanced aspects of human creativity that they struggle to replicate.

Editor’s note: This first question and answer struck me as a bit dull, so I asked ChatGPT to try again. Here we go:

How do generative AIs like ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, and Jasper contribute to the evolution of writing, and what unique challenges do they pose to the preservation of human creativity?

Generative AIs represent a significant evolution in the field of writing, offering novel ways to generate content efficiently. However, their reliance on algorithms and data inputs raises questions about the authenticity and depth of creativity they can achieve compared to human writers.

In what ways does the author suggest that interacting with these generative AIs differs from the traditional process of writing, particularly in terms of the depth of connection to human experiences such as mortality, desire, faith, and foolishness?

The article suggests that interacting with generative AIs is fundamentally different from traditional writing processes because it lacks a profound connection to human experiences such as mortality, desire, faith, and foolishness. It highlights the idea that these AIs are essentially imitating human behavior without truly understanding or embodying the complexities of human existence.

What potential consequences does the author foresee for humanity if reliance on generative AIs for tasks traditionally performed by humans, such as writing, continues to grow?

The author presents a grim outlook on the potential consequences of humanity’s increasing reliance on generative AIs for tasks like writing. While not explicitly stated, the implied consequence is the gradual erosion of what it means to be human, with activities like thinking, wondering, and dreaming becoming obsolete or overshadowed by technological advancements.

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