Have you messed around with any of the artificial intelligence writing tools, like Jasper, Copy Shark or Writesonic?
Impressive. Surprising. Frightening.
I started dabbling around the other day, and thought, “Wow, AI can turn a phrase! And it puts all the punctuation in the right places… I wish I could do that all the time.”
And then I thought, “Jeez, I wonder… have I already seen a query or submission that was written by a robot, and I just didn’t realize it?”
Hmm. That made me wonder what it must feel like to be a young artist of any sort—writer, illustrator, photographer, etc.—who knows her/his career will involve facing off against machines, and not just grumpy editors, ambitious competitors and hyper-critical audiences.
It kind of bummed me out.
But then I started thinking that the best writing always involves a unique voice, and that voices are most shaped by things seen and experienced. Good writing ultimately involves all the senses. So, I am not too worried that even as artificial intelligence gains the incredible capacity to be ”creative,“ it will ever be able to really explain and describe some things…
…like what it’s like to have a bull elk bugle in the aspens so close that you see the steam from his breath wafting through the branches on a late September morning.
…or what it’s like to watch a tarpon bolt and shimmer like a molten rocket over a mangrove flat, then crash back into the water with an ear-splitting smack.
…like what it’s like to smell the spicy, earthy aroma of the Amazon jungle, and hear the symphony of bugs and monkeys in the canopy… as you lie in bed sleeping, three months after you’ve returned home.
… or what it’s like to walk through the alders along an Alaskan stream, pausing when you smell the bear, freezing when you finally see the bear, and exhaling when you watch the bear swim across the current with a salmon in her mouth.
… and the smell of coffee and bacon and a wood fire, or the special way water you dip out of a mossy spring with a tin cup tastes.
AI might very well be able to describe these things, but it won’t really be able to sense and feel them in any gut. And if you take gut senses and feels and put them in your writing bottle, you’ll probably be A-OK. At least I hope so.
Maybe the most profound thing that artificial intelligence will never replicate: AI will never be a parent.
Or an aunt, or an uncle, or a grandparent. Not even a mentor or a friend.
In my experience, being any of the above is an amplifying factor that makes you so much more perceptive to things like watching a sunrise over a marsh, hearing the mouths of trout in a spring creek snapping and popping during an insect hatch, or tasting half-dollar-sized snowflakes as they fall from the sky.
It’s not just about what’s there, or what you see, taste, feel, smell or otherwise.
It’s who you’re with that matters.
So, with all due respect to my many friends who are enamored with artificial intelligence, think robots will take over the world (wasn’t that in a movie?) or in the very least will someday make writers, photographers and other storytellers of our ilk obsolete, I respectfully disagree. At least insofar as all that applies to nature, conservation, fishing, hunting and the outdoor realm. I still think the best “programming” happens in the woods and on the water. So, I’m not planning on printing any AI-generated magazines, and I can promise this column will always come from one source… the heart.