Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Over 191,000 books were used to train AI. What are rising authors supposed to do next?

Kellyn Taylor
Illustration by Kellyn Taylor.

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice.

When tech consultant Alex Reisner wrote “Revealed: The Authors Whose Pirated Books Are Powering Generative AI” for The Atlantic on Sept. 23, he exposed massive tech companies like Meta and Bloomberg for training language modeling AI with a new program called Books3, which uses the long, thematically consistent style of  novels—without permission or licensing from the author or publisher—to construct the illusion of intelligence. 

Meta’s program database alone includes works from award-winning authors like Zadie Smith and Stephen King. Authors Sarah Silverman and Paul Tremblay are currently suing Meta for copyright infringement as this program uses their work without their consent.

One of my favorite authors, Patti Callahan Henry, took to Instagram to share Reisner’s article and her newfound knowledge that two of her works, “Between the Tides” and “The Bookshop at Water’s End,” were being used by Books3. Her caption quoted highlights from Reisner’s article, including that “AI training practices are secretive and fundamentally non consensual,” emphasizing the for-profit nature of the executives behind such initiatives. 

Now, where does this leave someone like me , an aspiring author attending Emerson College with the ultimate goal of making a career out of writing novel? It is my dream to become a bestselling author and have my work beloved by thousands, maybe even millions, of people who resonate with the themes and messages of my books. 

There is nothing more discouraging than knowing my formal studies and personal writing labor might mean nothing and get me nowhere in the future. 

Articles like Reisner’s increase my frustration at large corporations who put their money and support behind this tech simply because AI-authored books are much cheaper to produce and quicker to write than their human counterparts. 

Efficacy is the only thing that truly matters to these corporations rather than fostering creativity, which is intrinsic to the human experience. I am angered about the choices of a few powerful people can and will negatively impact the lifestyles of hundreds who make their living in art. 

Now I wonder if my work even matters anymore. Is there going to be a market for books written by human authors in the near future? If, by using books that are the product of months, perhaps years, of human effort, AI has learned how to write novels, and can do so in the fraction of the time and cost that a human author would, why should I be dedicating my time to writing now? 

I still love writing. I have no intention to stop. This will simply have to be another obstacle to overcome along the way. 

This program and Meta’s campaign simply reflect how today’s society is becoming hopelessly capitalist. Those in power let money and profit rule over expressions of creativity and of those who work hard to live out their passions. Reisner describes the conundrum: “These authors spend years thinking, researching, imagining, and writing, and had no idea that their books were being used to train machines that could one day replace them.” 

It’s Kafkaesque as all get out. 

What I propose as a response to AI doomsday is accountability. These companies funding and training AI need to be transparent about the steps they are taking to develop their product. In another article for The Atlantic, Stephen King responded to the fact that his works were being used to train AI by reading AI-generated work, concluding that the AI works do not hold up to genuine writing. Before AI has the time to improve, we must demand that laws be made to better clarify the boundaries of AI when it comes to intellectual property.

Above all, I feel our best weapon against AI is the simple practice of continuing to write our own stories, despite the frustration that the idea of AI brings us. Our human creativity shows that we have not given up in the face of technology, and at the end of the day, readers want books by people like them. I, too, want to resonate with authors’ struggles, interact with other readers who love the same books I do, and participate in the storytelling experience.  

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