So there I was, scrolling through social media, when an ad popped up on my feed.
“Write blog posts 10X faster with robots!” it said.
O-kay, I thought. Sure. What could possibly go wrong?
A bit of googling later, I’d fallen down the rabbit hole of AI content generation—sites that promise to take the pesky work of, well, coming up with words out of writing. In exchange for a prompt (and in some cases a subscription fee), these sites will autogenerate text—or rather, content—freeing writers up to do whatever writing is about for them besides stringing words together in meaningful ways.
Some AI sites helpfully offer suggested topics, such as fashion, or banking, or cryptocurrency, or everyone’s deepest passion, search engine optimization.
But they also all let you enter text of your own. So, I entered this:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Then I sat back and let more than a dozen different AI content generators tell me what, exactly, they would do with the opening line of Jane Austen’s most well-known novel.
Not surprisingly, none of them responded by generating a copy of Pride and Prejudice on the spot. Here’s what they did instead.
Some AI programs played it straight
Faced with that opening line, this AI started to write a paper on the subject.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. This prevailing wisdom is the impetus for Mrs. Bennet’s obsession with finding husbands for her five daughters. She is convinced that if her girls do not marry well, they will be destitute for the rest of their lives.” –Simplified
More AI programs tried to play it straight, but just lost hold of the narrative along the way
“The novel is about a single man named Mr. Bennet who has five daughters. He is in want of a wife for his daughters and so, he must go to all the trouble of finding them one.”—Rytr
I do appreciate the daughters’ willingness to share.
“It Is A Truth Universally Acknowledged, That A Single Man In Possession Of A Good Fortune, Must Be In Want Of A Wife is a novel about Elizabeth Bennet and the five husbands she does not marry.” –Anyword
Five women who marry one wife, one woman who doesn’t marry five husbands. It’s all good.
“Jane Austen is famous for her novels, like Pride and Prejudice, which are full of beautiful language. They are a must read for anyone who has even a vague interest in English literature. #8: Memebox Blogging Challenge Winners Memebox Blogging Challenge. Memebox is a Korean skincare and beauty eCommerce store that curates high.” –Peppertype.ai
English literature, memebox blogging, skincare. It’s all good.
One AI decided to throw shade on Miss Austen herself
“Contrary to popular belief, love can be found in the most unlikely places. And very often, those places are not to be found in a romantic novel like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.” –Copymatic
You tell them, Copymatic.
Many AIs just wanted to help those fortune-possessing single men out
“The search for a wife can be a daunting task. There are many factors to consider, from finding someone who is compatible with you on a personal level to making sure that she meets your family’s approval. If you’re starting to feel the pressure to find a wife, don’t despair. With a little bit of effort, you’re sure to find the woman of your dreams.” –Jasper
“A wife can help manage your money and provide financial stability for your family. She can also help take care of the home and children while you’re away on business or vacations. Plus, she can add some much-needed spice to your life! –Scalenut
“Single men have a bad rap. We’re portrayed as sad, lonely and desperate. But the reality is that being single in your 20s and 30s can be liberating and exciting. This chapter of your life gives you the freedom to pursue the things you really want … without worrying about meeting someone or finding an old lady roommate who will judge you for leaving jam out on the counter.” –Writesonic
“Women are natural managers and caretakers. They make great wives because they are able to understand finances, make good decisions, and are great at taking care of others. They also make good mothers because they can be nurturing and have a deep understanding of human emotions.” –HyperWrite
So many AI-generated reasons a man might want a wife, so few AI-generated reasons a wife might want a man.
One AI gave a shoutout to … no, not to women getting married. To the mothers of women getting married
“It is a truth universally acknowledged by mothers of daughters that weddings are an expensive business. Invitations, flowers, dresses, photographers, catering companies—the list goes on.” –Copysmith
Some AIs had their own agendas to pursue
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. But the subject will become clear if we consider how this very circumstance was taken into consideration by Joseph Smith while he endeavored to persuade his brother Hyrum about marriage.” –Zyro
Sure, sure, that was my first thought too.
“We are a community of single men and women who are looking for friendship, dating and more. Join us today and get access to our private forums, where you can post your own profile, send messages and get replies from other members.” –INK
I mean, why are you even on the Internet if you don’t have something to promote?
But a couple AIs actually seemed to get that this was fiction, and they wanted to come out and play
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. But what happens when that man is not so much in possession of a good fortune, as in possession of a bad one?
“This is the story of [name], who was not quite as rich as he thought he was. He had recently inherited his father’s estate and was now feeling the pressure to find himself a wife before it all ran out. So he went on an adventure with his friend [friend name] to find love, but instead found fame!” –Copy.ai
With a hook like that, who wouldn’t hit refresh for another round?
“This is the story of [name], who wasn’t ashamed to admit that he was a little bit of a gold digger. Though, in this fairy tale there are no evil queens, but instead a group of misfit girls who befriend [name] and help him with his flirting. With the help of his new friends, he finds his prince charming.” –Copy.ai
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
“But what if that single man is too busy being a vampire hunter to think about getting married?
“Enter Jane Austen, who will turn the vampire hunter’s world upside down with her wit, intelligence, and charm.
“Austen is the perfect match for the vampire hunter, and not just because she is a formidable opponent to the undead. Austen is also a woman who knows her own mind, and is unwilling to compromise on what she wants in life.
“The vampire hunter may think he is in control of his destiny, but Austen is about to show him that he is not the only one who can be a hunter.” –Smart Copy
I have no idea where you pulled this from, Smart Copy, but I’m here for it. I’m here for it.
Read line by line, AI generated prose was more coherent than I expected, except for the places where it wasn’t. The actual content behind all that prose was less coherent, though, except for the places where it made sense after all.
Seeing the male gaze so strongly at work in the world of AI content generation was a bit startling, though it shouldn’t have been. Everything an AI generates ultimately comes from us humans, after all.
There’s probably a lot more AI generated content out there than most of us realize, or more than I realized, anyway. That’s useful knowledge to add to the informed skepticism we need to bring to all the things we find online.
Finally, if we are going to have robots churning out copy for us, it’s better to credit them and poke fun at them than to quietly cut and paste and claim that copy as our own.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go auto-generate the rest of that vampire story.
Or maybe not
In the end, sadly (happily), AI content generation just couldn’t bring the story of Jane Austen and the vampire hunter home.
“… The vampire hunter may think he is in control of his destiny, but Austen is about to show him that he is not the only one who can be a hunter. What starts as a battle of wills, quickly turns into something more, as the two realize that they have more in common than they first thought.
“The vampire hunter and Jane Austen may seem like an unlikely pairing, but they just might be the perfect match. What do you think about the vampire hunter and Jane Austen as a couple? Do you think they would be able to overcome their differences, or would they ultimately end up driving each other crazy? Post your thoughts in the comments below!”— Smart Copy
So no, AI content generation isn’t going to replace living breathing writers quite yet.
But if you do have thoughts, feel free to do as the AI says, and share them in the comments below.