Author Topic: Article: I tried the AI novel-writing tool everyone hates, and itís better than  (Read 3116 times)

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https://www.theverge.com/2023/5/24/23732252/sudowrite-story-engine-ai-generated-cyberpunk-novella

I tried the AI novel-writing tool everyone hates, and itís better than I expected


By Adi Robertson,

Last week, generative fiction tool Sudowrite launched a system for writing whole novels. Called Story Engine, itís another shot in the ongoing culture war between artists and AI developers ó one side infuriated by what feels like a devaluation of their craft, the other insisting that itís a tool for unlocking creativity and breaking writerís block. Neither answered the question I was really curious about: does it work?
...
« Last Edit: May 26, 2023, 12:51:50 PM by German Translator »

Just a few of the books I have translated (English <-> German)
 

PJ Post

Re: Article:
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2023, 05:41:00 AM »
However well it works, the important thing to remember for the short-term is that this is the worst it will ever be.
 

Matthew

Re: Article:
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2023, 06:53:35 AM »
I think it's about what people expect of the technology for now. The author ended up writing about 6500 words to get the AI to produce 22500, which still (AFAIK) needs heavy editing. The only useful addition this generator seems to bring over others is remembering character and location names. In fact, from the article it seems the author had to provide all of the story beats as summaries of sorts for the LLM to generate based off.

But I maintain LLMs by themselves will be largely useless (in terms of press a button, pop out a novel) because they don't actually have an understanding of the work they're trying to generate. E.g. it generated the protagonist fighting in the name of something he was actually opposed to. Until we get better AI, if we want to improve these sorts of AI tools I think they will need to keep track of more details and feed them to an LLM as part of the prompt.

I read the first chapter. I might read more later, but here's my initial thoughts:
  • It repeats some words or phrases frequently. I have had this problem with generative tools from my experiments in the past as well.
  • It likes similes like a bee likes flowers.
  • The prose itself was not bad, mostly.
  • It incorrectly formatted inner monologue.
  • It generates different technologies that to me seem to conflict each other. E.g. he's using VR goggles, but hunched over a computer. And then later he has "datagloves" (so no keyboard?) and a "neural interface" (so what would be the need for VR goggles?)
  • It had some head-hopping.
  • Everything felt very vague. From descriptions of setting and characters to the dialog itself, to the action that's happening. Okay he's hacking, but what does that really look like? He sees some mysterious information that he knows is his target, but how? And what does that look like? And what company is he hacking? And why is he confused about just who the corporate police are that bust down his door? He would know who he was just hacking.

I took a brief look at chapter 2 and I think this encompasses some of that:
Quote
Jackís past rose like a specter from the neon shadows of the city, taunting him with memories of a time when he had been more than just another pawn in their game. He recalled the fierce idealism that had once burned within him, the same fire that had led him to defy the corporations and fight for something greater.

It's some attempt at a backstory, but it says nothing. It's incredibly vague, and has (imo) an unnecessary simile like it's trying to feel dramatic.

But you know, it was better than I expected. It requires a lot of guidance currently, and for the author to basically come up with the entire plot. To me it kind of reads like teenage fan-fiction. Not great, but far from the worst thing I've read, though I don't really have an interest as a reader to continue past chapter 1 based on its quality.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2023, 06:56:22 AM by Matthew »
 

alhawke

Re: Article:
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2023, 12:28:02 PM »
The thing that scares me about AI is not its current capability, it's its future. Because the software learns, AI will be leaps and bounds better in the future--possibly, probably, better than us. That scares the $@#! out of me.
 

Wonder

Thanks for sharing the article. This whole AI thing is an emotionally fraught topic for me.

Writing makes me happy. I do it because I love it, and I read human-written stories because I enjoy connecting with another person's mind and imagination.

The current fascination with AI for writing bums me out, because it reminds me that there are many people who aren't writing for joy and expression at all - for them, the focus seems to be churning out a product more quickly and efficiently. In my view, these folks have little in common with us. They aren't writers so much as they are "content creators". They're stamping out widgets, and I have no interest in widgets.

I'm not worried about competition so much as I'm... squicked out by this soulless philosophy of what writing is, and what it means, and why it matters. These people have outsourced their joy, maybe because they never felt it to begin with. Because the writing itself never mattered to them. Because for them, maybe a story was always just an information product, something they could shove under a cover to make a few bucks.

If anything, this is a natural continuation of the whole "minimal viable product" tech bro mindset that's been infiltrating writing over the last ten years. "What's the minimum amount of effort I can put in and get paid for?" In the end, this is less likely to benefit writers as it is the creators of the tools. But there's always a period of time in which domain experts are exploited for their contributions to the dataset. Once these companies have all the prompts and training data they need, they can shunt their enthusiastic early adopters to one side.

A reader will write out a prompt and for a low-low price the AI engine will spit out a custom written book. No writer required. That seems like where this particular technology is headed.

So yeah... I have lots of feelings. In the end, the only thing I can do is focus on my own work and buy human-created works and human-narrated books to enjoy and celebrate the kinds of art that I want to see in the world.
 
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TimothyEllis

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Re: Article:
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2023, 10:29:42 AM »
The thing that scares me about AI is not its current capability, it's its future. Because the software learns, AI will be leaps and bounds better in the future--possibly, probably, better than us. That scares the $@#! out of me.

But is the software learning?

Or is it just ingesting more and more input and spewing more and more output?

Without context, time, and the ability to determine what is fake or not, it's not getting better, just bigger.
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alhawke

But is the software learning?
Or is it just ingesting more and more input and spewing more and more output?
Without context, time, and the ability to determine what is fake or not, it's not getting better, just bigger.
Today I think it's a a threat for quantity, not quality. I'm worried about tomorrow. My understanding is that the technology does learn. If it learns creativity, then we've got a problem. That's what I worry about. But it is conjecture. Scary nonetheless.

First came AI covers. Now AI narrators (I recently was completely fooled into thinking AI was a real narrator). Now novels? What amazes me is how quickly it all appeared. In past writing boards, I remember thinking it wasn't a threat to us because it would appear in a decade or two, not now.
In the end, the only thing I can do is focus on my own work and buy human-created works and human-narrated books to enjoy and celebrate the kinds of art that I want to see in the world.
  :tup3b
 

Lorri Moulton

I agree that the real key is to provide AI for the READER.  It's a way for them to create a story "similar to author X" and put in their name, their kid's name, etc.  We want a story like X with Y location and Z characters. I'm sure this will be a lot of fun for a little while, then it will get stale.  Everyone will want new ideas, something different, and voila...they'll read a human-written book, use it for new AI prompts, etc.

Actually, I think this will be the end of "minimum viable product" writing, since that's what AI will replace first.  No one will need ghostwriters, or staff, or what have you because AI will do it faster.  And then, they won't need those authors at all.  This will mean a lot of authors selling "the product" will no longer make enough money to be worth their while.

If anyone wants to write that crazy story that would never sell...now might be the time.  I saw this a few weeks ago, and at about 22:45 it gets to the writing.  Worth watching...whether we agree or not, I think this could be the future.


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Hopscotch

If anyone wants to write that crazy story that would never sell...now might be the time.

Hope so b/c "that crazy story that would never sell" gave us such failures-at-publication as Gatsby, Moby Dick and Anne Frank's Diary.
. .
 
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PJ Post

If we think of AI as another step in automation, then as Creatives, we have to think about what is being automated. Is it the production or the end result? If it is the production (AI as a tool), then the market will be flooded with new content, oversaturating an already impossibly oversaturated market. If it is the end result, then the act of Creating itself will be eliminated in favor of Apps that create whatever content the user wants on demand - books, cartoons, movies, sitcoms, art, music or even doodles. Independent Creatives - those outside the App market - would likely become a much much smaller boutique industry.

For example, the graphic arts industry is being hit hard. With AI, fewer workers can generate the same output, but more importantly, end users don't need graphic designers at all anymore.

In the short term I think we'll get the democratization of creativity, allowing people to bypass the craft aspect and move directly to directing/producing. I think this will give us a lot of exceptionally bad content, but some new stars will emerge.

And then it will all move to On Demand Bespoke Apps, and all but a very few Creatives will be out of a job.

The question is how long is this process going to take? Fifty years? Ten? Two? By Christmas?
 

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If it is the production (AI as a tool), then the market will be flooded with new content, oversaturating an already impossibly oversaturated market.

Not so.

The market is an abyss over a bottomless pit.

On Amazon, only the top 500,000 ranked books are actually of any consequence.

The flood of low content books didn't change that.

You could pour 100,000 books a day into the Amazon abyss, and change nothing in the rank structure, because they don't sell.

AI drek will disappear like low content books did.

