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posted by hubie on Sunday April 16 2023, @07:57AM   Printer-friendly

Writers and publishers face an existential threat from AI: time to embrace the true fans model:

Walled Culture has written several times about the major impact that generative AI will have on the copyright landscape. More specifically, these systems, which can create quickly and cheaply written material on any topic and in any style, are likely to threaten the publishing industry in profound ways. Exactly how is spelled out in this great post by Suw Charman-Anderson on her Word Count blog. The key point is that large language models (LLMs) are able to generate huge quantities of material. The fact that much of it is poorly written makes things worse, because it becomes harder to find the good stuff[.]

[...] One obvious approach is to try to use AI against AI. That is, to employ automated vetting systems to weed out the obvious rubbish. That will lead to an expensive arms race between competing AI software, with unsatisfactory results for publishers and creators. If anything, it will only cause LLMs to become better and to produce material even faster in an attempt to fool or simply overwhelm the vetting AIs.

The real solution is to move to an entirely different business model, which is based on the unique connection between human creators and their fans. The true fans approach has been discussed here many times in other contexts, and once more reveals itself as resilient in the face of change brought about by rapidly-advancing digital technologies.

True fans are not interested in the flood of AI-generated material: they want authenticity from the writers they know and whose works they love. True fans don't care if LLMs can churn out pale imitations of their favourite creators for almost zero cost. They are happy to support the future work of traditional creators by paying a decent price for material. They understand that LLMs may be able to produce at an ever-cheaper cost, but that humans can't.

There's a place for publishers (and literary magazines) in this world, helping writers connect with their readers, and turning writing that fans support into publications offered in a variety of formats, both digital and physical. But for that to happen publishers must accept that they serve creators. That's unlike today, where many writers are little more than hired labourers churning out work for the larger publishing houses to exploit.

In today's new world of slick, practically cost-free LLMs, even the pittance of royalties will no longer be on offer to most creators. It's time for the latter to move on to where they are deeply appreciated, fairly paid, and really belong: among their true fans.

This first sounded like a description of Patreon, but what's he talking about is something like a people-run Patreon that has all the bells and whistles of recommendation algorithms, reviews, etc., not just a simple way to give money directly to individuals. My bet is whomever writes the first successful one gets bought out by an Amazon-like entity . . . [Ed.]


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  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Monday April 17 2023, @05:00AM

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Monday April 17 2023, @05:00AM (#1301767) Journal

    Yes, that statement, that AI will "threaten the publishing industry in profound ways" is trashy melodrama. Substitute the world "change" for that word "threaten", and now we have a more accurate and less histrionic statement. Further note that the phrase "publishing industry" is not "artists". Why should we feel pity for publishers? Ideally, they're good editors and business people who relieve artists of those burdens so they can focus on their art. The reality is that they're mostly manipulative, parasitic, backwards middlemen.

    Academia gets ripped hard by their practices. It's ridiculous that a poor college student, on top of the now crushing costs of tuition, should have to shell out hundreds of dollars for print editions of textbooks when technology has provided us all with the means to distribute digital copies at costs too cheap to meter. I'd as soon the commercial bookstore, especially the campus bookstore, simply vanished. We don't need that. Free the library to provide digital editions of all the textbooks. It's such bull that you can't get the books you need the most from the library because they can't stock enough print copies for everyone who needs them. Then there's the treatment they dish out to researchers. Hand over your research to them, for free. Help them sort good research from bad research, for free. If they manage to squeeze others for money in exchange for a copy of your good research, they pass on a big fat 0% of that to you.

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