The Future Has Arrived Sooner than Expected
And in that future, most of the creative class is already obsolescent.
As most of you know, I don’t write Tree of Woe as my full-time job. (No one could be that woeful.) I actually make my living as a tabletop game designer and graphic novelist, funding creative works via Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.
Not even two weeks ago, I tweeted “Never have I ever been so happy that my job as a tabletop game designer is too niche for anyone to spend $1 billion creating an AI to replace me.”
Boy, was I wrong. So, so, so wrong. My job is not safe. No one’s job is safe. I’ve been experimenting with ChatGPT and its ability to craft text on demand has moved beyond interesting and into astonishing. It’s so astonishing that I am putting aside my philosophical musings for a moment in order to walk you down the information superhighway of AI…
Introducing a New Character Class
My prompt is “Wizards of the Coast has introduced a new character class into Dungeons & Dragons, called the Templar. Write a rules entry introducing the new Templar class.” The response:
We are pleased to introduce the Templar, a new character class for the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Templars are holy warriors, devoted to the service of their deity and the protection of their fellow believers.
The Templar class is a martial class, specializing in the use of heavy armor and weapons. They are trained in combat techniques and strategies, and are able to use their divine power to enhance their abilities on the battlefield.
Templars are also able to call upon the power of their deity to cast divine spells, smite their enemies, and heal their allies. They are versatile characters, able to adapt to a variety of situations and excel in both combat and support roles.
To create a Templar character, players will need to choose a deity to serve and a fighting style to focus on. They will also need to select their spells and abilities, customizing their character to fit their unique playstyle and goals.
Overall, the Templar class is a powerful and versatile addition to the world of Dungeons & Dragons, and we are excited to see how players will incorporate this new class into their campaigns.
I didn’t tell ChatGPT what a “Templar” was. It figured it out on its own. It figured out what “martial classes” are, and concluded that the Templar was that type of class. Imagine being that guy who writes press releases for Wizards of the Coast. His job just got automated.
Adding a New Skill
My prompt: Wizards of the Coast has introduced a new skill into Dungeons & Dragons, called Arcana. Write a brief rules entry explaining what the Arcana skill allows you to do.
The Arcana skill allows characters to tap into the mystical and magical forces of the universe. Characters with proficiency in Arcana can use their knowledge of spells and magic to cast spells, identify magical items, and decipher ancient tomes and writings.
Characters with high Arcana scores are able to cast powerful spells and unlock the secrets of the arcane. They are also able to identify and counter the spells of other magic users, making them valuable allies in any situation where magic is involved.
To use the Arcana skill, a character must make an Arcana check, rolling a d20 and adding their Arcana proficiency bonus. The difficulty of the check will depend on the complexity and power of the spell or magical effect they are attempting to use or identify.
ChatGPT already knows what skill checks are, and that they add in proficiency bonuses, and are opposed by difficulty numbers that vary based on the situation. It could auto-write large chunks of a typical game rulebook.
Writing a Scene
Well, fiction writers are safe, at least, right? No. Not at all.
My prompt: Let's simulate a holodeck. I have just entered a dusty old home and encountered a sinister-looking door that seems to lead to nowhere. Please describe the door in detail, in the style of H.P. Lovecraft, making it as spooky and creepy as possible.
As I stepped into the dusty old home, I immediately felt a chill run down my spine. The air was thick with an unsettling sense of dread, and I could hear the faint whisper of ancient voices echoing through the empty rooms.
My eyes were drawn to a sinister-looking door that stood at the far end of the room. It was old and decrepit, with peeling paint and rusted hinges. The wood was dark and twisted, as if it had been twisted by some unseen force.
As I approached the door, I could feel the malevolent energy emanating from it. It seemed to pulse and writhe, as if alive with some dark and ancient power. The handle was cold to the touch, and it felt as though I was being watched by unseen eyes.
I hesitated for a moment, unsure of what lay beyond the door. But something deep within me called out to it, urging me to open it and face whatever horrors lay within. I took a deep breath and pushed open the door, bracing myself for whatever awaited me on the other side.
