Opinion: massive technological developments like ChatGPT means the day could soon be here when AI can write bestselling novels

Artificial intelligence has been developing at an accelerating rate for the past couple of decades bringing both excitement and fear. Many of us have been anticipating new products along the lines of iPhones and Teslas, but others are concerned with how certain sectors will cope with the speed at which AI is developing.

Researchers are worried about the future of some occupations, notably, those involved in repetitive and routine tasks. While there is ongoing research about the negative impacts machines may have on the work market, it is still too early to make an accurate assessment, as "the 4th industrial revolution" is still in its infancy and the infiltration of robots in industry has not yet reached a peak.

Artists and those in creative fields have been safe from the machines to date have long thought they did not have to worry about their careers, but this is about to change. Artificial Intelligence has started to generate music, paintings, movie scripts and poems. Works of art created with the aid of machines are now entering and even winning competitions.

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From RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime, Dr Kevin Koidl from the ADAPT Centre on the ChatGPT chatbot which has been hailed as a major breakthrough in AI

Many of us may accept that machines can execute monotonous jobs, but we're surprised by the possibility of a machine producing art. Artistic creations have always been considered the product of human endeavour, experience and feelings. All three are things that a machine supposedly cannot simply mimic. This AI innovation lead us to question long held beliefs and raises new worries: are artists going to lose their jobs? Why would we need machines to take on roles that are usually linked to pleasure, self-expression and human experience?

Researchers predict that AI will write a bestselling novel by 2049. Since 1948, there has been different attempts to make a computer produce a literary work. The Policeman's Beard is Half-Constructed: Computer Prose and Poetry is considered "the first book written by a computer". In 1993, computer programmer Scott French tried to reincarnate bestselling author Jacqueline Susann by writing a novel in her style with the help of a computer program. Since then, there has been other endeavours to generate stories in the style of certain authors like JK Rowling or poems that read like they were written by William Shakespeare.

Although the technology is not quite there yet, it is showing promising results. GPT-3, a language prediction model that has been trained on a massive number of texts, can imitate humans' writing. Based on a prompt (a piece of text) provided by the user, GPT-3 will write the rest of the text, completely original and plagiarism-free.

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From RTÉ Lyric FM's Culture File, K Allado-McDowell has been using GPT-3 as a writing partner, most recently for a novella, Amour Cringe.

While similar models were good with shorter texts, they would lose all coherence as the texts would get longer. GPT-3 has proven to be capable of writing full college essays. It is expected that GPT-4 and future versions will show even bigger improvements.

So what could that mean for writers and the writing profession? There is some scepticism about AI ever being able to write quality literature, due to its incapability of understanding what feelings and human life are like. But, scientists’ success with previous predictions shows that their 2049 prediction will most probably become a reality. By then, the production of stories will become much faster and cheaper.

What machines have over humans and why they pose a threat to every human writer is cost. Machines have already proven capable of producing hundreds of pages books for around 12 cents of electricity and, since generated on demand and delivered electronically, there wouldn’t be any extra costs. Right now, we read what is available on the market and appeals to our taste. In the future, books could be written on demand. Imagine asking for the book you have always wanted to read and have it on your reading device in record time!

READ: Will AI be able to write my college essay?

Some writers are worried their jobs would face the same fate as many industrial jobs, but others see the AI as a helping tool rather than an agent in competition with them. The algorithm could indeed help many writers overcome a writing slump and enhance their creative process.

In 2016, Alpha Go came up with a new move that no human Go player has ever seen in 2,500 years of playing that board game. This provided humans with new trajectories and rejuvenated the game. Perhaps machines can help us write something surprising and innovative?

The machine's step into the world of writing may be both productive and threatening. Just as with the rest of the professions expected to be cast aside by AI, we cannot yet tell for sure what the outcomes will be. However, there are questions for us to ponder in the meantime. What will authorship mean in the future? Will human readers be accepting of literature that cannot be traced to a specific human author? Algorithms are now capable of recommending us based on data collected about our previous reads. Will the same algorithms provide us with tailored texts soon? And will such algorithms go from human-helping tools to becoming independent agents?

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