Writing the Wrongs of AI : LLMs, copyright and creativity in the age of Generative AI

  • Led by Dr Pip Thornton, University of Edinburgh
  • Partnered with Edinburgh International Book Festival

This fellowship partners with the Edinburgh International Book Festival to explore the role of human authors in the AI age. The focus is on raising awareness and skills about responsible AI within the publishing industry.

This project addresses how AI technologies such as ChatGPT impact on the agency, creativity and livelihood of human authors.

Generative AI technologies rely on vast databases of text on which their systems are trained. These databases of text are often scraped from open sources on the internet, but can also include the copyrighted work of published authors who did not consent to their words being used to feed machine learning algorithms and to produce new content and new forms of value. With some of these datasets now searchable, writers can find out if their work has been used in this way, and are understandably concerned. OpenAI, the company that developed the Large Language Model (LLM) ChatGPT, is currently being challenged in a class-action lawsuit by The Authors Guild, while in the UK parliamentary committees have been scrutinising copyright and IP legislation to try to address the issue. What is clear is that any legal process or changes to legislation or indeed compensation will take years, yet authors need answers and options now.

In collaboration with The Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Writing the Wrongs of AI project aims to champion the agency of the human author in the age of AI. This is not a blanket rejection of AI per se, but a way of playfully challenging, subverting, and indeed working with AI ‘responsibly’ in order to raise awareness and skills, with a view to securing the creative and economic future not only of authors, but of the whole publishing industry. With access facilitated by the Book Festival as NAS, the project will identify a group of established writers, publishers, agents, copyright experts and creative technologists, with a view to collectively exploring options and opportunities to ‘Write the Wrongs’ of AI. The project will conduct interviews with these actors, in order to develop and deliver a series of workshops where participants can discuss experiences and exchange expertise amongst themselves and with the other actors in this area, including the Book Festival. As well as providing discussion forums and research opportunities, the workshops will also provide participants with input from a legal expert as well as creative technology specialists in blockchain technology, Generative AI and AI art. The goal of the workshops will be not only to map out a terrain of concerns for authors in an AI age, but to develop a series of conceptual, legal, practical and artistic tools and interventions which will form a portfolio of outputs including a panel and exhibition at the 2024 Edinburgh Book Festival, a printed manifesto, academic papers, a film documenting the process and outputs, and ultimately some solid methods with which authors can navigate the future.

The access and platform provided by the project’s close collaboration with the Book Festival will mean the participation of high profile authors, publishers and agents which will lead to significant impact in book circles, academia, policy, the wider public and beyond.

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