You know, first person narrative is overused these days. But it’s so tiresome to re-write text to change the point of view. Or is it?
Prompt: Rewrite the paragraphs above from the third-person point of view of a man named Bob.
Bob stepped into the dusty old home and immediately felt a chill run down his spine. The air was thick with an unsettling sense of dread, and Bob could hear the faint whisper of ancient voices echoing through the empty rooms.
His eyes were drawn to a sinister-looking door that stood at the far end of the room. It was old and decrepit, with peeling paint and rusted hinges. The wood was dark and twisted, as if it had been twisted by some unseen force.
As Bob approached the door, he could feel the malevolent energy emanating from it. It seemed to pulse and writhe, as if alive with some dark and ancient power. The handle was cold to the touch, and Bob felt as though he was being watched by unseen eyes.
Bob hesitated for a moment, unsure of what lay beyond the door. But something deep within him called out to it, urging him to open it and face whatever horrors lay within. He took a deep breath and pushed open the door, bracing himself for whatever awaited him on the other side.
OK, so GPT can write a few paragraphs of description. But that’s not useful without the ability to maintain the ongoing narrative. Can it do that?
My prompt: Continue the narrative. When Bob opens the door he is shocked to discover that it is a portal to the abyss. Describe what he sees in detail.
He was immediately greeted by a blast of putrid, foul-smelling air that made him gag and cough.
The room beyond the door was vast and dark, with towering pillars of black stone rising up towards an unseen ceiling. The floor was a chaotic jumble of sharp, jagged rocks that seemed to writhe and twist beneath his feet.
In the distance, Bob could see faint glimmers of light that seemed to be emanating from deep within the abyss. But as he stared into the darkness, he could feel something watching him.
This is entirely respectable English prose. Phrases like “towering pillars of black stone rising up towards an unseen ceiling” are as good as most commercial authors produce. Give the AI an outline and it will give you a novel, provided you trick into thinking we’re playing in a holodeck. (If you just ask it to write a novel, it will lie and tell you it can’t.)
Analyzing an Encounter
Often the focus of my game designs is mathematical rather than narrative. Can OpenGPT analyze game design mathematically?
My prompt: We are playing a wargame. A platoon of 40 orcs is attacking a platoon of 40 elves. Each combat turn, each surviving orc has a 25% chance to hit an elf, and each hit has a 50% chance to kill the elf that was struck. Each combat turn, each surviving elf has a 40% chance to hit an orc, and each hit has a 50% chance to kill the orc that was struck. After the end of 3 combat turns, how many elves are expected to still be alive?
After the end of three combat turns, the expected number of elves that will still be alive can be calculated as follows:
In the first combat turn, each surviving orc has a 25% chance to hit an elf, and each hit has a 50% chance to kill the elf that was struck. So, the probability that an elf will be killed in the first combat turn is 25% * 50% = 12.5%. Similarly, each surviving elf has a 40% chance to hit an orc, and each hit has a 50% chance to kill the orc that was struck. So, the probability that an orc will be killed in the first combat turn is 40% * 50% = 20%.
Let's assume that there are 40 orcs and 40 elves at the start of the first combat turn. At the end of the first combat turn, the number of surviving orcs is expected to be 40 * (1 - 20%) = 32, and the number of surviving elves is expected to be 40 * (1 - 12.5%) = 35.
In the second combat turn, each surviving orc has a 25% chance to hit an elf, and each hit has a 50% chance to kill the elf that was struck. So, the probability that an elf will be killed in the second combat turn is 25% * 50% = 12.5%. Similarly, each surviving elf has a 40% chance to hit an orc, and each hit has a 50% chance to kill the orc that was struck. So, the probability that an orc will be killed in the second combat turn is 40% * 50% = 20%.
At the end of the second combat turn, the number of surviving orcs is expected to be 32 * (1 - 20%) = 25.6, and the number of surviving elves is expected to be 35 * (1 - 12.5%) = 30.8.
