by Toby Altman

Ok, so this is a response to Patrick House’s article, “I, Language Robot” in the Los Angeles Review of Books. The article is about the increasing literary proficiency of AI: they can now write prose and poetry that fools experts. Which is definitely cool.

I’m less interested in the hand-wringing about whether robots are replacing human writers—or whether human creativity is specifically human or not.

I hear this question a lot—I know people who’ve spent their whole literary careers thinking about what human writers can do that machines can’t. But, like, who cares? I don’t feel particularly attached to the idea that literature is a uniquely human product. Nor do I feel particularly attached to the idea that there’s something specific and unique to the human mind.

The history of literature in the last 300 or 400 years is one of continual expansion in terms of who gets to write—and what gets considered literature. Why shouldn’t robots get a place in that?

Toby Altman is the author of Discipline Park (Wendy’s Subway, 2021) and Arcadia, Indiana (Plays Inverse, 2017), alongside several chapbooks, most recently Every Hospital by Bertrand Goldberg (Except One), which won the 2018 Ghost Proposal Chapbook Prize. He has received fellowships from MacDowell, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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