I was reading a book this week, The power of habit. The second section looks at how business has embraced Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to predict buying behaviors for their customers. This works very effectively due to the way we humans follow habitual buying patterns. In the book they discuss the infamous Target story where they sent promotions for baby related products to a 15 year old girl, initially causing outrage from her father. Essentially the machines knew she was pregnant before her family did. How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did
“AI can, with some reliability, predict whether a song will be a hit or not.”
The content that really piqued my interest was a story of the song ‘Hey ya’ by Outkast released in 2003. I’m sure most of us know the track. It was huge. When it was first heard by music execs, they knew it would be a hit…and so did their AI. The music industry uses artificial intelligence to listen to tracks and evaluate them prior to a human even bothering, using a combination of frequencies, tonality, BPM, etc. The AI can, with some reliably, predict whether a track will be a hit or not. When initially released, however, ‘Hey ya’ wasn’t very successful on the radio. The book explains how machines are now predicting what track should precede a new ‘unfamiliar’ track on radio stations to prepare the human brain for what’s coming. Almost a calming effect. In this case, it was a track by Celine Dion. Go figure! Well, if you read the book, it explains why. Effectively, AI understands humans so well that they can manipulate us (in a positive way) to receive new experiences.
I couldn’t help but think about how this can be applied to fiction. I know little about contemporary publishing practices, but there is definitely potential for AI. Can AI read a new work of fiction and evaluate it for success? Determine the market segments it will appeal to, sales volumes, etc. The benefit is it bypasses the somewhat flawed processes of an author sending a tiny synopsis of their book and some sample writing to an agent hoping the 200 word pitch does justice to their masterpiece. Instead, the book can be submitted online straight to a publisher and the AI can determine whether they should take notice or whether it’s junk.
“Some writers will see AI manuscript evaluations as a blessing since it takes the subjective human out the loop.
…And some may see it as a threat.”
As the technology becomes more advanced and continues to learn, there is a business opportunity for an AI service to help authors directly evaluate their own work before they submit to a publisher or self-publish. For example, the AI could provide an initial rating and feedback. Perhaps on writing style issues, inconsistent use of perspective, inconsistencies in the storyline.
But where can it ultimately go? Maybe the AI service could edit the book for you, so authors could focus more on the original story and characters, and worry less about the grammatical and structural side of things. I wonder if books would start to feel too similar, even though the story and genre are different, if they all went through the same grammar sausage factory.
Talking a step back for a moment, if AI is evaluating books, is there a risk that a daringly ‘different’ story or writing style is rejected by the AI because it’s not following the approved formula?
“Maybe, like the music industry, the publishing industry needs to recommend you read Harry Potter for a warm, familiar feeling before taking on American Psycho!”
Finally, how long before AI writes new and original books. Many newspaper articles today are being written by AI. Typically, for fact based articles. See how Associated Press are using AI (https://automatedinsights.com/case-studies/associated-press). What the AI produces is all factually correct and perfectly written, but it can’t yet provide opinions. We tend to read newspapers to get insights from experienced journalists rather than bland facts.
In Yoval Noah Harari’s excellent book Homo Deus, the author discusses a case of an AI composing classical music. It was scoffed by the aficionados of classical music, so a kind of musical Turing test was proposed by the developers of the AI to see if experts could determine which pieces were composed by an AI and which were from the best human composers. Spoiler alert – They couldn’t. Worse than that. They thought the AI produced work had far more emotion in it!
“So, books WILL be written by AI.
When? I don’t know, but it will happen.”
What then? Will they churn out fascinating new works of fiction? Will they slowly use works of fiction to subliminally influence humanity? Views on AI and its potential tend to be quite polarized. But it won’t be constrained to replacing our mundane jobs. It might be taking over creativity too. Maybe we are destined to just be batteries after all.
What are your thoughts?