It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the man who wrote the sci-fi novella “Story of Your Life” (which became the movie Arrival) has delivered one of the smartest reads yet on the current limitations of AI engines like ChatGPT. It’s only February, but Ted Chiang is already the writer to beat for Metaphor of the Year.
And it’s not the case that, once you have ceased to be a student, you can safely use the template that a large language model provides. The struggle to express your thoughts doesn’t disappear once you graduate—it can take place every time you start drafting a new piece. Sometimes it’s only in the process of writing that you discover your original ideas. Some might say that the output of large language models doesn’t look all that different from a human writer’s first draft, but, again, I think this is a superficial resemblance. Your first draft isn’t an unoriginal idea expressed clearly; it’s an original idea expressed poorly, and it is accompanied by your amorphous dissatisfaction, your awareness of the distance between what it says and what you want it to say. That’s what directs you during rewriting, and that’s one of the things lacking when you start with text generated by an A.I.