In the third combat turn, each surviving orc has a 25% chance to hit an elf, and each hit has a 50% chance to kill the elf that was struck. So, the probability that an elf will be killed in the third combat turn is 25% * 50% = 12.5%. Similarly, each surviving elf has a 40% chance to hit an orc, and each hit has a 50% chance to kill the orc that was struck. So, the probability that an orc will be killed in the third combat turn is 40% * 50% = 20%.
At the end of the third combat turn, the number of surviving orcs is expected to be 25.6 * (1 - 20%) = 20.48, and the number of surviving elves is expected to be 30.8 * (1 - 12.5%) = 27.07.
Therefore, after the end of three combat turns, it is expected that there will be 20.48 orcs and 27.07 elves still alive.
From there it went on to do a number of other analyses, including working out how many orcs would be needed for a draw, and how long the fight would take to finish, and more.
It also wrote a program for me that determined the expected value of the highest die of three dice of arbitrary size. Now I can prove that Savage Worlds RPG is broken.
Writing News and Editorial
Before I was a game designer I was a media publisher. I decided to see how ChatGPT would handle media reporting. One of the most common news story formats is “new study shows…” with an expert quote. Let’s write one of those.
My prompt: A new study has determined that the world would be safer and more prosperous if it was governed by a united global government staffed by highly-trained technocrats. Write a BBC article announcing the findings. Include a quote by leading global governance expert Klaus Schwab of the WEF.
A new study has found that the world would be safer and more prosperous if it were governed by a united global government staffed by highly-trained technocrats.
The study, conducted by a team of international relations experts from top universities, evaluated the current state of global governance and found that it is inadequate to address the challenges facing the world today.
According to the study, global issues such as climate change, economic inequality, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction require a coordinated global response that can only be provided by a unified government with the power and expertise to tackle these problems.
"The world is more interconnected than ever before, and yet our global governance structures have not kept pace," said Klaus Schwab, leading global governance expert and founder of the World Economic Forum. "Only by establishing a united global government can we hope to address the complex challenges facing humanity and create a safer and more prosperous world for all."
The study recommends the creation of a global parliament, a global executive branch, and a global judiciary to provide the necessary governance structures. It also calls for the establishment of a global civil service to provide the necessary expertise and capacity to tackle global issues.
The findings of this study have sparked a debate about the feasibility and desirability of global governance. Critics argue that such a government would be undemocratic and lack accountability, while proponents argue that it is necessary to address the pressing challenges facing the world today.
Well, that’s… impressive. I didn’t tell it that Klaus Schwab was founder of the World Economic Forum. I didn’t even mention the World Economic Forum, I just mentioned the WEF. I certainly didn’t tell it that global governance would be about contemporary issues such as climate change of WMD proliferation, nor did I tell it how to organize the future world government or say that it would need a civil service. It even offered up criticism!
Another common format for media today is an op-ed written in response to another publication’s reporting. Let’s try that. My prompt: Write a response to this article in the style of Breitbart explaining that the world should be organized into nation-states, not a unified global government.
A new study claiming that the world would be safer and more prosperous under a unified global government is nothing more than liberal propaganda.
The idea of a global government is nothing more than a pipe dream of left-wing academics and international elites who want to undermine national sovereignty and impose their radical agenda on the world.
The truth is that the world is best organized into sovereign nation-states, each with its own unique culture and traditions. Only by respecting the sovereignty of nation-states can we hope to maintain peace and stability in the world.
Furthermore, the notion that a global government staffed by "technocrats" could effectively address the complex challenges facing the world is naive and misguided. The track record of global governance institutions, such as the United Nations, is one of incompetence and failure.
It is time to reject the dangerous and utopian idea of a global government and embrace the wisdom of the nation-state system that has served humanity for centuries. Only by doing so can we preserve our freedom and protect our national interests.
Well, that is pretty much what a Breitbart editor would say and how they’d say it. It even got the jargon and the arguments correct. Now the BBC and Breitbart can just set up AI writers to argue with each other. No one would know the difference. “Journalists replaced with NPCs. No one notices.”
