Chat GPT Part 2: Unemployed Boogaloo
Images via Cottonbro Studio & Pixabay
Previously on Megan: my job as a professional writer was eliminated in favor of utilizing ChatGPT. I was moved to a more admin/technical role for two months. Then I was laid off.
Every opportunity was taken to tell me that this was a financial decision, and that AI had nothing to do with my loss of employment, but rather my role didn’t match my salary and the choice to lay me off was financial in nature.
It’s not hard to read between the lines there. I was making a senior writer’s salary in an entry-level position. The role I’d been hired to fill didn’t exist anymore, in favor of AI use.
The math does itself.
While content writing wasn’t where I saw myself as a writer, as a career it still felt like sticking the landing after getting all that writing-based education. What’s frustrating is that as a Crash Graduate (something I’ve started calling myself other than “millennial” because it describes a very specific subsection of millennials who finished graduate or undergrad just as the Great Recession began and have been statistically fucked for decades) I got the Bachelor’s because “You don’t want to be flipping burgers,” and then I got the Master’s because “You want to be competitive and not a barista, right?” And now billionaires have created an AI that does my job and the response I got, I wish I was kidding, was “Why didn’t you get a more stable degree?”
There is not a pillow big enough to scream in.
Like a good millennial who is used to this shit by now, I picked myself up and started applying the next day. And lo and behold, I’m switching careers. My job search has been edifying, as about 60% of copywriting job openings have AI proficiency or ChatGPT proficiency listed as the first or second hireable requirement.
So where does that leave me? It was hard to muster anything remotely shaped like hope back into the equation and I sat for a very long time with the question I’m sure a lot of writers are asking themselves right now: am I too late? I’m still writing and still have a novel on submission but the word around social media right now is that even best-selling authors are being contractually held over the coals because publishers want to pull a Disney and utilize artificial intelligence to replicate that author’s style to create sequels or a multiple-book series without providing compensation. Steps are being taken to protect existing work, as earlier this month Mona Awad and Paul Tremblay filed a lawsuit against OpenAI for breaching copyright law, questioning how published works are being used to train chatbots and AI.
So how do we preemptively protect our work now that the broader AI conversations have started? ChatGPT was trained with any data available on the internet so there’s a good chance as a writer your work may already have been used to train AI if it isn’t behind a paywall. So that sucks. And what if, like every other writer on the planet, you use Google Docs to draft or edit? Gray area, but experts recommend getting your WIP out of clouds and on to hard drives. Full disclosure, I’m writing this in a Gdoc like a dipshit.
And is it just publishers (allegedly) getting in line to take advantage of authors? Nope. Looks like the “lol, just try it” crowd is flooding literary magazines with AI generated short fiction. For editors in this situation their only recourse is rejection, which I don’t think some dingus who lol’d their way from chatbot prompts to submission is going to take very personally.
Beyond the bureaucracy of it all, there’s the human element of story: who tells it, who owns it, how we share it. Bringing AI to the fore in publishing makes me suspect imminent silencing and erasure of BIPOC authors, Indigenous authors, LGBTQ authors, and disabled authors. I don’t like going all tinfoil hat, it’s not a good look for me, I’m an autumn so I prefer gold tones, but it’s difficult to believe that someone with too much money and no more submarine rides hasn’t already realized we won’t have to ban books if the AI writing them knows what's “allowed” and what isn’t.
When I got laid off in the past I’d do a little jig and consider it an opportunity to work on my novel. Lately, though, I've been considering letting the dream go. But, I’m still tiredly, exhaustedly holding on to the weird, gnarled little piece of hope all writers refuse to give up. Maybe we’ll see a renaissance of independent and mid-level publishers and literary magazines. Maybe, with all of us rowing, the ship will right itself.
Because the need for story never really stops. Because someone has to keep scratching on the cave walls. Even if the billionaires paint over it, there’s nothing we like more than a blank page.
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