The internet is the brain of AI, and is filled with information on nearly every muse we could see or imagine. But what about those that we can’t imagine?
That sounds like a strange and somewhat scary question– probably because it is. If the things we can already imagine are scaring us to a point of wanting to stop or censor it, then what about the things that do not make sense to our tiny human brains? How many times have we stood in fear of something people have created? How often do we stand in awe-struck fear of our own Creator, let alone the discipline of the very people who brought is into and up in this world? Does that fear stop our stubborn human nature? Why should something that we have created be any different?
We should not let fear of harm overpower our imagination for the possibilities of what may be the next printing press or internet.Censoring the technologies of free expression ; Ronald K. L. Collins, Ryne Weiss
And that fear is exactly what keeps us running is circles as we ride our muses as a horse in a race.
I would, to some degree, argue that without a muse we are running around in circles rather than reaching a point. For example, theories on geological dating of rocks (especially sedimentary rocks) often depends on the fossils within them. But then again, how do we know when particular fossils were formed? No one was there to observe or record the existence of the fossilized organism, and the rock’s estimated formation is dependent on the fossil? Geologists that don’t play into the young earth ideology that many Christians hold will often say the date of the fossil is dependent on either the formation of the rock (which we’ve already established is informed by the fossil) or macro-evolutionary theory– something that has yet to occur before our very eyes, let alone replicated by scientists. We begin to fall into circular reasoning that I think was best explained by John Morris:
In circular reasoning, instead of proceeding from observation to conclusion, the conclusion interprets the observation, which “proves” the conclusion. … Thus, the rocks date the fossils, and the fossils date the rocks. The unquestioned assumption of evolution provides the context for the entire process.The Young Earth: The Real History of the Earth– Past, Present, and Future ; John Morris
My point is that when we’re writing, the muse is the point. Though an AI may help us to decipher how to go about that point, it’s not the best at getting to that point on its own in a way that is unique to your muse. And I think we often get caught in the details about the muse, or maybe in how the muse makes us feel or react (I’ve most certainly been guilty of this). But then we use those details to interpret the muse. We then become trapped in this circular reasoning in our writing when we simply observe and don’t ask questions and go somewhere from there.
I like how Nick Cave put it in his letter to the people at MTV:
She comes to me with the gift of song and in return I treat her with the respect I feel she deserves — in this case this means not subjecting her to the indignities of judgement and competition. My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and if indeed she was, still I would not harness her to this tumbrel — this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May abandon me completely!My muse is not a horse, Nick Cave
The muse should not be a horse kept in stables and enclosures, or a horse that runs circles. Our creativity should not subject the muse to that. While observations can be beautiful and profound, sometimes with points that can be left for interpretation by the audience, they most often do not answer the questions in such a way that leaves us in awesome wonder. Making plain observations simply leaves the piece at nothing more than a piece of writing– often with little room for the audience to take part in this process of creation (as Madeleine L’Engle often invites her audience into with her work, such as A Wrinkle in Time). Her work leaves people asking questions, and challenges audiences to learn throughout their adventures through her work. I’d like to reiterate a quote from Walking on Water:
When language is diminished, I am thereby diminished, too. In time of war language always dwindles… We think because we have words, not the other way around. The more words we have, the better able we are to think conceptually. … As a child, when I came across a word I didn’t know, I didn’t stop reading the story to look it up, I just went on reading. And after I had come across the word in several books, I knew what it meant… We were capable of absorbing far more vocabulary when we read straight on than when we stopped to look up every word. … If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopworn words, we are setting ourselves up for takeover by a dictator. When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles…Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle (p.29-31)
And circling back to the point of this class, AI uses the language we are already likely to use. It’s brain is the internet– the lump sum of human output and interaction– and especially when asking AI language programs to put together a creative piece, it calculates something that we are likely to understand. Instead of challenging us, it gives us what we are already comfortable with. Instead of leaving us asking questions or trusting the audience to be able to pick up particular details, it over-explains or makes things so obvious that the reader has no job but to consume. Creative writing is much more than consumption, awards, or race horses running around a track– it’s about the muse.
It just occurred to me to look up the actual definition of a muse. There are two forms of the word, both of which I find relevant.
- NOUN : a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
- VERB : to be absorbed in thought ; to say to oneself in a thoughtful manner ; to gaze thoughtfully at.
See, the muse is the source of inspiration, thought, or I would even dare to say it’s the source of questioning. The creative act is daring to explore those questions, while AI seeks merely to answer them. But because of the heavy idolization and reliance on technology, we’ve already been primed, in large part, to want answers more than adventure or experience.
The only other question I have regarding this topic for the moment is one that I already know my answer for– dare I even say, the answer to. I want to challenge you to think about it too though. What is the muse of the muse– it’s source and reason for existing in the first place? Given that the muse inspires so much in us as mere humans, and that we often still have some dominion over these muses, especially in a creative sense, how much more powerful do you think the Artist that created your muse is? Is that something that leaves you in awesome wonder and even asking more questions than the muse itself? I would think so if your answer is anything like mine.