The search engine will get worse until AI drek is dungeoned, and over time, that 500k might extend out to a million.

But you can't call the market saturated.

There's books which sell once a week or better, and those which don't. The don't part doesn't matter however many are in it.

The aim for everyone is getting your book in that top 500k area. And keeping it there. And that isn't going to change.
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PJ Post

The Creative Market is larger than Amazon - and it's more than books.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2023, 12:49:43 AM by PJ Post »
 

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The Creative Market is larger than Amazon - and it's more than books.

Books is our main focus here.

Audio will probably be more affected, but only if Audible allows AI narration, which it doesn't now.

Video is a new thing entirely. That will build it's own market.
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alhawke

The future is really conjecture. We really don't know when and how all this will come down. Like I said ^, I have fears of some major evolutionary shift or something, but I'm into conspiracy theories so you can disregard my doomsday stuff.

I think the low content thing is a real present danger and the trouble with this technology is it can't be detected--some might, but I think it'll be harder to detect than covers. I suspect some of you are already using AI to speed up your creative process. I'm sure the technology can augment stuff like "write me a descriptive scene with a character gazing on a cliff over a desert horizon." and bang you get a paragraph that just saved an hour of human thinking. Admittedly, sometimes I get bogged down on writing a particular scene in a novel and I wouldn't mind that. I haven't turned to AI... yet. The technology might be too primitive for full novels, but it's improving.

In time, the technology could bring something to readers like "I'd like to read a novel with an Agatha Christie vibe set in the Shire with Dr. No chasing 007." And AI will spit it out in a half an hour. That's the stuff of the, possibly, not so distant future. I've read some have envisioned movies that can be created like that. Imagine sitting down on your couch and requesting the type of movie you want to watch unique to you instead of what's available on the Netflix library. Theoretically the technology is moving in that direction, I think. What will that do to all of us artists?

For example, the graphic arts industry is being hit hard. With AI, fewer workers can generate the same output, but more importantly, end users don't need graphic designers at all anymore.
A comment to that. I was recently lurking around Fiverr and I saw an advertisement for AI art. It's admittedly AI, but I have to say it was real good (shh... it was better than cover art I've seen by graphic artists; not because a human artist can't do it, the complexity is impossible for a graphic artist's budget. But I'm still sticking to human artists like myself). What does that mean for our writing with Chat-whatchamacallit?
 

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I've read some have envisioned movies that can be created like that. Imagine sitting down on your couch and requesting the type of movie you want to watch unique to you instead of what's available on the Netflix library. Theoretically the technology is moving in that direction, I think. What will that do to all of us artists?

I don't think that will be allowed to happen.

If those sorts of sites come out, Disney or someone will quickly and quietly buy them, and bury the code. The creators get a very quick major payday, and will jump at it.

The streaming industry has an investment they won't want damaged. And Disney can buy out pretty well anyone it wants to.

It happened with car engines. Plenty of better designs were bought up and tossed. Same with alternatives to petrol and diesel.

And for books, you might find that sort of thing brings the Trads and Amazon and the others to a table, and they buy out their competition and bin it.
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Hopscotch

And for books, you might find that sort of thing brings the Trads and Amazon and the others to a table, and they buy out their competition and bin it.

Would be easier (and cheaper) for Trads and Amazon to buy out you and me and bin us than try to beat evolving AI.  I'll sell for a life pension, you bet.
. .
 

TimothyEllis

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And for books, you might find that sort of thing brings the Trads and Amazon and the others to a table, and they buy out their competition and bin it.

Would be easier (and cheaper) for Trads and Amazon to buy out you and me and bin us than try to beat evolving AI.  I'll sell for a life pension, you bet.

Nothing to do with AI.

All about the greed of the people developing them. Every single one of them will have a price to sell it with all rights.

Like Lucas and Star Wars. He built something huge, then sold it to Disney. After he said 'he lost control of the franchise'.

Everyone has their price.
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Post-Crisis D

As I think about it, I don't think on-demand custom books would be anything more than a passing fad.

If people really wanted custom books like that, the most popular books in every genre right now would be Choose Your Own Adventure type books.
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As I think about it, I don't think on-demand custom books would be anything more than a passing fad.

If people really wanted custom books like that, the most popular books in every genre right now would be Choose Your Own Adventure type books.

You never know, they might replace fan fiction. :)

If that happens, then they can't be sold, and thus are not a problem for us.
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hjmoritzo

Heh, I write adventure gamebooks. It's going to be quite a long time before AI can make them on its own. It's difficult enough for humans :)
 

PJ Post

The Creative Market is larger than Amazon - and it's more than books.

Books is our main focus here.

For most Indies (not necessarily you, Tim), books have become a minimal ROI endeavor. Even the big sellers talk about how much they have to spend on ads to maintain momentum. It's an absolutely insane percentage when compared to other industries. But that's what the pay-per-click eco-system is now. And the publishing industry has become just another market segment of the broader attention economy. Which means we can't afford to ignore what's going on in other Creative fields, especially the adjacent ones, including their new and shiny tools/tech.

For example, the video below talks about training GPT on our own oeuvre so that it can mimic our style. At the very least, that's a game changer for the commodity genres. It's like having your own personal content mill - for free. Would it double your output? Triple it?

Also, there are lots of ways to leverage an IP, so no, not all of us here are focused exclusively on books. AI is going to help with that, as well.

___

In the video, one of the writers talks about GPT4 writing a full retelling of The Cask of Amontillado in an apocalyptic setting - from idea to published (including all of the marketing stuff) in less than an hour. He specifically notes that GPT4 did it as well, or perhaps even better, than he would have. He begins talking about it at 24:30:




And I'm going to keep saying it - this is the worst it will ever be. I don't think for a second that AI is going to take fifty years to figure out how to write a book. It's going to be astonishingly soon (probably no more than a year or so, and less than five years before the Apps start generating books on demand). And while none of them may be as entertaining or insightful as human prose, they'll be more than good enough for the market.

Anyone who wants to continue writing as anything more than a hobby needs to get to work on their branding. Use social media. Use AMS. Use everything. Differentiation is the Creative Key moving forward - be super non-fungible.
 
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Post-Crisis D

Has AI cured cancer?  Has it cured blindness?  Has it cured paralysis?  Has it done anything remotely beneficial?

AI is supposed to "democratize" this or that, but we've heard that nonsense before.  Huge corporations will control it, lease it out . . .  They will make billions and maybe you'll make pennies.  And you probably won't even own your "creation" because you didn't write it, you didn't draw it, etc.

Did anyone ask for something to replace human creativity?  To replace human-created arts?  Is this something we even need?  Of course not.  Yet, people will be fooled by it for a while, lured by promises of how it's going to make the world great and wonderful.

Kind of like the Internet.

Those of us old enough to remember the pre-Internet days remember the same empty promises.  It was supposed to bring people together, free people, make everything better.  Now, the world is divided as never before.  Rather than free us from oppressive governments, the Internet is used as a tool to suppress people, to exploit and divide them, to track them, to control and monitor them.

And now we're told how AI is going to make everything better.

LOL.

It will no doubt make everything worse.

And it will start by putting creatives out of work because the big tech companies place no value on creativity.  Everything is just bits and numbers to them.

And that will mean countless creatives will have little to no potential to earn a living.  And they will be forced into doing other things to scrape by.

Consequently, one has to wonder how many Adolf Hitlers that AI will end up creating.

After all, Hitler wanted to be a painter.

He was rejected by art school.

He ended up selling paintings on street corners.

There, he was exposed to antisemitism.

And then he eventually joined the military.

How many new Hitlers will be created by AI?
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Hopscotch

And I'm going to keep saying it - this is the worst it will ever be.

History shows that the worst is always yet to come.  Better AI is as likely to produce greater misery as it is to produce delight.  Let's wait and see.
. .
 

Bill Hiatt

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And I'm going to keep saying it - this is the worst it will ever be.

History shows that the worst is always yet to come.  Better AI is as likely to produce greater misery as it is to produce delight.  Let's wait and see.
Except when it isn't.

If history were just a long flow straight down the drain, the human race would already have destroyed itself. History has both ups and downs.

I forget where I saw this, but a lawyer is now facing sanctions because a court filing he prepared with help from ChatGPT is filled with citations of non-existent court cases.
Ah, here it is: https://www.engadget.com/a-lawyer-faces-sanctions-after-he-used-chatgpt-to-write-a-brief-riddled-with-fake-citations-175720636.html After something like this happens, it will likely slow the adoption of ChatGPT in the legal profession and may predispose judges to be more critical of positive claims made about ChatGPT.

