There’s a lot of chatter in the author community about AI… should you use it? Is it any good? Will artificial intelligence replace humans?

Aaaaaaaaaaaand the whole conversation is a smoke screen for the biggest theft of intellectual property in the history of ever. Let me explain.

I used to work in high-tech marketing. One of the programs we’d often implement is a language auto-chat system for customer service. We’d cull a database of the best questions and answers from years of customer service communications. Since I worked in marketing, I’d sometimes get roped into reviewing what went into the system. One big question that always came up was whether we had rights to the content. We were assured that since the customer service messages were written as part of company work, then the company owned the content.

Fast forward to today’s AI systems. What’s being called AI is that same language system for customer service. It’s a series of algorithms that pick the next most likely next statement based on a dataset of responses. The AI is only as intelligent as what it gets fed. And when there’s no virtual marketer ensuring that the base data isn’t trash? That’s when you get ‘hallucinations,’ which is when the chatbot reconstitutes false source data into new lies. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”

But what if it’s YOUR unique garbage that gets reconstituted and resold?

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this.

If you’ve written or published anything online, that content is going into the current AI chat systems. When people say, ‘wow, this chatbot really created a great sentence’ what it actually means is that the chatbot sliced and diced a sentence someone else wrote and served it up to you correctly. Does the bot know where that sentence came from? You betcha. Does the bot pay the human who actually wrote some/all of the sentence? It doesn’t, but it should.

AI is not replacing humans. It is stealing IP from those who don’t have enough bargaining power or system knowledge to complain. And the fact that I might benefit from stealing someone else’s words doesn’t make the theft okay. And you can bet your ass that those running the AI systems are sitting in their offices now, holding their breath, and wondering if everyone will catch on that they are actually stealing your intellectual property and reselling it. 

Do the AI companies know this is theft? You betcha (again). I’ve sat in rooms when they pitched customer service and talked about how the implementation can only use content generated by employees during company time. They know what they’re doing. What’s happening now is that the general public (and news outlets) have seen too many Terminator movies and assume that the content is somehow coming from an intelligent computer. It’s not. 

It’s worth repeating: these AI computers are fancypants search engines using your content to source and output data without compensating you. Again, the companies know damned well who is creating the best content… because when certain statements work (meaning the conversation continues) the author/content gets prioritized higher the next time around. You may be the number one chatbot content contributor for questions about your home town or hobby… and not even know that, let alone get compensated.

Which brings me to the question about AI systems replacing jobs. I’d have no problem with this happening… if the AI system weren’t stealing content from the current job holders to replace them without paying a royalty. That’s just mean. 

Also, it’s stupid. If the AI system wants to get smarter, it should compensate those with the best answers by paying them. That’s how capitalism works.

Long story short, don’t call it artificial intelligence. It’s a real-life content thief who should be paying royalties to you.