Thoughts on authorship and the human nature of writing…

Our dynamic conversation this week was a deeper dive into the consideration of the human nature of writing. Thanks to Jenny and Maya’s excellent and truly interactive pathfinding session, we were able to consider the significance of meaning in writing. In foregrounding this elusive yet critical component of our very “humanness,” we contend with the plain truth that a chatbot is never a human (even if it trained to replicate our human qualities). What we discovered in authoring some poems while partnering with chatGPT is that we cannot conflate word form (or agile word-pattern-making) with meaning. The over-abundance of cliche rhymes, interchangeable descriptions, and commutable themes seemed the identifiable hallmark of the “basic” chatGPT writing. It does pass as comprehendible, and even entertaining, sometimes mildly pleasurable. Yet, in conversation together we were also able to discern that meaning is something that pulls us deeper into our communion with the world. Did our poems do that? Not really.

Meaning is a will or intention to connect with others, which lives beyond the “first level” or superficial acknowledgement of our own ups and downs. In seeking meaning, we recognize astounding truths that are actually universal yet profoundly unique (at once). In this sense, meaning cannot simply lie in our own feelings. Rather, meaning is the poignant reminder that we are not alone in our complex experiences of the universe, no matter how unique we are.

As an additional reflection, I would like to add that to live a meaningful life should (imho) be the ultimate goal of living – a goal that must in some sense be realized through the intention to build some form of connection with others.

But I digress, …maybe the big question underlying all this debate is not so much about tech tools. Rather, it is about us. How are we going to handle ourselves around these machines? If we have succeeded in making the machine that can “mindlessly generate text” we all must know that the machines are here to muddy-up the already dirty-waters-of-the-world for us. This leads me to think that intention is the real sticking point, because we have always placed such a high value on this when we read. But in a new world wherein there is often no intention since the machine delivers the text (and a machine on its own never has an intention), then what are the real stakes of writing today? Maybe what is really at stake is the discernment and the credulity of the reader? What is real, for now, is that the problem of obscuring that line and blurring — bullshitting — what’s human and what’s not, has the power to unravel society. Make no mistake, this is a game changing moment on a multitude of levels.

Our agenda slides

Updates on your Final Project

A new idea! The plan is now that we will develop a microfiction AI futures collection written by all of you, along with Dr. Maha Bali’s American University at Cairo students (in Egypt). Speculative microfictions are shortstories about our collective near-future.  Thematically, this collection will be about your imagination when considering the impact of Artificial Intelligence and ChatGPT. What is extra exciting is that all of your stories will be written with AI assistance (so plan to partner up with ChatGPT or Sudowrite perhaps)! The collaborative collection will include a AI microfiction from each Kean student and each AUC student. What will be very poignant is that we are planning an editorial process of collaboration between the classes, with feedback and connection between all of you in the development of your shared final collection. A formal assignment write-up with our steps in completing this group project is on its way soon. This note merely serves as a “forecast” update for now.

Your to-do list

Our class pathfinders for next week will be Chelsea & Jonathan. They have chosen different themes, so be sure to select one reading from both of their selections.

Chelsea’s theme: AI and it’s Influence on Teaching (Pick 1 or 2 from below):

Jonathan’s theme: Artificial Intelligence, Race & Technology (Pick 1 or 2 from below):

Blog 7 due by next class. Reflections on readings from pathfinders Chelsea & Jonathan. See you next week in our usual classroom!

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