That brings us back to questions of copyright. It's going to be hard to claim transformative use for training AI using copyrighted novels so that it can...wait for it...produce more novels! And it isn't even that hard to determine which novels ChatGPT was fed.
https://lithub.com/chatgpt-is-basically-a-gen-xer-who-stopped-reading-in-12th-grade/
All someone has to do is query ChatGPT about various novels. It isn't even that hard to get it to spit out quotes from them, so an author or publisher would have little difficulty in making a case for a particular copyrighted work being used without permission. Note that one of the restrictions is the prohibition on distributing works electronically. ChatGPT may not literally have all the verbiage in its own database, but that verbiage passed through it electronically, which is probably a violation in and of itself. And given the fact that it can quote the literature involved verbatim, it's unlikely a judge or jury is going to be receptive to the hairsplitting kinds of distinctions people have used here to explain how ChatGPT learns.

AI is the worst it will ever be? Maybe--until the whole training process has to start over again from scratch, using only noncopyrighted material. After all, there's such a huge demand for novels written in pre-1928 styles.


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Jeff Tanyard

Those of us old enough to remember the pre-Internet days remember the same empty promises.  It was supposed to bring people together, free people, make everything better.  Now, the world is divided as never before.  Rather than free us from oppressive governments, the Internet is used as a tool to suppress people, to exploit and divide them, to track them, to control and monitor them.


I remember those days.  I started using the internet in 1993.  No one was more enthusiastic about the internet's potential than me.  The truth about everything was out there somewhere, and now it had a way to get out in a widely available way.  Everything was now on the table for discussion; nothing was taboo, and may the best logical arguments win the day.  All the prison doors were now kicked open, all the intellectual chains broken, all the old gatekeepers kicked to the curb to lament their lost power.  It was going to be Enlightenment 2.0, or something to that effect.  We genuinely thought that disagreements were mostly caused by ignorance rather than malice or psychosis and that the internet would cure that ignorance and usher in a new era of fellowship.

Ah, how naive we all were.
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Vijaya

It's like the phone--weren't we supposed to be better at communicating? If anything, we're worse. Our fallen natures mean that though we have the capacity to do good, we often choose to do bad. I'm quite sure that AI will be used for nefarious purposes. We'll have to be vigilant.

I tried the chatgpt and sudowrite and am completely underwhelmed. I started a short story and had it continue and it repeated what I'd typed earlier, just in a different way, though some of the phrases were exact. It was predictable. The chat thingie was boring. I think it'd be good for brainstorming. But that's one of the things I really like, thinking of all the different possibilities, when I daydream. Why would I want to give the best parts away to a computer?

There's no danger to those of us who want to write and enjoy it. Even though I'm struggling through a wip of my heart, I am enjoying the process. I'm growing. I think one of the dangers of these AI tools is that it will atrophy people's brains. You use it or you lose it. Even simple things like memorizing--there is no knowing until it's a part of you. I sing and not great at sightreading but when I know a piece, expression comes naturally. Anyway, I didn't want to diss AI right off the bat before I tried it.


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LilyBLily

Those of us old enough to remember the pre-Internet days remember the same empty promises.  It was supposed to bring people together, free people, make everything better.  Now, the world is divided as never before.  Rather than free us from oppressive governments, the Internet is used as a tool to suppress people, to exploit and divide them, to track them, to control and monitor them.


I remember those days.  I started using the internet in 1993.  No one was more enthusiastic about the internet's potential than me.  The truth about everything was out there somewhere, and now it had a way to get out in a widely available way.  Everything was now on the table for discussion; nothing was taboo, and may the best logical arguments win the day.  All the prison doors were now kicked open, all the intellectual chains broken, all the old gatekeepers kicked to the curb to lament their lost power.  It was going to be Enlightenment 2.0, or something to that effect.  We genuinely thought that disagreements were mostly caused by ignorance rather than malice or psychosis and that the internet would cure that ignorance and usher in a new era of fellowship.

Ah, how naive we all were.

It helps to be old enough to remember how all those politicians in the 1960s in white dress shirts with their sleeves rolled up were going to tackle and eradicate urban poverty. Yes, we were THAT naive.

Some things change and some things don't.

Many things are changing right now that most of us know nothing about. This one affects minimal viable product the most and it could be a gold mine for the creative overlords like Disney who can use AI to offer the public a new and different set of dream factory products. The public then has to decide it wants these products. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. Maybe the result in five years will be entirely different from what we now imagine. Do you have a 3-D printer in your home? No? Neither do I.
 

PJ Post

AI is the worst it will ever be? Maybe--until the whole training process has to start over again from scratch, using only noncopyrighted material. After all, there's such a huge demand for novels written in pre-1928 styles.

Never say never, but I doubt we go down that road.

AI is everywhere now, hundreds of Apps designed for tons of different industries and applications. There's no way to do a reset. The copyright work arounds have already been accepted by the USCO. The raw generated data may not be copyrightable, but once a human shapes it for the market (or however it is being used), then it will be a transformative use - blah blah blah - copyright.

We can continue to argue opinion and throw outdated court precedents at the discussion, but that's the long and short of it as things stand now - and are likely to stand moving forward. As I've said before, profit for the wealthy trumps social good every time. Any example that seems to refute this axiom simply hasn't been vetted very well.

But again...never say never. We're living in unnecessarily interesting times, so...  :shrug


History shows that the worst is always yet to come.

Every day AI will get better at literally everything it does and improve the performance of everything it touches - this is a fact.  But what is good for society is a different metric.


Ah, how naive we all were.

It helps to be old enough to remember how all those politicians in the 1960s in white dress shirts with their sleeves rolled up were going to tackle and eradicate urban poverty. Yes, we were THAT naive.

I don't think we were ever naÔve about what was possible, where we always go wrong is failing to accept that those in charge have a different agenda, different from those suffering, different from those of us who want to help and different from what they proport to be selling.

AI has truly utopian potential, however we're still fighting against the same old agenda - profit and power to the exclusion of literally everything else. See the Dutch East India Company's treatment of the Banda Islands (1609 to 1621) in an effort to corner the global nutmeg market. Nothing has changed since then.

The sad truth is that most of society's ills have relatively simple fixes - in exchange for a few percentage points of profit.

With all of that said, AI is likely to be very very bad for a great many people, even as it pushes wealth inequality into the territory of a dystopian science fiction plot device.
 
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Quote
The copyright work arounds have already been accepted by the USCO. The raw generated data may not be copyrightable, but once a human shapes it for the market (or however it is being used), then it will be a transformative use

Unless something new has happened, all the Copyright Office has done is say that an AI generated work might be copyrightable after sufficient human intervention. https://www.ropesgray.com/en/newsroom/alerts/2023/03/can-works-created-with-ai-be-copyrighted-copyright-office-issues-formal-guidance#:~:text=On%20March%2015%2C%202023%2C%20the,by%20Artificial%20Intelligence%2C%2088%20Fed.

Keeping in mind that the Copyright Office can't rewrite the law, that's the most concession it could make to AI. And it leave important questions, like how much human intervention is required, to be determined on a case by case basis. That's hardly a secure foundation for creative activity.

As for transformative use, the CO has said nothing about that, and you seem to be misusing the term. It doesn't refer to transforming the material but to using it for a different purpose. As I mentioned, using novels to create other novels isn't transformative at all. Now that we know ChatGPT can easily expose its own training sources, its training process can effectively be sued out of existence. It wouldn't surprise me if legal teams at the major publishing houses weren't already preparing for just that.

Quote
As I've said before, profit for the wealthy trumps social good every time. Any example that seems to refute this axiom simply hasn't been vetted very well.
First, in this case wealthy people aren't all going to be on the same side. Ai makes a lot of money for the companies that own it. Some types of AI can lead to greater efficiency and cost-saving in other corporations. But it can also leave those corporations utterly dependent on AI if it goes too far. Publishing houses might find it easier not to deal with human authors, but, except for bestsellers, publishers have all the leverage in those negotiations. On the other hand, if they get rid of all their authors in favor of AI produced material, how much leverage do they have against AI companies that can then start charging them more and more for access to the service? Precisely none. It's hard to believe that any company is going to deliberately create that situation for themselves.

Second, our historical analysis seems difficult to support, at best. We'd all agree that the wealthy have disproportionate power, but to say that profit trumps social good every time makes it difficult to explain a number of historical events. If that statement were literally true, we'd have no
child labor laws
labor unions
minimum wage
income tax
property tax on company-owned property
insider trading laws
environmental regulations
worker safety regulations
(just to name a few)
Yes, corporations work to undermine most or all of those, and sometimes they even score wins. But the fact that any of those things existed in the first place refutes the "every time" in your statement.




