He’s tried using AI-detection tools, but has found them lacking. (A detector released by OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, works only about 1 in 4 times.) He said unfamiliar turns of phrase in submissions from authors based outside the US whose first language isn’t English can sometimes trip up such tools. “There’s an inherent bias in these detectors,” Clarke said.
Clarke thinks that the rapid advances in AI over the next few years will make such detection tools totally ineffective. “AI is going to be writing at such a level that you won’t be able to detect it against a normal human,” he said.
At least one person responsible for creating generative AI tools shares Clarke’s concerns. Amit Gupta is the cofounder of Sudowrite, an AI tool for writers that helps with edits, generates plot ideas, and completes entire sentences and paragraphs. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Gupta, who is also a sci-fi author and has submitted to Clarkesworld multiple times in the past, said that what the magazine was going through was “terrible” and “really disappointing.”
He said that something like ChatGPT, which generates large blocks of text from scratch, would be a better tool to generate sci-fi submissions than Sudowrite, which is mostly used for stories that are already in the process of being written. He pointed out that Sudowrite caps the number of stories you can create using the tool in a single day. “But if you just came and wrote like three stories each day, I don’t think we can stop that use case,” Gupta said. “That feels too much of a gray area between legitimate and illegitimate use.”
Clarke called the entire field of generative AI “an ethical and legal gray area.”
“Who owns these [submitted] works?” he asked. “If I buy one of them, who am I paying? The person didn’t write it. The chatbot doesn’t own it.” He also pointed out the lack of transparency in the data that these tools are trained on. “Look at what’s happening in the art world,” he said, referring to a case in which a trio of artists sued the makers of popular AI image generators, claiming that the tools had been trained on their art without their permission.
But ultimately, Clarke said, the real issue isn’t how good or bad the text generated by AI tools is. The problem is their speed. “We were being buried,” he said. “I never expected a bunch of side hustle gurus to take out our submission system.” Meanwhile, he said, “The irony of being a magazine that publishes sci-fi that is flooded with stories written by AI isn’t lost on me.”