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AI vs Hemmingway – Part 1

The rise of AI-generated novels will have many authors wondering what the future holds for them. Will human authors be entirely replaced by chatbots? Chatbots have limitations, but that hasn’t stopped people from using them to write eBooks and flooding Amazon with them. What can human authors do to compete? It will come down to what human readers will be content with. There is a supply of AI-generated eBooks, but will there be enough demand? I’m convinced that for readers who want high-quality work, there will still be a demand for books that are authored or at least directed by skilled people. AI might be able to work to formulas and mimic humans, but it doesn’t understand human emotions.

Suppose authors can set high standards for themselves, insert emotion into their work and promote themselves effectively. In that case, they can still reach readers looking for that human touch. Let’s look at Ernest Hemingway as an example of a high standard. Hemingway is one of the most famous literary authors. He would edit and re-edit his work until every word was the exact word he wanted and there were no unnecessary words.

Consider the opening paragraph of A Farewell to Arms.

“In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swifly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterwards the road bare and white except for the leaves.”

Ernest Hemingway – A Farewell to Arms

Hemingway sets the scene by describing what seems to be a beautiful landscape and then covers it in the dust of soldiers marching through it. He doesn’t need to tell us how horrible war is. He draws us into it. By comparison, let’s consider Bing’s AI. Here is an exchange I had with Bing AI on October 3, 2023. (I include the date because the AI will have ongoing training, and you likely may get a different result with the same prompt in the future).

Me: Generate the opening paragraph of a Novel about an ambulance driver in World War 1. Set the scene and write in the style of Ernest Hemingway

Bing AI: He was an ambulance driver in the war. He had seen many things that he did not want to remember. He had seen men die and suffer, and he had suffered too. He had been wounded and patched up, and he had patched up others. He had driven through mud and rain and snow, and he had heard the shells and the guns and the screams. He had done his duty, but he did not know why. He did not know what it was all for, or if it would ever end. He only knew that he had to keep driving, and keep living, as long as he could.

So Bing AI has gone with an internalisation that tells us that ‘War is bad.’ This is the kind of thing that Hemmingway and other good authors would show us and let us make up our own minds about. That doesn’t mean that Bing’s AI is useless. We can still use it as a tool, and I intend to show you how you can get better results in Part 2. By the way, Grammarly suggested that Bing’s paragraph could be rewritten ‘for clarity’. Copyleaks was 98% certain that the paragraph was AI-generated.

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