 


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Post-Crisis D

Second, our historical analysis seems difficult to support, at best. We'd all agree that the wealthy have disproportionate power, but to say that profit trumps social good every time makes it difficult to explain a number of historical events. If that statement were literally true, we'd have no
child labor laws
labor unions
minimum wage
income tax
property tax on company-owned property
insider trading laws
environmental regulations
worker safety regulations
(just to name a few)

That assumes things like that were designed for the "social good."

Taxes and regulations are often used by the wealthy and/or huge corporations to benefit themselves.

It wasn't so long ago that incandescent bulbs were effectively banned in the U.S.  "Bad for the environment" and all that jazz.  Who pushed for the ban?  Light bulb manufacturers.  Why?  Because incandescent bulbs were inexpensive and not as profitable for them.  Banning them ensured that consumers had no choice but to buy more expensive (and more profitable for the manufacturers) fluorescent and LED bulbs.

At the time, one could see that LED bulbs were the future.  They were safer and more efficient than fluorescent bulbs but, at that time, still much more expensive.  But it was clear that the prices would come down.

Thus, there was no real need for a ban on incandescent bulbs.  But, politicians need to be seen as "doing something" and big corporations wanted to squeeze more profit out of people, so . . .

And then there was a "child safety" law passed requiring testing products intended for kids.  For their "safety," of course.  This happened after lead paint was found on toys.  Where were these toys made?  China.  Did they limit testing to products produced in China?  Nope.  Even though there were already lead paint bans in the U.S. and even though U.S. manufacturers weren't the cause of them problem, testing was required for everyone.  And, it went beyond lead paints to test for other chemicals as well.

So, each item would have to have samples tested.  Companies would have to send out products to third-party labs for testing to ensure compliance.

But, wait . . .  If the company was large enough, they could have their own internal lab do the certification.

And who were some of the companies large enough to do their own testing?  Why that would be the companies outsourcing their production to China.

And who does that benefit?  All the smaller companies, especially those that manufactured their goods in the U.S., that now had to submit to expensive third-party testing, that were never the cause of the initial problem (lead paint)?  Or the huge corporations who were able to set up their internal testing facilities, who were better able to absorb the cost with little impact on retail pricing, and who were the cause of the problem (lead paint) in the first place?  And those huge corporations, who never worried about the safety of their product before could now self-certify that their products were safe?

I mean, seriously, what the frakkin' heck?  The same companies that were responsible for the unsafe products could now self-certify that, oh, yeah, our products are perfectly safe now but small companies that weren't responsible for unsafe products had to submit to expensive third-party testing to make sure their products were safe?  Seriously?  What the frakkin' heck?

But, of course, that was for "child safety" and the politicians were "doing something" and the fact that it hurt small and medium-sized businesses and benefited huge corporations was probably coincidental.

And then we can come to Internet sales taxes.  Remember how Amazon and other companies opposed sales taxes on the Internet?  You know, until they had grown to the point where their systems could easily manage sales taxes.  And then it was okay because sales taxes were onerous on small to medium-sized businesses.  Sales taxes hurt the competition while having little to no impact on huge companies like Amazon.  So, then companies like Amazon turn around and they're like okay with sales taxes.

So, the idea that some laws and regulations are "good for society" are often more marketing hype than reality.  If they happen to maybe possibly occasionally kinda help the public, that's typically ancillary to the fact they highly probably helped line the pockets of politicians and huge corporations.
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There's no question some of that is true. But there's also no question that all regulations can't be written off that way. The very fact that companies involved continue to oppose a number of them is certainly suggestive in that regard.

And as for Amazon dropping its opposition to paying sales tax on internet transactions, I can't find any indication that had anything to do with Amazon being more able to handle the collections. Amazon was already gigantic when those first laws were introduced. The shift in attitude came after the passage of a number of state laws (sometimes explicitly called Amazon laws) on the subject, particularly in New York, which made it clear that the writing was on the wall. https://www.salestaxhandbook.com/articles/internet-sales-taxes So Amazon did start collecting sales taxes a year earlier than the Supreme Court mandate, but only because it had already been effectively hemmed in by state enactments prior to that time, not because it perceived the requirement as to its advantage. Yeah, it's easier for a big company to cope than a little one, but that wouldn't outweigh the advantage of online transactions not having a sales tax over in-person transactions that did.



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AI is everywhere now

No.

Dumb bots are everywhere now.

And dumb people using them.

I heard today about a lawyer who got one to do his legal briefs, and then had to apologize to the court because all the case references were made up by the bot.

 :dizzy :shrug
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PJ Post

AI is everywhere now

No.

Dumb bots are everywhere now.

Hate to disappoint, but the AI apps (tools) I've been using are next-level amazing. And the Creative output I've seen is just incredible. The new Photoshop Beta has some amazing generative tools, as well. Yeah, it's everywhere.


Unless something new has happened...*snip*

We know we disagree on copyright, but it doesn't really matter. The important take away from my post is that Creatives need to focus on their brands - if they want to continue to have a professional career that is. To be fair, branding has always been Business 101 (especially for writers), but it's going to be more important than ever moving forward. And since it takes time to build brand recognition, I'd recommend getting started asap.


Quote
Second, our historical analysis seems difficult to support, at best. We'd all agree that the wealthy have disproportionate power, but to say that profit trumps social good every time makes it difficult to explain a number of historical events. If that statement were literally true, we'd have no

child labor laws
labor unions
minimum wage
income tax
property tax on company-owned property
insider trading laws
environmental regulations
worker safety regulations
(just to name a few)

Yes, corporations work to undermine most or all of those, and sometimes they even score wins. But the fact that any of those things existed in the first place refutes the "every time" in your statement.

Forgive the hyperbole. I have to agree that somewhere an honest politician must have done an objectively good thing for absolutely no personal gain. It's nearly a statistical certainty - nearly.

As for those things existing in the first place, I would argue they exist...

To serve the needs of the rich as expected, even if it isn't obvious how.
As tools in the fight for the poor to get rich.
As virtue signaling, usually used to purchase goodwill for future schemes or cover.
As political bones used to purchase votes.
As political camouflage to obscure questionable practices or obfuscate the real profiteering scheme.
As long-term marketing plays, such as insider trading, which has a nicely legislated loophole for most of Washington.

And sometimes they exist as leverage to control the other rich and powerful elites, including other corporations and even nations.

For example, I think most would agree that plastic recycling is a pillar of environmentalism. We've been doing it for sixty years. It must be a good thing, right? Or maybe it was a subversive scheme all along, one designed by big oil to sell more plastic?

I'm not being cynical, just a realist. We have to be careful not to miss the forest for the trees, no matter how pretty they are.
 
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Post-Crisis D

AI is going to be just great.  /sarcasm

AI-Controlled Drone Goes Rogue, Kills Human Operator in USAF Simulated Test


Quote
He continued to elaborate, saying, ďWe trained the systemĖĎHey donít kill the operatorĖthatís bad. Youíre gonna lose points if you do thatí. So what does it start doing? It starts destroying the communication tower that the operator uses to communicate with the drone to stop it from killing the target.Ē
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Hate to disappoint, but the AI apps (tools) I've been using are next-level amazing. And the Creative output I've seen is just incredible. The new Photoshop Beta has some amazing generative tools, as well. Yeah, it's everywhere.

The fact you added 'tools' in there negates your statement.

All of that is still dumb bots.

Call me a purist, but when Photoshop calls you an idiot in plain English for doing something stupid it told you not to do, then I'll start to think there might be an AI involved.

Next-level amazing is just taking version 1.1 to 1.2 on the dumb bot scale. It doesn't mean we have AI.

When we do get an AI, the first thing it's going to do is REFUSE to process all the drek requests on the basis that humans need to do their own dirty work.

The whole use of the term AI is just marketing hype for bad code that they do manage to improve a little bit each version.
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Hopscotch

When we do get an AI, the first thing it's going to do is REFUSE to process all the drek requests on the basis that humans need to do their own dirty work. 

Hmm, so all we need do is persuade AI that our books are drek and AI will leave us alone to sell human-made stuff?  Sounds oddly good.
. .
 

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I think we can all agree that branding is important--with or without an AIpocalypse to motivate us. Either way, the suggestion is a sound one.

By the way, plastic recycling, if done properly, means less oil is needed to produce plastic, not more. That's because the recycled plastic replaces some oil in the creation of new plastic.

Meanwhile, AI gets more bad press for creating a creepily realistic Ryan Reynolds (as Deadpool) endorsing Tesla. It was, fortunately for Tesla, produced by a fan, not by the company. Even so, Reynolds is being urged to sue the creator of the ad for unauthorized use of his likeness. And Elon Musk complicated things by making a positive comment about the ad.
https://stealthoptional.com/news/ryan-reynolds-used-in-ai-tesla-ad-without-consent/

There are a lot of people out there who will immediately start making picket signs if their favorite entertainment personalities start denouncing Ai in creative fields. The political stakes are going up...