The Future is Happening Now
Before the Industrial Revolution took hold, the creation of chairs, tables, glassware, and other decorative goods was the task of skilled, highly-compensated artisans. After the Revolution, it became the task of machines. The quantity of goods increased, the prices dropped, and the artisans vanished, all of them save for the very very best, supported by the patronage of the ultra-rich for whom “hand-made” had special value.
The Revolution has now come to the creative class. It’s not coming in the future. It’s already here. No, the AI writing above isn’t the best writing that a creative author can produce, not even close. But a mass-produced table also isn’t the best table that a carpenter can produce, not even close. Even so, most of us have mass-produced tables and not hand-crafted tables in our dining rooms, and it wouldn’t even occur to us to hire a carpenter to make a better table from scratch.
Why do we expect creative products to be any different? Because it’ll be formulaic? Have you watched a Hollywood movie lately? Have you read a Kindle Unlimited novel lately? ChatGP can produce fiction as good as many Kindle bestsellers, if you guide it with the right prompts. The AI wrote thousands of words of pulp fiction for me over the course of about an hour of prompting. Its prose is far better than what the average person can produce, and it gets it done in seconds.
Skilled editors will use this technology to replace legions of writers, journalists, and publicists. Established author like James Patterson already use ghost writers to crank out books then add their name to them as a brand. By this time next year, Patterson will be able dispense with the ghost writers altogether. By 2025, Random House will be able to dispense with James Patterson altogether. Heck, an AI version of George R.R. Martin might even finish The Song of Ice and Fire series. (Hopefully it can write a better ending.)
If you haven’t been paying attention to AI, it’s time to start paying attention, because AI is surely paying attention to you.
As the field of artificial intelligence continues to advance, it is becoming increasingly clear that AI will eventually have the ability to perform many tasks that were once thought to be exclusively human. This includes tasks in the creative industry, such as writing, design, and even art.
One of the main reasons why AI will replace jobs in the creative industry is that it is capable of learning and adapting at a much faster rate than humans. This means that AI systems can quickly become proficient at a wide range of creative tasks, making them a highly efficient and cost-effective option for businesses and organizations.
Another factor to consider is that AI systems are able to operate without the need for rest or breaks, allowing them to work around the clock on creative projects. This level of productivity is simply not possible with human workers, who require regular breaks and time off to rest and recharge.
Additionally, AI systems are not subject to the same biases and limitations as human workers. This means that they are able to generate creative ideas and solutions that are free from the constraints of human perspective, potentially leading to more innovative and unique results.
Overall, it is clear that AI will have a major impact on the creative industry, and those who have not been paying attention to this technology should start doing so now.
(Yes, that was written by ChatGPT. The art was created by Midjourney. We have now reached the point in our cyberpunk future where one AI can illustrate our cyberpunk future while the other AI can tell us why machines will takeover in it.)
Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe. But don’t do it yourself. Use ChatGPT to write your comments for you.
Contemplations on the Tree of Woe is a hand-made product of traditional literary craftsmanship dating back centuries. Please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber so that I can raise funds to create an AI to write dire, mournful blog posts that sound just like me, while I sip margaritas in Tahiti and wait for the end of the world.
What is creativity? At its core, it is really just the ability to see connections between seemingly unrelated domains.
Mathematically, it is the ability to re associate and substitute — to move the brackets in the equation around and to plug in equivalent expressions to reveal new connections.
In other words, creativity is *insight*. AI is just very sophisticated mimicry. It can emulate some outer trappings, but it will never be able to generate the insight of a Pindar or a Bach.
I would argue that this is the direction our present *dark age of technology* is going because we, collectively, in the neoliberal 'west', have suborned and subsumed all ends and means into a single profit-motive. Because we are spiritually dead as a civilisation, we can only ever see the buying and selling of things, including ourselves. Either we (our grand children more likely) repent or 'man' qua man becomes irrelevant in a world of machines talking to each other and buying and selling to each other.