We Need Some Rules for AI and Writing

Image via MidJourney

We’ve been talking to journalists and other writers about AI and the response to our classes and events has been interesting. Instead of excitement at the ability to become a more efficient content producer (gag), they are either disagreeing with the notion that AI is any good or, worse, they’re saying that AI isn’t here to stay and that real writers will never use it.

Both of those ideas are wrong.

First, AI is good enough. It’s not great and I doubt it will get much better but for vast swathes of humanity the ability to write a coherent essay, article, or press release with just a few simple prompts is absolutely magical. It has turned everyone into a content producing machine. The content isn’t great and it will definitely get worse as people completely eschew editing, but we can’t ignore the idea that we are entering a new era of human communication.

Second, journalists who claim they will never use AI won’t be in business long. The bosses at major media houses know they can fire older writers and hire youngsters who will actively use AI in their reporting process, thereby reducing the time it takes to get copy out the door. This is frustrating and awful but absolutely true.

So rather than complain, let’s do something. Pete and I are working on a set of rules, a manifesto as it were, about AI and writing. We want to publish it as a something akin to the original Cluetrain Manifesto. It will contain a series of sections about how to ethically use AI, AI-generated art, and what AI companies need to remember when scouring the Internet for data. In short, we creatives need to plant our flag and take back control of this runaway technology.

We’d love your help. If you’d like to add a thought or two, please head over to this open Google Doc. It can me an immutable law, a rant, or even how you use AI in your own writing. Imagine you’re going to use this to teach future journalists and writers how to do their jobs in this changing environment.

Complaining about AI won’t help. We’re all toast. The only sane thing we can do now is bring some humanity back to this whole process and that starts with setting some ground rules for how AI companies get to interact with our lives. I shudder to think what would happen if we don’t.

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