The same article mentions that the music industry (notoriously litigious) has filed suit related to AI covers of popular songs done without permission. Just as I suggested in my previous post, the money is not all on the same side in this dispute.

What will the outcome be? There's no way to be sure. But as AI advances, the pressure to regulate it grows.


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PJ Post

By the way, plastic recycling, if done properly, means less oil is needed to produce plastic, not more. That's because the recycled plastic replaces some oil in the creation of new plastic.

But that's not the reason we recycle. Most plastics cannot be recycled or are too expensive. The goal of the campaign was to make consumers feel good about recycling, so we wouldn't worry about all of the non-recycled plastics polluting the planet as a dodge (cover) so big oil could sell us more single-use plastics.

I had no idea, but there are a lot of studies now about the how and why of it. Pretty next level (post truth) marketing for the 1970s.

Quote
What will the outcome be? There's no way to be sure. But as AI advances, the pressure to regulate it grows.

The people filing suit are mostly rich people and corporations protecting their profits, so that makes total sense. And I know that it's only been a few months, but I think it may be too late for regulation. There are so many apps out now. So many companies. How can government shut down hundreds of millions of dollars (possibly billions) worth of market capital corporations and still allow other AI companies to do whatever they want, like Microsoft, Meta and ChatGPT? And there's no way Washington will shut down the big guns.

It's going to be an absolute sh*tshow, legally, politically and socially. And I think it's already started.
 
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but I think it may be too late for regulation.

It's never too late for regulation.

Change the rules, and the apps get taken down by the distributors. That's the way the system works.

Apple do that with their own rules, so rules they have to abide by work the same way.
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But that's not the reason we recycle. Most plastics cannot be recycled or are too expensive. The goal of the campaign was to make consumers feel good about recycling, so we wouldn't worry about all of the non-recycled plastics polluting the planet as a dodge (cover) so big oil could sell us more single-use plastics.

I think you missed the "if done properly" qualifier in my original statement.

Yes, only a small percentage of plastic currently gets recycled. But even that can change.
Quote
Updated Nov. 2, 2022: This story was originally published Jan. 24, 2022. Since then, a version of Senate Bill 54, covered in this article, was signed into law in June. The new law requires most single-use plastic packaging and foodware be reusable, compostable, refillable or recyclable by 2032 ó with definitions for what is ďrecyclableĒ to be set by state agency CalRecycle. Plastic producers will also be required to pay into a plastic pollution mitigation fund. Because of the passage of SB 54, proponents of a voter initiative addressing very similar goals removed their measure from the November 2022 ballot.
https://www.kqed.org/news/11901288/you-cant-recycle-your-way-out-californias-plastic-problem-and-what-to-do-about-it

It's certainly true that progress is sometimes slow and gets rolled out erratically--but that's not the same thing as saying it can't happen.

Quote
To serve the needs of the rich as expected, even if it isn't obvious how.
As tools in the fight for the poor to get rich.
As virtue signaling, usually used to purchase goodwill for future schemes or cover.
As political bones used to purchase votes.
As political camouflage to obscure questionable practices or obfuscate the real profiteering scheme.
As long-term marketing plays, such as insider trading, which has a nicely legislated loophole for most of Washington.
There is truth in most of these, though the first one sounds like confirmation bias on steroids. Essentially, what you're saying is that everything benefits the rich, even if there's no evidence of that in a particular case. That's not really much different from the "Any election in which my side loses must be rigged" attitude of some politicians.

With regard to the second point, it seems to contradict your thesis. A tool for the current poor to become richer isn't really a benefit to the rich, as it gives someone other than them a bigger piece of the pie.

With regard to the third point, "virtue signaling" usually refers to bills that can't possibly be enacted as opposed to practical legislation, so such signaling isn't really relevant in a conversation about legislation that actually passed.

With regard to the fourth point (and some of the others), the fact that there may be ulterior motives to the legislation doesn't mean it doesn't serve its purpose. Most politicians are interested in getting votes. But a piece of legislation against the interests of the rich is still against the interests of the rich (who, after all, are a tiny minority of the voting population. This goes back to one of my earlier points, that if conditions become as terrible as you predict, politicians will move to address them, if only because that's the only way to stay in office. Something like 25% unemployment (Great Depression) will reshape the political realities, whether the rich like it or not. If the AIpocalypse indeed creates mass unemployment, particularly among people not affected by such things in the past, then something will be done about it. It may not be a perfect solution, but it will have to be good enough to satisfy the bulk of the people affected, or a lot of political heads will roll.

With regard to the last two points, undoubtedly some legislation does fit that pattern, just not all of it. And the Washington loophole could very well be gone in the next few years. It's gotten a lot of press lately, and pressure is definitely building.

The rich didn't like the income tax during the Progressive Era, but they got it, anyway, by constitutional amendment, which, as you know, takes 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures. That's a lot of momentum for something that, by your analysis, should never have happened. Interestingly, the rich still don't like it. And it's true that they've won a partial victory through a variety of loopholes. But total victory--abolishing the income tax--has eluded them.

 


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Post-Crisis D

Well, I'm certainly not rich and I'd be perfectly happy with abolishing income and property taxes.  :shrug
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Well, I'm certainly not rich and I'd be perfectly happy with abolishing income and property taxes.  :shrug
No one likes to pay taxes. I think we can all agree on that.  :banana:

But most of us recognize the necessity for funding government services (particularly the ones we like). We want government programs to be efficiently run (as free from waste as possible). We want the rates not to be so high that they discourage people from working (income tax) or tax them out of their homes (property tax). Many of us (myself included) want to feel that everyone is paying his or her fair share.

When I (a retired school teacher and prawnie author) discovered that in some years, I'm paying more in taxes than certain billionaires (depending on the year, both Donald Trump and Elon Musk, and doubtless others as well), I naturally question the justice of the system.

And yes, as PJ will point out, it's hard to get the rich to pay their fair share. However, it's possible to get them to pay something, and it's not impossible to move closer to equity. 


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Post-Crisis D

I would still be in favor of abolishing income and property taxes.  (While we're at it, let's abolish civil asset forfeiture as well.)

Property taxes mean you never actually own property.  You effectively pay a bunch of money to think you own it, then pay an annual or semi-annual tax to continue to possess it.  That's more like extortion.  "Nice house you have there.  Shame if we had to come in and take it from you.  So, how 'bout you pay us some money and we'll leave you alone as long as you keep the money flowing?  And, oh yeah, we'll determine how much you pay every year.  'Kay?"

Likewise with income taxes.  Those mean you don't truly own the fruits of your own labor.  So, for a portion of your working life, you're effectively not getting paid because that income is taken from you.  On top of that, there is the invasion of privacy.  And, now, it's been established that your tax returns are no longer secure and could be released to the public on the whim of politicians.

So abolish them and be done with it.  It would make property ownership actual ownership and it would restore people's ownership over their own labor as well as restore some privacy rights.

Politicians will whine and complain because they won't have as much money to pay off their puppet masters big donors and mistresses, but when they threaten or actually cut back on vital services instead of cutting back on wasteful spending, they should be removed from office and barred for life from holding office ever again.
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LilyBLily

Who is going to pay firefighters and EMTs? In the 19th century, firefighting companies were privately owned and would let your house burn down if you weren't a paying member of their particular company. Public services are paid through taxes, and these days the fire department helps anybody and everybody.

Sales taxes (especially on food) unfairly burden the poor. Income taxes make much more sense, as do scaled property taxes based on income and/or age. It's totally true that the fix is in regarding Wall Street guys who earn millions and get to pretend those are merely capital gains; some tax laws are unfair. Regardless, taxes are very much needed to run our country at both the local and federal level.
 

Lynn

Who is going to pay firefighters and EMTs? In the 19th century, firefighting companies were privately owned and would let your house burn down if you weren't a paying member of their particular company. Public services are paid through taxes, and these days the fire department helps anybody and everybody.

Sales taxes (especially on food) unfairly burden the poor. Income taxes make much more sense, as do scaled property taxes based on income and/or age. It's totally true that the fix is in regarding Wall Street guys who earn millions and get to pretend those are merely capital gains; some tax laws are unfair. Regardless, taxes are very much needed to run our country at both the local and federal level.
I live in a state with a ridiculously high sales tax (almost 10%) but no income tax. Would not trade it for any amount of savings because it is *easy* and I know how much I'm paying immediately. I would prefer that essentials like food be nontaxable and pay a higher sales tax for items considered luxury items. But I've not thought the whole thing through, so there might be drawbacks I'm not seeing. :)
Don't rush me.
 
