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Author’s reputation in jeopardy thanks to artificial intelligence


In June, Marc Andreessen, co-founder of tech investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, and my University of Illinois graduate friend from Urbana-Champaign (go to Illini!) wrote about how artificial intelligence will “save the world.”

This is a sweeping offense against tech skeptics who are concerned about the potential downsides of AI, including doomsday scenarios like the one depicted in “The Terminator.” to destroy them from the planet.

Backwards, Andreessen discusses “AI can make everything we care about better.”

But now, when it comes to books, something as close to real as AI is used to create heaps of content that looks like quality work, but is actually a giant pile of junk.

Author and independent publishing expert Jane Friedman recently experienced this when she accessed the Goodreads page one day and found several new books for which she was listed as an author: “Promote to Prosper: Strategies to Skyrocket Your eBook Sales on Amazon.”

While this is the kind of information Friedman could share with his audience, he didn’t write these books, but someone (or something) here was using his decades-long hard-won reputation in publishing to snag a few bucks. Schlock generated by AI.

I must say I was extra offended because Friedman was the editor of my second book many months ago. Ever since she left publishing and became independent, she has been an example of open and clear speaking for the benefit of writers. His book “The Job of Being a Writer” at the University of Chicago Press is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how to lead as a professional writer.

Friedman’s business literally depends on his good reputation, so the existence of this scrap in his name really had the potential to do harm. as Friedman documentation on their websiteAmazon (who owns Goodreads) responded with a shrug first, and Friedman said there wasn’t much they could do if they couldn’t prove they were infringing copyright because the name wasn’t unique enough.

Amazon removed the books from its Goodreads profile after using its platform to cause a stir, but Friedman notes that it’s entirely possible for the books to stay without the platform.

Andreessen’s rosy picture of artificial intelligence’s potential for an unprecedented bloom in human intelligence doesn’t take into account that early adoption of new technology has always been done by people trying to make quick money.

In theory, it shouldn’t be difficult for Amazon to require proof of authorship before uploading books to Goodreads or the Amazon store, but in reality Amazon’s incentives to block these products are limited. After all, selling is selling.

You may also have seen a raft AI-generated guidebooks introduced through fake reviews that have popped up online in recent months. Whatever the bargain, don’t buy them. Hang out with Rick Steves or the like.

Readers will have to take an alert taker approach when it comes to making sure some books are really what they claim to be. In the worst-case scenario, tons of misinformation can flood the market masquerading as legitimate sources, but in reality as junk spewed out by artificial intelligence.

Of course, another useful solution is to avoid buying books from marketplaces that may not have been reviewed by reliable sources.

Run by bookstore professionals, your local bookstore is like a shield against a torrent of shit, no warning needed.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities.”

Twitter @biblioracle

Book recommendations from Biblioracle

John Warner tells you what to read, based on the last five books you’ve read.

1. “Either/Or” By Elif Batuman

2. “Guest” By Emma Cline

3. “Water Treaty” by Abraham Verghese

4. “Little Compassions” By Dennis Lehane

5. “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry

— Christine O., Chicago

Jennifer Haigh is a writer who consistently produces clever character explorations paired with stories that turn pages that touch on current events. “Mercy Street” is her last movie and it suits Christine very well.

1. “The Winding Up Girl” By Paolo Bacigalupi

2. “The Killing Floor” by Lee Child

3. “What is” By Lynda Barry

4. “Blankets” by Craig Thompson

5. “I Know Why The Caged Bird Is Singing” By Maya Angelou

— Blake E., New York

Since I can tell from the list that Blake is open to graphic novels, I’ll recommend Nick Drnaso’s “Acting Class,” a kaleidoscope of different lives brought together in a tense and revealing experience.

1. “Under the Storm” By Christoffer Carlsson

2. “Yellow Face” by RF Kuang

3. “Mourned” By Julia Park Tracey

4. “Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases” by Paul Holes and Robin Gaby Fisher

5. “The Last House on the Unnecessary Street” By Catriona Ward

— Jennifer S., Glen Ellyn

For Jennifer, I recommend Susanna Clarke’s whimsical and inventive tale “The Piranesi.”

Get a reading from the biblioracle

Submit a list of the last five books you’ve read and your hometown biblioracle@gmail.com


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