(AI and word processing, AI and higher education, Sam Altman wants regulation so long as he can pick the regulators.)
I remember being enthralled by the IBM Selectrics with film ribbons that could make errors vanish with the Back Delete key. Magic!
My inbox is totally out of control, and I pay for too damn many Substacks, so I was tempted to read the first couple of lines of this then hit delete.
That would have been a huge mistake. Top quality writing Dave!
My God, the manual carriage return, how could I have forgotten!
As for the AI topic you've written about... I'm reminded of the homeless compounds in For All Mankind, where the innovations that NASA sold to the world provided benefits but at an apparently heavy social cost...
It always confounds me when someone says that generative AI will improve writing productivity by "eliminating the drudgery so you can focus on ideas". What, exactly, is the drudgery that we're talking about here? Maybe I'm just not a good writer, but for me, the difficult parts of writing have always been coming up with a thesis, developing an argument for the thesis, and deciding what research to include to support each point in the argument. Once you've done all of that, coming up with the words is easy. Conversely, whenever I find that I have trouble, say, coming up with a transition between two stages of the argument, that's invariably an indicator that there is something wrong with my argument, that one step doesn't follow from the previous one.
As far as I can tell, AI can't help with any of those genuinely hard things; you have to provide those in the prompt. So, I'm still going to have to do all of those difficult and time consuming things, and then the AI will do the easy part? And then on top of that I'll have to check what it produced to make sure it didn't plagiarize Wikipedia, and I'll probably need to rewrite it anyhow so it doesn't sound so generic? This all sounds like more work then just writing it myself. What am I missing here?
When word processors came on the scene, the value proposition was obvious; everyone I knew wanted one. (Aside: the biggest barrier to adoption for the word processor back then, for students at least, is that many teachers would straight-up refuse to grade your work if you didn't have a "letter-quality" [synonym: "expensive"] printer.) In those days, rewriting was literal rewriting, as in, you had to retype every single word of the revised draft. It was easy to get excited about not having to do that. For writing, specifically, I'm just not seeing comparable value from AI.