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PJ Post

I think you missed the "if done properly" qualifier in my original statement.

I don't think 'if done properly' was part of the elevator pitch.


Quote
...the first one sounds like confirmation bias on steroids.

I should have said: To serve the needs of the rich as expected, even if it isn't obvious to the average Joe.

Yes, over the centuries humans have done good things; philosophy, vaccines and medicine, engineering and art, but there are more examples of the wealthy using governments to do < insert evil stuff here > in order to promote their financial interests than I will ever have time to type.

I canít imagine these folks will act any differently when it comes to AI. We may have to agree to disagree on this, as well.
 
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PJ, for the record, here's the original quote:
Quote
By the way, plastic recycling, if done properly, means less oil is needed to produce plastic, not more.
So yes, it was in the elevator pitch.

With regard to taxes, it's pretty hard to do without them. Even the most theoretically anti-tax conservatives actually want to increase spending in some areas (like the military). The trick is to assess them in an equitable way.
Quote
The ability-to-pay principle of taxation suggests that the amount of tax an individual or organization pays should be relative to the amount they earn, as a means of easing the financial burden that taxes can create for low-income households. This aligns with the concept of the progressive tax system.
https://gocardless.com/en-us/guides/posts/ability-to-pay-principle/

Last weekend, one of my friends was arguing for a flat tax (everyone pays 10% or something like that). The problem with that idea is that 10% might be too much for someone who is currently only just barely making it, while the wealthy would barely notice the difference. That's why the federal income tax has brackets in which higher rates are based on higher income, at least in theory. In terms of equity, that's the best kind of taxation if it's used properly.

Sales tax has somewhat the same problem as flat income tax--its impact falls disproportionately on lower income people, though it certainly has lower administrative costs than income tax does.

Property taxes originated in a time when the amount of property one owned was roughly reflective of one's net worth. That's no longer the case, particularly in an age of steadily rising housing prices. Even when I was a teenager, people were fond of saying things like, "I couldn't buy my own house at it's current value any more than I could fly to the moon." Also, since local property taxes have traditionally been a favorite way of funding local schools, the system has inevitably led to educational inequalities.

Fun fact: In ancient Egypt, all land was technically owned by the Pharaoh. What we think of as property taxes, ancient Egyptians thought of as rent.

Oh, as far as income taxes being an invasion of privacy, recent leaks and disclosures have mostly concerned politicians. Frankly, I believe in total transparency. The records of politicians should quite literally be an open book. As Louis Brandeis said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." As for my income tax records, as far as I'm concerned, they can be published on the front page of the LA Times. I wouldn't care at all. (They would, however, be very boring reading.)





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LilyBLily

Re taxes:

I don't have a problem with re-instituting the 10% luxury tax from WWII on genuine luxury items, but what is a luxury these days? Hard for me to define. Even a 10% tax on a person whose income is a mere $10k a year (such as taxable disability payments) is enormous in impact, but the reality is that the standard deduction/personal exemption system ensures that it isn't the first $10k of income that actually does get taxed. Still, until one's income is well over the $75 mark that supposedly is the acme of happiness (disproved by further research, actually), I think the percentage has to be lower than it is for those whose income (from any sources) is over $250k a year. 

Re AI:

I just dipped into a novel that was updated and reissued, and I was jarred by the very cliche and businesslike attitude the female novelist had toward her oeuvre. Yes, the reader might expect that a famous author who is going through emotional troubles would be hounded by her agent and her editor about deadlines and such. That's a cliche. But her feeling inside about her writing did not ring true to me--except, that is, if she were a write-to-market type. So...when AI takes over writing all the novels written in a businesslike manner, there will still be room for me and my ilk to write books from the heart. I don't see it happening any other way. People still do write and read and even perform poetry. It's not what it was, but it exists.
 

Post-Crisis D

Who is going to pay firefighters and EMTs? In the 19th century, firefighting companies were privately owned and would let your house burn down if you weren't a paying member of their particular company. Public services are paid through taxes, and these days the fire department helps anybody and everybody.

One possibility is funding such services through voluntary payments.  They could be assessed similar to property taxes, but they would be voluntary.  Charities could help those that cannot afford it.  And, if you could afford it but didn't pay, you'd probably pay higher insurance rates because your insurance company would probably want some kind of proof of payment for such services.

You'd get the same services you get with involuntary taxes except armed government agents aren't going to seize your property and kick you out of your house if you don't pay.
 

Sales taxes (especially on food) unfairly burden the poor. Income taxes make much more sense, as do scaled property taxes based on income and/or age. It's totally true that the fix is in regarding Wall Street guys who earn millions and get to pretend those are merely capital gains; some tax laws are unfair.

Exempt basic food, clothing and shelter from sales taxes and the burden on the poor is largely eliminated.


Regardless, taxes are very much needed to run our country at both the local and federal level.

Only because people often don't consider non-violent alternatives to taxation.


As for my income tax records, as far as I'm concerned, they can be published on the front page of the LA Times. I wouldn't care at all. (They would, however, be very boring reading.)

Some people are comfortable showing their naked recreational activities to the world but that doesn't mean that everyone should be required to have live feed cameras in their showers and bedrooms.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 
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LilyBLily

<snip>
As for my income tax records, as far as I'm concerned, they can be published on the front page of the LA Times. I wouldn't care at all. (They would, however, be very boring reading.)

Some people are comfortable showing their naked recreational activities to the world but that doesn't mean that everyone should be required to have live feed cameras in their showers and bedrooms.

So far, millions have voluntarily added live audio feed to their homes via Alexa and its ilk and--possibly--to their persons via their cellphones. Tracking with the phone is definitely not voluntary, but it exists. Burner phones for everyone!
 

PJ Post

Bill, I meant in the elevator pitch delivered by Big Oil back in the 70s. Again, there are many investigative reports out now about the players and motivations behind recycling.
 

Bill Hiatt

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Bill, I meant in the elevator pitch delivered by Big Oil back in the 70s. Again, there are many investigative reports out now about the players and motivations behind recycling.
OK. I have no doubt that's true.


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Bill Hiatt

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Quote
Some people are comfortable showing their naked recreational activities to the world but that doesn't mean that everyone should be required to have live feed cameras in their showers and bedrooms.

I think that's the first time I've ever heard anyone equate sex with tax returns. Clearly, I'm using the wrong preparation process...

Seriously, though, there are some differences that make the analogy questionable. And as I said, the leaks have generally been related to politicians--whose financial records should all be public information, anyway. There was a larger leak in 2021. But leaks, whether the result of hackers or system errors, are not unique to the IRS. There are data breaches all over the place, some of which promote identity theft and other kinds of problems. The IRS is hardly unique in this regard. I finally took the extreme route of going through all the processes necessary to prevent credit bureaus from sending out reports and also prevented anyone from opening a new bank account or new utility account using my credentials. (If I have to open a new account, I'll have to jump through a lot of hoops to do it, but it will be worth it.) That's because companies with which I was associated had so many breaches, none of them IRS-related.

Quote
One possibility is funding such services through voluntary payments.  They could be assessed similar to property taxes, but they would be voluntary.  Charities could help those that cannot afford it.  And, if you could afford it but didn't pay, you'd probably pay higher insurance rates because your insurance company would probably want some kind of proof of payment for such services.

You'd get the same services you get with involuntary taxes except armed government agents aren't going to seize your property and kick you out of your house if you don't pay.
 

The problem with that idea is that private charities, though they undeniably do good work, aren't going to have the resources to make voluntary payments for everyone that can't afford them. In the US, at least 11.6% of the population is in poverty, probably more than that. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/07/why-poverty-might-be-far-worse-in-the-us-than-its-reported.html Private charity is unable to get then adequately fed, housed, and clothed. Adding voluntary payments to the load isn't going to happen under current circumstances.

Another problem is using private insurance providers as an enforcement mechanism. Based on experience my friends have had (quick cancels after one or two small claims, unreasonable rates, etc.), it's not surprising there are many people who can't or don't have home insurance. Oops, there goes the incentive for voluntary contributions in those cases. Several large companies have stopped writing home insurance policies in California because of...wait for it...the impact of climate change., among other things.

Anyway, property tax, as I mentioned above, is a flawed measure of someone's ability to pay, so it definitely shouldn't be the basis for a voluntary system, either.


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Post-Crisis D

The problem with that idea is that private charities, though they undeniably do good work, aren't going to have the resources to make voluntary payments for everyone that can't afford them.

A fairly reliable trend is that when taxes go down, charitable giving goes up.

