FESTIVALNE REFLEKSIJE (10): Fabiano Alborghetti


FESTIVALNE REFLEKSIJE lavreatov idr. književnih ustvarjalcev // DEBATNO KNJIŽEVNO OMIZJE

Sreda, 7. JUNIJA 2023, med 9.30 in 13.00 v Vili Bianca (Velenje, Stari trg 3)
Tema debatnega književnega omizja/Lirikonfest 2023: Umetna inteligenca, kaj pa je tebe treba bilo!?

 The future reminds us that the present already became the past

In 1998 the first eBook readers were put on the market but it was only in 2007 -when the Kindle was launched- that the epitaph for the paper book was pronounced. Extreme condolences from everybody to everybody. Publishers were screaming and running in circles. “The paper book is dead” it was announced.

In 2023 the paper book is still alive and the eBook represents only a minor sector of the market. The prodigy and the magic of the paper book is still intact: 2000 years after the Codex and 500 years after the first Gutemberg impression, the book resists.

In all these years, the book harvested elements of refinement insted of those related to evolution. The book, as a matter of fact, did not evolve much and take a closer look: removing one of the characteristics it would mean to erode its typicality. This is the exact reason the eBook never broke through: we love turning the page with the tip of the fingers, sensing or smelling the paper; we love a typographic font, we fell in love for a cover.

Some of us own a Kindle, and it is used: for a series of good crime novels to be read on the beach or during a long distance flight for example... A Kindle is easy to carry, it does not take space. But take a look closer: the books you intend to own, most of the time are on paper. They are recognized as important, they last and therefore we want them to be part of our lives.

As it occurs for almost every invention, the evolution is around the product, not on the product itself.

Take the publishig industry: it always had to face average writers. When self-publishing appeared, average writers and improvised poets multiplied. Still, we buy good books.

When Google launched a translation App it was followed by many others. We use them, mostly for minor tasks, but we are more than happy to use it. Still, a good translation is beyond every comparison (and often the results of the translation Apps are ludicros more than effective). Still: we recognize the efforts done by good translators and not only in the publishing domain.

This is the era of the AI. It arrived. It’s an evolution of a number of other tools which appeared in time.

Some tested it. I tested it. Some newspapers tested it by publishing articles created by the AI and asked the readers to identify which is which. The result is unknown. Not because the readers could not identify the AI creation, but because no one reads the newspaper anymore. But this is another story…

Writers: they all are aware of the phosphor glares, of the strobe effects that blinds and does not allow to perceive reality or tryes clever camouflages. Observation and distillation demand a rhythmic, paced and dense tempo. People’s eye and people’s attention are in a kind of pharmacological coma and at the same time what people perceive is hyper-stressed. There is so much shown that everything becomes invisible, it is a mass of things, information and people.

Poetry (or more in general literature) is not a mass, it’s a singularity, and that is why it hurts more: it demands attention and focuses. If the chronicle offers the flyover, poetry and literature dig, search, find. Literature returns in written a recreation of the reality to allow the understanding. It especcialy returns what one does not want. This is its call. To decrypt. To point the lacks or inequities. To underline joy. Each phrase or every verse will be digested, recomposed, given back. A process that each writer will execute (with great effort or fatigue) thanks to a background of studies, experiences, readings, unkwown causes and unexpected effects.

Can AI do the same? It definitively has a massive memory, a neverending amount of data. AI can recreate anything in any style. I can imitate any “voice”. AI can group random information from every domain way beyond any human being could do even after a lifetime of studies. AI can do it way faster.

I can ask AI to write me a sonnet, gimme a plot for a novel, write me a novel. I can ask AI to translate me anything anytime.
What AI cannot perform is the unicity. What an AI cannot do is to point the holes, the shadows, the subterfuges, the lies, the mediations, or that search for self by means of objects, things, places that can confirm who we are.

AI will be used by many in the times to come. In some cases as a funny experiment. In other cases as a business tool. It did not happen yet, but the temptation of saving money asking a machine to do what human arms and human brains can do but the machine can do better and cheaper….well, history is a lesson we never learn from.

Some publishing houses will ask AI to translate “fast” a novel because the markets demands to, and it will also happen that a poor professional (and underpaid) translator will be asked to overview and correct what the AI composed. Still, the human touch will be required to levigate and give “humanity” to the creation, but look closer: it already happens that a novel is split across 5 or more translators to finish it fast and paid everybody less. A common practice across many big publishing houses…

It will happen that a clever writer creates a convincing novel or poem avoiding to use human brain. It will become a literary case, a hit. It just happend with photography (at the Sony World Photography: the photographer is named Boris Eldagsen). The phenomena of ghost writing is not something we are not aware of: it already happens, all the time. Do you really believe that “Spare” by Prince Harry was written by the Duke of Sussex? Ken Follet has a full team of people writing for him: he only overviews, conglomerates and signs the books. The examples could fill the next 20 pages…

It will also happen that one day AI will offer creative writing programs.
In the past we needed a teacher to study another language but 20 years ago the Berlitz institute invented the interaction with a computer only (to hear, listen and repeat).

AI exists. It is unknown what it will be capable of.

At this stage it’s like the boring music in the elevator. Covers the silence, someone got paid to compose it, no one remembers it.
Each of us, “literature creatures” is now running in that elevator and each of us steps-out at his own floor. Mine is the one of my next book: I’m right in the middle of it, and it’s damn difficult to write. I love it! The more complex it is, the more I have fun. It’s a shame: AI will never have such fun.

Let’s always remeber what seems to be a simple fact: literature feeds on reality. What it must strive-for can be summerize to this: literature is needed to open a gap. This does not mean distorting reality, nor imitate other media. It does not mean resembling to something else. Opening a loophole means we are paying attention to the deeper and secret side of reality, writing about it by seeking out its essential and most pungent or uncomfortable or enlightening points, and -finally!- returning it so that attention is paid to reality in full. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It isn't. It scares and hurts... Literature and poetry are called to do this exact thing. AI will get better. Will fake or imitate style and contents. Human writing will on the other hand be the trace that indicate the path and hopefully track all our fears and joys so that, as humans, we’ll be able to mirror ourselves to recognize what we are, teach others, and be teached in return.

One last note: a message to librarians and festival organizers.
It is also good fun to have the authors in person to present a book. Can you immagine what a presentation or a festival would look like in front of a monitor talking?

Ouch… I’m wrong. It happens now because I’m still in Swizterland. It happened over the past 3 years due to the pandemic.
It’s scary when future reminds us that the present already became the past…