The Rise of the Machines

37 Writing Contests in November 2017 - No entry fees

Judging Publishers

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
This disturbing story from the Daily Mail is about how researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised software that can write stories:

Shelley the AI horror writer that pens hair-raising tales | Daily Mail Online

It's disturbing, only if you think about the implications—which most people won't, as it's just another app for them to play with on their iPhone. I'm bothered by it because so many jobs are being taken over by computers and robots. It's easy to look at these changes as being proof that 19th and 20th-century fantasy and science-fiction writing was somehow true—and isn't that fun because it's all been done without the nasty and violent drawbacks?

Granted, there are some perilous jobs that drones and robots do more efficiently and with no risk to human life—tasks such as delivering medicine to remote communities stricken with natural disaster, searching for survivors of earthquakes, examining and carrying out controlled explosions on bombs and even mechanised killing machines, along the lines of those predicted in the Terminator films.

Robots have long been used in factories, to make such things as automobiles that require accurate and repetitive assembly. I wonder how many workers have been laid off as a result of this...Back in the 19th-century, with the Industrial Revolution and an increase in mechanisation, traditional hand workers protested the changes that were throwing them aside. The Luddites were English textile workers who destroyed weaving machines. The term has entered the language to describe those opposed to technology replacing human beings. Sabotage has dodgier origins as a term used for deliberate destruction of property, though the image of disgruntled workers throwing their wooden clogs, called sabots, into machines is pleasing.

These days, I guess the best way to screw up the system would be to engineer a power-cut, infect a network with a virus or simply pour water onto the motherboards!

It's comforting to think, that we as creative writers are unique and inimitable, but a truism in life is that no one is irreplaceable. Already, people accept that whatever Google tells them is irrefutably correct—few people think for themselves anymore—they merely want a quick answer.

The idea that readers will turn to stories created for them by a machine—and with their input—isn't far-fetched these days. Just look at how common the use of Computer Generated Imagery is in movies and the way that pop singers have their inadequate voices corrected by Auto-Tune.

It's predicted that holograms will appear instead of musicians at concerts. Missed your favourite singer before he died? No problem, watch their hologram perform.

Rock star Ronnie James Dio set for world tour – despite having died in 2010

No one knows what's real these days, and no one appears to worry about that. The way that people collude in the process of their dumbing down appals me.

The 1% of super-rich plutocrats who pull the strings care about one thing—how much profit they can make to add to their billions. If a machine adds to their wealth, do you really think they'll worry about impoverished, homeless, unemployed workers?

As I commented in the State of Fantasy Fiction thread, increasingly people are without skills to make, maintain and repair things. A lot of devices have their components concealed beneath covers attached by tamper-proof fasteners, to discourage anyone showing initiative. The usual reason given for this, is to protect the environment, for untrained nincompoops shouldn't be allowed to get their mitts on settings that can only be adjusted by trained technicians. In reality, it increases profits through servicing charges and encourages planned obsolescence.

It's not that difficult to imagine a time when having a manual or mental skill is outlawed. We'll all be unthinking components in a machine, spoon-fed processed pap of synthesised knowledge and not allowed to contribute our own stories.

What do you think? Get in now, while you're still allowed to....

It is disturbing, though we will one way and another be seeing ourselves out anyway, if we don't get seen out first. I would never stay HERE not even out of curiosity. One emergency, just one, is all it will take to show what's so wrong with this. I travel to see new things and speak to new people, and to know I'm paying into their economy; what's travel for? While could there also be a correlation here, to do with empathy, in a culture which regards as a great delicacy while denying they are in any sense actually still alive, lobotomised octopi dancing on the plate? And we're as bad, the way we slaughter things, and boiling lobsters alive, claiming they're not sensate and sentient, and only a moron would believe that.

But so long as humanity continues to produce enough functional, empathic mavericks, there's a healthy leavening and hope for us all; so long as we don't teach them completely autonomous self repair and mining. Yikes.

And I read and write free verse. This may be free verse but Google Al can't write poetry for shit.

there is no one else in the world.
there is no one else in sight.
they were the only ones who mattered.
they were the only ones left.
he had to be with me. she had to be with him.
i had to do this. i wanted to kill him.
i started to cry.
i turned to him.

Try this test. Poem written by a human or a machine? I got 6 out of 6 right. I bet you will too.
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Yeah: no.
First up: Daily Heil as the source. This is an iron-clad guarantee that whatever follows is unspeakable bullshit.
Second up: Outside of Sci-Fi, there is no such thing as AI. Your jobs are safe.
Thirdly: (and this one cannot be emphasized enough) Read the "stories". This Twitter bot (and that is all it is) is just bolting together words form a predefined selection to make sentences that follow basic grammar. And even at that it fails. Most of what it puts out is gibberish. All of it is bad. None of it could be called a "story". It has no understanding and therefore cannot create anything new, just rehash what has come before. Admittedly, that means it could replace most published authors, but as no one would know the difference, who cares? (/s)

This is the Heil doing what they do: raking the much and rabble rousing by using scary words that they and their readers do not understand. It is scare mongering and nothing more.

A side bar about CGI: CGI is 100% human generated. It is not algorithmic. An artist creates everything that you see in a CG scene. It is no less human nor artistic for being performed on a computer. In fact, most CGI scenes take far longer to generate than their equivalent "psychical" (whatever that means) counterparts.
The Daily Heil? Jeez, @Howard. Is one a Nazi for even referencing it? It often carries the same stories as the socially irreproachable, impeccable (?) Grauniad.

Agree re CGI and to an extent about jobs, it is not A1 that's the threat, depending on the industrial profile where you live, one daughter a vet nurse, one an entertainment sector photographer/ merchandiser/actor. But neither have any sense of security. Seaside towns...always have struggled with seasonal fluctuations in demand; very bad , young folk working 14 hour days on zero hours contracts.

Other things can do the damage. I worked in Consett in 1989- 91, still floored after the steelworks closed. The town was there in the first place for steel, after the Huguenot sword smiths came here fleeing religious persecution in France.
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Raises big issues about society, employment, freedom etc. The existing system is certainly going to break down / is arguably breaking down where the majority of citizens are not economically productive, and therefore will not be able to afford to consume products and services put out by the robot economy. Little wonder we’re hearing more and more voices calling for guaranteed minimum income: without it, there could be food riots in the streets.

Optimistically, I tend to think/hope that robots could and would do the worst jobs in society, leaving people freer to concentrate on the finer things in life, the arts and writing being some of ‘em. But without changing today’s economic systems and ideologies, it’s hard to see how this could happen. Turbulent times ahead.
All those poor students, and gentle folk not asking much. Writer and artist friends deliberately go for those kinds of jobs, some of them, in order to ground with something intellectually different that doesn't fatigue their creative batteries. And others have left day jobs on getting a taste of recognition as writers or poets, and found, apart from removing a financial safety net which actually liberated them to write with less anxiety, they killed the source of material that got them started . One was a roofer, wrote great stuff based on what he could see from up there. It got him noticed and he went to more and more gigs. His employer, a self employed roofer himself with small margins. got fed up of being mucked around by his young roofer vanishing off to poetry readings so that they never knew if they could rely on him to turn up on jobs, and told him to choose. Turn up to jobs as and when we get them or leave, so we know where we're at. He decided he was a poet now, and left. But poetry doesn't pay, only in a few rarefied echelons or grant shelters, does it pay the bills.
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37 Writing Contests in November 2017 - No entry fees

Judging Publishers