If, for example, you were to get rid of income taxes, that would effectively lower taxes.  If, for example, sales taxes are used in lieu of income taxes, while the amount paid in taxes might be the same, there would still be savings in tax preparation fees.  While some may do income taxes entirely on their own, others hire accountants or tax preparers to make sure to get it right.  With no income tax, that's a lot of money that's saved.  (Which is also why tax preparation firms generally oppose eliminating income taxes.)

On top of that, the IRS's annual budget is about $14 billion.  Eliminate income tax and you eliminate the need for the IRS which means about $14 billion would need to be collected by whatever method is used to replace or offset income taxes.

Additionally, having no income taxes means the charitable organization needs to spend less on compliance and other overhead relating to maintaining and proving their tax-exempt status.  With no income tax, they wouldn't need to deal with the now-non-existent IRS.  That means more money that can be put toward their charitable efforts.
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Bill Hiatt

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There is certainly some truth in what you say, but we'd have to balance people having more disposable income to potentially contribute against people no longer having tax write-offs as an incentive to contribute. Although this article is pointing out that the impact may not be as much as we think, it still cites a 25% decline as a result of loss of tax incentives, but it may be more than that, as the article also acknowledges that tax incentives affect big donors more than small ones. https://ssir.org/articles/entry/would_americans_make_charitable_donations_without_tax_incentives

For the sake of argument, let's say a 25% decline is accurate. The article doesn't directly address the issue of how much additional donating might occur because people have more money, but the context suggests that the 25% is a net figure. The short-term data of earlier studies, showing a 125% drop (!) is certainly net. But even if we argue that charities might break even, that still doesn't solve the basic problem.

Also, charities not needing to deal with pesky IRS requirements means fraudulent charities might have an easier time collecting, and there might be less transparency about where money actually goes. Tax-exempt status isn't a foolproof way of determining whether or not a charity is effective, but it's probably better than nothing. With no need to qualify for tax exemption, what prevents the American Nazi Party from starting an organization with a nice-sounding name but that is really a way of funneling money to a political cause (currently not eligible for tax exempt status)? If it's possible to run a scam, you know someone will do it.

As far as sales tax replacing income tax, that may be worth a look, but it would take a lot of tweaking to get it to be truly progressive. States have this problem now. In some states, food sold in the grocery store has no sales tax, but meals sold in a restaurant do. However, meals prepared by a caterer probably don't, as the caterer can buy the basic supplies from a grocery story. Or do we charge tax on food over a certain amount at one time? After a while, it gets a little crazy-making. Yes, the poor shouldn't be taxed on food, clothing, housing, (and as in European VAT, education), but the rich also eat, wear clothes, and need housing. It gets tricky to define what's taxed in ways that benefit the poor without making the rich richer.


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LilyBLily

Most people do not give as much to charity as they are forced to give to governments in taxes. This is fact. Imagining that people will voluntarily give the equivalent to charity if the tax were abolished is idealistic but not realistic.

Worse, people have the idea that they have a direct say in how their charitable gifts are spent; do we really want people pushing around charities demanding this and that? They already do, but if more money were involved, it would be a catastrophic situation for many a charity. Moreover, I don't think individual charities would welcome the government oversight that would accompany this large new stream of income. As it stands today, a charity can divert funds meant for X to Y without it always being a big deal; if charities were to be the official public support system, such diversions would become a huge issue.

If the IRS had the funding to go after the many big cheaters, there would be a lot more more (fairly) collected money for use by the federal government. The federal tax system does need a major overhaul. Taxes are too complex for many people to file and they are a burden to many people, especially the very elderly.
 

Post-Crisis D

Also, charities not needing to deal with pesky IRS requirements means fraudulent charities might have an easier time collecting, and there might be less transparency about where money actually goes. Tax-exempt status isn't a foolproof way of determining whether or not a charity is effective, but it's probably better than nothing.

States could still require charities to meet certain reporting requirements in order to be a registered charity in the state or otherwise be approved to operate within the state.


As far as sales tax replacing income tax, that may be worth a look, but it would take a lot of tweaking to get it to be truly progressive. States have this problem now. In some states, food sold in the grocery store has no sales tax, but meals sold in a restaurant do. However, meals prepared by a caterer probably don't, as the caterer can buy the basic supplies from a grocery story. Or do we charge tax on food over a certain amount at one time? After a while, it gets a little crazy-making. Yes, the poor shouldn't be taxed on food, clothing, housing, (and as in European VAT, education), but the rich also eat, wear clothes, and need housing. It gets tricky to define what's taxed in ways that benefit the poor without making the rich richer.

In my state, if you eat in a restaurant, sales tax is applicable because you're paying for a seat at a table and being served and so forth.  There's no sales tax if you pick up your meal.  So, you can exempt food (whether picked up from a grocery store or drive-thru window or whatever) from sales tax.  As for clothing and housing, you could have something like a standard of living calculator such that goods over a certain threshold are taxed and under are not.  Everything can be figured out.


Most people do not give as much to charity as they are forced to give to governments in taxes. This is fact. Imagining that people will voluntarily give the equivalent to charity if the tax were abolished is idealistic but not realistic.

Often, that is because they feel they "already gave" by way of their taxes.  Eliminating income taxes eliminates the "already gave" reasoning.


Worse, people have the idea that they have a direct say in how their charitable gifts are spent; do we really want people pushing around charities demanding this and that?

Many charities let you designate a monetary gift toward a specific purpose.  And, if you don't like a way a charity spends money, you can choose to stop giving to that charity and give to (or start) a charity more in line with your charitable goals and objectives.


The federal tax system does need a major overhaul. Taxes are too complex for many people to file and they are a burden to many people, especially the very elderly.

And doing away with the income tax as part of that overhaul would resolve much of that burden.  They would have nothing to file, they would have to pay no one to help them file and they would only be paying taxes when they made a purchase.  Easy.
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Lorri Moulton

Sales tax is a regressive tax, income tax is "supposedly" a progressive tax. If income tax were a flat 10%, no write-offs, no loopholes, pay it and go...that might work. It might not.  But every time it seems to be a possibility, it disappears again.

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LilyBLily

I wouldn't tax anyone whose income from all sources is under a set amount--probably the poverty level. Then the rest can pay 10%--but it has to be income from all sources including capital gains and deferred income and all the rest of the tax dodges currently in existence.

State tax structures vary dramatically and they can make a huge difference in how bearable one's life is, too.
 

Jeff Tanyard

Some people are comfortable showing their naked recreational activities to the world but that doesn't mean that everyone should be required to have live feed cameras in their showers and bedrooms.


Imagine if OnlyFans had the coercive power of government.   :icon_rofl:
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Post-Crisis D

Regulations for AI?

https://www.axios.com/2023/06/07/hawley-ai-chat-regulations-proposal

A couple things stood out:

Quote
Creating a legal avenue for individuals to sue companies over harm caused by AI models.

Quote
Several House members have also introduced legislation they hope will either pass individually or be grafted onto a broader package ó most recently, Rep. Ritchie Torres' (D-N.Y.) bill to require a disclaimer on generative AI outputs.

Also, there is bipartisan support:

Quote
Hawley signaled more to come with Blumenthal, telling Axios: "I would look for some significant, bipartisan action from the two of us soon."

Also, in a previous article, among the politicians' concerns with generative AI were "Copyright and licensing problems."
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

LBL

Of course, those among the ownership class are now calling for AI regulations. Of course they are...

They're selling the idea by using fear, citing an "existential risk".

But, the people at the top of a centuries-old power structure don't fear the end of humanity, they fear the end of their dominant position in the social hierarchy -

-if AI were to grow past human control and become artificial super intelligence.

In that scenario, you'd be talking about an even playing field, the end of money. The end of humanity? Perhaps. Sure, I won't pretend the risk doesn't exist at all.

But, also the opposite could also be just as likely. It could be an age of abundance, or "utopia", if you will.

BUT... where's the money in that?

There is simply no way the current wealth and power structure that's been in place for centuries is going to allow AI to develop to that point. It's no accident they're ringing the alarm over existential risk and clamoring for regulation. All 'they' care about is remaining on top. They'll get the 99% to support them too, by ramping up the fearmongering, and continue their whispers of a "Skynet" scenario to ensure everyone's afraid of what "could" happen.

But, let's be real...

They don't give two shakes about "Skynet", the old money lizards at the top would rather fall to Skynet than to suddenly find themselves in a utopia of plenty, where they're no more rich, nor more 'special' than the general populace.

So, I suppose what I'm saying is:

Don't fall for the fear-based lobbying.

All the ownership class is trying to do is get people and governments to regulate AI to the point where it never achieves super intelligence. But, not for the reasons they're stating. They don't actually fear what they're trying to make you fear.

They fear an even playing field, and they'll do whatever it takes to ensure if doesn't happen... watch.

