Have you ever heard the theory that if you put a monkey in a room with a typewriter, eventually it would type out the Complete Works of Shakespeare? Well, that pretty much sums up how I feel about AI, or artificial intelligence – it might come up with something good once in a blue moon, but I’m not holding my breath.
You’ve probably heard a fair amount about AI in the press lately – some people think it’s going to change the world, others are concerned that the robots are going to rise up (I’m rather sceptical of both claims, to be honest with you). Well, one thing that I’ve come across recently is that people are using AI to “write” all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction.
I don’t see much harm in letting a computer write a novel – whilst I doubt it can write as well as Jane Austen or Iain Banks, I’ve struggled through plenty of naff plots written by human authors and lived to tell the tale. But when it comes to non-fiction subjects, the chance of mistakes is much higher, particularly if the book hasn’t been checked by an expert.
The example I came across from a friend’s Facebook post was books about foraging – an enthusiast shared a list of AI-generated foraging guides that included some very dangerous advice, recommending that their readers gather and eat some highly toxic plants. Not quite the ticket!
The good news is that these particular books have been taken off Amazon and it seems they aren’t available to buy any more. Phew! But the question is, how do you know if a book you want to buy is the real deal?
The easiest thing to do is to look up the author separately. Most authors worth their salt will have a page on Amazon or Goodreads where you can check their qualifications, just by clicking on the author’s name. Or you can approach it from the other direction, and search for experts in that particular field, and then see if either they’ve written a book, or if they have any books they’d recommend on the subject.
Those of you who’ve been reading these newsletters for a while might know we also run something called the Tech Inner Circle – which gives more help with PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Unlike the newsletter, this isn’t just open to everyone and in fact the doors have been closed to new members since October last year. We’re planning to open them again shortly to let new members in, but only for a few weeks, then they’ll slam shut again.
Keep your eyes peeled for more info about what it involves, why you might (or might not) want to join and how long the doors will be open for.
(And for members who are reading this: we’ll shortly be welcoming in some new members!)
That’s it from me this week – I hope you found it useful.