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London Book Fair 2023: The Impact of Chat GPT on Publishing

by | Apr 25, 2023 | Articles and Reports, News

Chat GPT will transform marketing and research and will see many jobs in publishing change, but not necessarily disappear.  That was the overall message from Chris Singleton, founder of digital marking blog the Style Factory.  He told a packed audience in the Tech Theatre at the London Book Fair that the application was very useful for idea generation and was a potentially very good editing tool.  “But I don’t think these jobs are necessarily under threat.  It’s more that they will change, and that Chat GPT will become a useful digital assistant.”

He urged publishers to approach it with a “curious and positive mind set.  Try it out, play with it, work out the ways it can help your business”.

He began with an explanation of what Chat GPT is.  The initials stand for ‘Generative Pre-Trained Transformer’ and said “it can best be thought of as a digital emulation of the human brain.  It uses a ‘large language model’ – it is like a giant brain trained on a huge input of data.”

Founded by San Francisco-based OpenAI in November 2022, some of its applications are breath-taking.  Before the fair, Singleton asked it to edit Shakespeare’s famous ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy from Hamlet.  It came up with: ‘The big question is whether or not to keep living.  It is better to endure the hardships that life throws our way, or to fight against them, and overcome them’.  Not quite Shakespeare, but impressive, nonetheless.  He also put an opening page of a thriller set in the London Book Fair and it was passable.

“It is very good for generating ideas.  When I last looked there were 771 titles on Kindle that listed Chat GPT as an author – and I suspect that figure is higher.”

He explained that search is potentially more efficient with Chat GPT because instead of bringing up links as with Google, “it takes you straight to the answer”.

 

But he warned of the dangers too.  “This has all happened very quickly and arguably it’s a digital revolution that we’re not ready for yet.  There are serious questions over accuracy.  Chat GPT uses data before September 2021, so anything after that can be poor.  And while it can produce information very quickly, that information needs checking”.

He also said it is not good at understanding context and that “you have to be precise about what you ask.  There is a lack of attribution regarding sources too.”  Most worrying of all is concern over fake news and the implications for education.  “We’ve all read about universities receiving essays that are written by Chat GPT and some educational institutions are now moving away from essays as a learning requirement now.”

Singleton said that one of the problems was the speed with which AI is developing.  “We don’t have a regulatory framework yet, and all the tech companies are now racing to launch their own versions.  Google issued an internal ‘code red’ when Chat GPT launched, and they will follow suit with their answer”.

The interest in technological developments like AI and TikTok could be seen by the standing room only events the book fair’s Tech Theatre.  It was reassuring that it seems both platforms are only as good as the human input behind them.

 

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