Something white bobs in the shadows a block down Roberts Street. It’s February, and not unusual for snowshoe hares to explore the areas between human houses. What is unusual is how their white coats illuminate rather than camouflage their activities. The Keweenaw of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula averages over 300 inches of snow a year.

As of February 25, we’ve barely had 100 inches. The unseasonable weather feels like a harbinger. Yet, it’s not the weather I’m questioning these days. It’s a different sort of movement and I’m contemplating tracks left across my WordPress spam folder — a curious change in bot communication.

Let’s go down a rabbit hole and talk about AI. (Artificial Intelligence) for any puzzled dairy farmers and cattle ranchers out there who might be wondering why literary artists care about the breeding cycles of cows. Though, writers are getting screwed, too.

Did you notice my intentional slights of keyboarding? My deliberate word, inference, and punctuation choices?

  1. “Let’s go down a rabbit hole…” is cliche but I reasoned that I could get away with it because of how I set up an image of a white snowshoe hare in the introduction.
  2. AI (Artificial Intelligence…) According to standard rules of style (AP, Chicago, APA), a writer introduces a phrase before using its common acronym. I did it backward to use humor — in my era of ranching out west, AI was/is standard for “artificial insemination.” It set up my opinion that AI refers to getting screwed if you are a writer or a cow.
  3. “Slights of keyboarding” is a playful twist on the cliche “slight of hand.”

Writing is complex as a system of written communication. Imagine explaining what writing is to an oral culture. Imagine, if the scientists of the future enable you to talk with your pets, how you’d explain to your python, ferret, or poodle the system of writing. You hold this pen, you see? A pen? Oh, it’s an instrument to write with, to scratch ink onto paper, or you could type. What is typing? Well, it’s another system of writing, but first, maybe I need to teach you the alphabet. Sorry, Pet Python, but phonics didn’t work for me either. Hmm, I see your point. Snakes can’t hold a pen. Can you tap the keyboard with your nose?

Think about how diverse writing is across the world. What are we communicating? Economic exchanges? Innovations? Solutions? Shared ideas? Debates? Righting injustices? Speaking out? Speaking up? Speaking truth? Expressing beauty? Entertaining a child? Entertaining the masses? Directions? Instructions? Educating? Consoling? Inspiring? Self-identifying? Saving stories? Saving face? Saving the world from climate change? Humor? We have many different systems of writing; an entire industry of devices and software for writing; universal and yet infinite reasons to write. Diversity is found in systems, languages, implements, genres, standards, and creativity.

Can AI replicate all the complexities involved in writing? Can it absorb the nuances of diverse expressions? Can it come up with meaningful communication? Can AI imagine?

In my imagination, I see a way of communicating through images. When I read a well-crafted passage that has voice and creativity intact, I can experience the writing in the imaginal. It’s not the words that move me but the emotion of the images the writing evokes. Or ideas that come to life from something someone else wrote which stirred a response in me. I can imagine stories written in a book. I can feel the wash of a poem like a waterfall. Will AI be able to generate sentience? I don’t need writing to hear the songs of Nature — sentience can be expressed through dreaming, and dreaming leads to imagining, and imagining leads to stories, and stories lead to writing.

We already possess Higher Intelligence — the realm of the imaginal. Imagination is the tool of writers, non-fiction or fiction. Writing is creative expression. Why do we want Artificial Intelligence? We certainly do not need it. Aren’t we doing things too fast already? Why do we want to diminish humans and smarten technology? It sounds like the plot of a future sci-fi. While I acknowledge the importance and relevance of tools, my concern is the rapidly growing pace of our reliance upon these devices. And now, they are training devices in the arts?

And the advancement of AI is problematic for writers on many levels. It does not advance the craft or creativity of higher intelligence. It serves no humanitarian purpose and yet it can subvert the activism of the people beneath the power it serves. Who profits from AI? Not writers. Nor are writers compensated for the writing developers use to program AI.

Yet, AI has been with us for a while (“a while” is code for “my higher intelligence is too lazy to go use artificial intelligence to look up the accepted answer). AI has been helpful/annoying with grammatical corrections in programs I pay for — Pro Write, Grammarly, and Microsoft Word. As the corrections grew more sophisticated, the AI increased. But often, it was wrong because it could not process context or creative discoveries. There is more about AI that I don’t know than I do.

But what a great time for me to collect Spam Comments to correct the obvious AI writing. When I taught English at Finlandia University, I had a student who used a grammar checker on his paper. It also offered him an AI tune-up to “make your writing better.” It made his writing hilarious and horrendous. Like these AI-generated comments in the CR Spam Folder (horse apple pile).

Language is a living, breathing thing like dream figures pearled into strands of communication. Will AI ever develop the capacity to create pearls? Another question is, why? For now, keep using that Higher Intelligence!

February 27, 2024, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about artificial intelligence. Use any genre. What is unfolding or has the situation existed for a while? Who shows up, AI or a figure of imagination? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 4, 2024. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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