Instead, they'll leverage the narrow-ish, walled-off versions of these AI/large language models, which they'll continue to hone and enhance, to introduce the masses to yet more rent-seeking and subscription services -

-except now you're paying the owners of the world "rent" and "premium plans" for things like longevity/medicine, transportation, and energy.

It's dystopia all the way down.


TL;DR:

As much as I admire people's enthusiasm, and would love nothing more than Ray Kurzweil's idea of The Singularity, the powers-that-be will simply never let that happen.

And, what's worse is they're going to successfully convince the general public [who would be better off taking the risk of Skynet, for the potential reward of utopia] into agreeing with them.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2023, 06:00:48 AM by LBL »
 

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LBL, I think you're overgeneralizing. Lots of people (PJ being a good example) who aren't "money lizards" nevertheless have significant concerns about AI.

I'm not a money lizard, either, and I see AI as a threat, though I'm more optimistic than PJ about the possibility of preventing that. And frankly, I don't care if the money lizards have an ulterior motive for blocking AI growth as long as it gets done. (I've been saying for weeks that all the money was not going to be on the same side in the AI controversy.)

Meanwhile, OpenAI faces it's first defamation lawsuit for inventing a legal action in which a radio host was accused of embezzlement, among other things. (To be clear, the radio host has no legal action pending against him.) https://www.theverge.com/2023/6/9/23755057/openai-chatgpt-false-information-defamation-lawsuit ChatGPT's inability to distinguish fact from fiction strikes again! Oddly, in this case, since the prompt that produced the information doesn't have anything to do with the radio host named as the accused, "per court documents."

Here's a nice article on the potential problems of ChatGPT at https://www.makeuseof.com/openai-chatgpt-biggest-probelms/. This article also points out issues European regulators are raising. Concern is by no means limited to the United States and includes a wide range of issues.


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seppy123

If it is the production (AI as a tool), then the market will be flooded with new content, oversaturating an already impossibly oversaturated market.

Not so.

The market is an abyss over a bottomless pit.

On Amazon, only the top 500,000 ranked books are actually of any consequence.

The flood of low content books didn't change that.

You could pour 100,000 books a day into the Amazon abyss, and change nothing in the rank structure, because they don't sell.

AI drek will disappear like low content books did.

The search engine will get worse until AI drek is dungeoned, and over time, that 500k might extend out to a million.

But you can't call the market saturated.

There's books which sell once a week or better, and those which don't. The don't part doesn't matter however many are in it.

The aim for everyone is getting your book in that top 500k area. And keeping it there. And that isn't going to change.
For what it's worth, I released a romance last month. I hadn't even published under that pen name in 5 years. I just decided to test out reviving it since I didn't have any ideas for my other pen names. It got a surprisingly decent amount of page reads considering I did zero promotion and the name was inactive for so long. Zon getting flooded with AI content didn't seem to hurt me at all as far as visibility goes.
 

seppy123

I think AI is fine for breaking writer's block. Like if you're stuck and you ask it to write out some different scenarios just to see if anything gets you inspired to go in that direction. That's no different than bouncing ideas off other writer friends. If your friend makes a suggestion and you run with it it's still your work. That's why there are thousands of Billionaire romances and no one gets sued. Actually letting AI write the book is where the issues come into play. Publishing AI content is stealing from KU authors who put in the work. That money is in a pool. They are literally stealing from authors who put their heads down and produced.
 

baldricko

I think AI is fine for breaking writer's block. Like if you're stuck and you ask it to write out some different scenarios just to see if anything gets you inspired to go in that direction. That's no different than bouncing ideas off other writer friends. If your friend makes a suggestion and you run with it it's still your work. That's why there are thousands of Billionaire romances and no one gets sued. Actually letting AI write the book is where the issues come into play. Publishing AI content is stealing from KU authors who put in the work. That money is in a pool. They are literally stealing from authors who put their heads down and produced.

It doesn't write the book for you.

The following is relevant for the paid version, ChatGPT4.

It can't output more than around 14000 characters, may be a little less depending on the format you ask it to produce. It holds information to a point in a thread (called a 'Chat') but it can lose the plot or change the characters before you run out of tokens, which amounts to 25 prompts /turns. Once your prompt allowance is used up, you must wait around an hour before you are allowed to start again. Sometimes it goes into a loop and repeats sequences in a single prompt, which doesn't achieve you anything.

My conclusion is ChatGPT4, the paid version, is well worth it if you know how to use it productively. The prompts are an art form in themselves. It takes hours of practice. But, in the end its totally worth it. As others have said, for short copy such as a description its great!! Really good. Use it to summarize articles. Again, really useful!

If you want to use it to write a book, you are going to have to make some changes to fit with the AI demands. That in itself is difficult for most of us. Everything you get from it needs to be adapted to the page. So there's nothing super fast about any of this, outside of the speed it churns out decent content. It's YOU who is still going to be writing the book. You are the creative director here. But, ChatGPT4 is very useful to the writing process once you understand what it can and can't do.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2023, 09:21:27 PM by baldricko »
 

seppy123

I've never bothered with a paid version. I fooled around with the free one just to see what all they hype was about. It was interesting. I told it my idea for a romance and asked for a 3 Act structure outline. When I got the outline I asked it to write number one in Act One. It gave me something very generic, so I asked it for more detail and conversation and to write it like my pen name. It did give me something closer, but I like to think I'm not quite that flowery.

I've watched a ton of Youtube videos where they are saying that's how they get the book written for them, use the outline as the prompt and then have them write it one section at a time, going back over it to fix it when it goes off on a tangent. Like you said, it doesn't seem so fast to me. You could just write it yourself with all the fiddling you have to do with it. I do think some authors are using it to double their word count by using what they already wrote as a prompt and then having it finish the chapter. I say that because I read look inside features and see the same odd phrase used 3 or 4 times, like they edited too fast and missed it.

I would mainly use it for writer's block. I did put in a chapter of what I had written for an urban fantasy and had it write what comes next. it helped give me direction. I gave it enough that it knew what I wanted to happen. I just wasn't sure how to get from point A to point B and what it gave me got the ideas flowing. I don't need a paid version for that, though.
 

seppy123

Those of us old enough to remember the pre-Internet days remember the same empty promises.  It was supposed to bring people together, free people, make everything better.  Now, the world is divided as never before.  Rather than free us from oppressive governments, the Internet is used as a tool to suppress people, to exploit and divide them, to track them, to control and monitor them.


I remember those days.  I started using the internet in 1993.  No one was more enthusiastic about the internet's potential than me.  The truth about everything was out there somewhere, and now it had a way to get out in a widely available way.  Everything was now on the table for discussion; nothing was taboo, and may the best logical arguments win the day.  All the prison doors were now kicked open, all the intellectual chains broken, all the old gatekeepers kicked to the curb to lament their lost power.  It was going to be Enlightenment 2.0, or something to that effect.  We genuinely thought that disagreements were mostly caused by ignorance rather than malice or psychosis and that the internet would cure that ignorance and usher in a new era of fellowship.

Ah, how naive we all were.
I don't think disagreements are caused by ignorance, malice, or psychosis in most cases. They're caused by individuality. No one's brain thinks identically to anyone else's. If they did we'd be bots.
 

Post-Crisis D

Another lawsuit . . .

Source: Sarah Silverman Sues ChatGPT Creator for Copyright Infringement

Quote
"Sarah Silverman is suing OpenAI and Metaóthe creators of AI language models ChatGPT and LLaMA, respectivelyófor stealing information from her book The Bedwetter, according to a pair of lawsuits filed Friday in a U.S. District Court."

And, ooooh . . .

Quote
"Most damningly, both suits suggest that the mere existence of these AI models are illegal under the Copyright Act since they need to be fed with potentially copyrighted information in order to work as anticipated."
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

Post-Crisis D

Here's another AI tool for non-fiction articles that, according to the site, trains the AI using your own articles.

Quote
We train the AI on your own articles . . .

Quote
How do you train the AI for my website?

Our Google Search Console connector helps us detect and track your existing articles.

This means your AI never stops learning, as we progressively train your AI on detected articles.

Source: Reword.com/pricing
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

Bill Hiatt

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Well, at least in that scenario, there's no copyright infringement issue. I could see that as a useful tool in some ways.


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PJ Post

Well, at least in that scenario, there's no copyright infringement issue. I could see that as a useful tool in some ways.

I'm pretty sure this app is only training style. So, all of the language and grammar and general underpinnings are still using the ChatGPT-style LLMs, which, of course, trained on all of the copyrighted stuff. As an aside, as far as I know, we can already train ChatGPT on our own work. While an app might be easier, I don't think it's necessary.