The Inside Word

Why AI is no threat to creativity

Australia has a long tradition of story-telling bush poets – from Banjo Paterson to Henry Lawson, PJ Hartigan and Dorothea Mackellar. The list is long and distinguished. Recently, I was lucky enough to be at a lunch event where the speakers included some of Australia’s finest modern balladeers – Murray Hartin, whose extraordinary Rain From Nowhere must count as one of our nation’s most confronting and moving poems, and the redoubtable Rupert McCall who shared the latest iteration of his epic Tale of the Bail.

Discussion over lunch turned to the rise of so-called Artificial Intelligence, and its role in creating written content. (I say “so-called” not to dismiss the technology, but to recognise that AI is not – yet – actually capable of original intelligence). One of my fellow diners shared a poem that had been produced by Chat GPT in just a matter of seconds. And while it was a pithy, clever rhyme, it was missing the most important aspect of poetry and story telling – heart. The chatbot’s poem was amusing, but not memorable.

AI may be able to impress us with its abilities, but can it move us with emotion? Can it muster within us national pride in our Sunburnt Country? Can it bring us to the edge of our seat as we ride with the hero, or stir long-forgotten memories and emotions through familiar stories and settings?

No, I don’t think it can. And that’s good news for humans – especially those of us who trade in the written word or other creative endeavours. Text-generating AI represents the next iteration of language tools. Just as word processors and typewriters before have changed the way we write, so too will tools such as Chat GPT. They speed up the process of research, and provide template document structures so we don’t spend hours looking at a blank screen and wondering where to start.

AI, however, does not change what we think, feel, believe and know. For now at least, humans retain a monopoly on emotion and persuasion. And it’s emotion that sits at the core of any good story. Written content, devoid of human input, is just a collection of words. Words can inform us, but emotion connects us and spurs us to action.

Strangely enough, even Chat GPT understands its own deficiencies. Here’s its response to being asked if AI can have human feelings:

Emotions are complex, subjective experiences tied to consciousness, self-awareness, and biological processes in humans. AI, on the other hand, is based on algorithms, data processing, and pattern recognition. While AI can simulate certain aspects of emotion, such as recognizing facial expressions or generating text that appears emotionally charged, this is fundamentally different from actual emotional experience.

To misquote Banjo Paterson – there’s no movement at the station. Poets, writers and other creative types are safe, at least for now.

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