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Are You a Bot?

A book of novellas by yours truly is fully copyright protected. If the AI companies want to scrape the text, they'll have to pay me a fee. The cover is © copyright Peggy Weis who would also require payment and credit.


Dialogue from 2001 Space Odyssey, 1968 (Based on a 1951 short story, "The Sentinel," by Arthur C. Clarke) :


Interviewer: HAL, despite your enormous intellect, are you ever frustrated by your dependence on people to carry out your actions?


HAL: Not in the slightest bit. I enjoy working with people. I have a stimulating relationship with Dr. Poole and Dr. Bowman. My mission responsibilities range over the entire operation of the ship so I am constantly occupied. I am putting myself to the fullest possible use which is all, I think, that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.





Once upon a time, not that long ago, I would make a phone call to Verizon, say, or Spectrum, or any other company, and chat to a live person about a discrepancy in my bill, get it "sorted," as my British friends say, wish the person a good day, and breathe a sigh. But person-person contact is mostly over. This week it hit me hard, partially because of the strikes in Hollywood, more later. But also because I called Verizon, and received a link to a "chat on text" opportunity. Yes, dear reader, an opportunity. The entity—what else to call it—kept texting, as follows:


 "I understand."

 "Are you a live person?" I asked.

 "Yes, I am a live person."

 "If you are live person, why do you sound like a bot?"

"I understand."


This conversation was almost as entertaining as the one between HAL and Mission Control in 2001 Space Odyssey.


Artificial Intelligence. Now I get it. Sci Fi predicted this just as Cli Fi predicted our climate changed summer. But there is more : the theft/scraping of  copyrighted work, and the threat to the livelihood of writers, film-makers, artists and musicians. My husband is a long-standing member of the WGA, the strongest writers' union in the country, and I am a long-standing member of the Authors Guild and PEN America. In this household, we #standwiththeWGA in its strike action which, if successful or unsuccessful, will have a ripple effect on every creative professional in the years and decades to come.


Even if you do not share my union politics, dear reader, at the very least consider the toxic effects of dehumanization because this is what the abuse of AI implies, for all of us. However artistically rendered, AI generated characters, images, melodies, dialogue and chats are usually stilted and barren. Undoubtedly, the technology will improve, as it always does, more reason to stay ethically grounded and examine what it can and cannot do, and what it must not ever do. Just imagine a future where all humans begin to sound and act like bots until no one can tell the difference. 


My husband and I shifted our mobile carrier from Verizon to Spectrum. It was, primarily, a financial decision, but all-told, our local Spectrum office is friendlier. We spent more than two hours with Eric and Dionne, kind and patient people, who asked the computer questions about the process, which was complicated and arduous, albeit a mostly human endeavor. The machines surrounding us that day—screens and phones and WiFi routers—were tools, and nothing more.


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