Today I was offered a free AI plugin for my website to help make my writing ‘clear and compelling’ while maintaining my ‘unique voice’. Naturally, I followed the link and am using the tool to write this short piece to try it out.
So far, it’s just me writing and I don’t see the AI helper but perhaps he (and it is a he) will reveal himself at some point. I say it’s a ‘he’ because I’ve been reading Tracey Spicer’s book ‘Man-made: How the bias of the past is being built into the future’. The title – and the AI-generated image on the cover – give away the plot.
Spicer writes well, her work is well researched and I highly recommend the book, but I have to admit that I struggled to keep reading at times. It’s so bloody depressing. There are hundreds of pages of horrifying exposition of the various forms of injustice, sexism, misogyny, racism, discrimination and all manner of inequity built into AI.
I had had a minor experience of sexism in AI but was blissfully unaware of how systematic this, and other forms of discrimination – are until I read the book. Like many curious non-experts, I tried ChatGPT recently. I was giving an invited speech to aspirant school leaders and wanted some fresh leadership quotes. I asked ChatGPT for some. It gave me 10 quotes from male leaders. I scolded ChatGPT, pointing out that this response was sexist. It apologised and gave me 10 quotes from female leaders, including one attributed to a man that had actually been uttered by a woman.
I found this correction quite encouraging and naively went about my life. Until I read Spicer’s book. Holy moly.
But don’t let my experience of reading the book put you off. It’s worth the effort. At the end of the book, Spicer says ‘After reading this book, your consciousness is raised. You have the information, motivation and language to craft a short but powerful message: ‘Enough!’. I can attest to that.
Then comes Spicer’s call to arms with multiple examples of how each of us can make a difference to growing inequity and a potentially dystopian future with small, individual changes.
I have downloaded Shebah and just changed Siri’s voice from female to male (I’d prefer gender neutral but I need to upgrade my phone to get that option). I also have plans to start conversations in my various roles as executive, board member, academic, colleague, friend and family member. As Spicer reminds us, we live in a democracy and have rights, and as she says, ‘Collectively we have the power to determine our destiny’.
I still can’t see my new free AI helper in here so I’m going to go ahead and publish this. Hopefully, my writing is compelling and clear enough without AI.
PS I found the AI helper when I went to publish this article. It told me “The content…could benefit from a clearer focus. Consider organizing the points about the book and the personal experience with AI into separate sections”. I considered and rejected this suggestion as it would both introduce a formality to the structure of the piece I don’t want and remove my unique voice.
My AI helper went on, “Also, provide a more substantial conclusion summarizing the main takeaways from the content. This will help the reader better understand the key points.” I also rejected this idea as it was based on the misassumptions that all articles fit a pre-determined template (and that you need help reading this, which I don’t think you do).