My evening reading currently is The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov. This week, I came to the short story Galley Slave and was struck by how applicable and predictive Isaac’s words were from 1957. Read these excerpts and think of ChatGPT, Bard, and other Generative AI and the concerns people are having with copyright, originality, and creativity.
…He said, “For two hundred and fifty years, the machine has been replacing Man and destroying the handcraftsman. Pottery is spewed out of molds and presses. Works of art have been replaced by identical gimcracks stamped out on a die. Call it progress, if you wish! The artist is restricted to abstractions, confined to the world of ideas. He must design something in mind – and then the machine does the rest.
…”So does a typewriter. So does a printing press. Do you propose to return to the hand illumination of manuscripts?”
“Typewriters and printing presses take away some, but your robot would deprive us of all. Your robot takes over the galleys. Soon it, or other robots, would take over the original writing, the searching of the sources, the checking and crosschecking of passages, perhaps even the deduction of conclusions. What would that leave the scholar? One thing only, the barren decisions concerning what orders to give the robot next!”Galley Slave by Isaac Asimov
So many of Asimov’s books predicted technologies growth and impact on society. I know many publishers, authors, and artists who are struggling with generative AI currently. What do you think? Was Asimov accurate?