Archives for the month of: February, 2023

OK — I recently had a go at Paul Eprile’s statement that “All great literature needs to be retranslated over time”. As I tried to emphasize at the time it wasn’t the basic idea of retranslation I was objecting to, but the idea that this was somehow essential. I do however agree that it becomes essential if there are errors in the original translation.

A couple of recent instances bring me back to this subject area, these cases pointing up the importance of being quite clear about what “errors” actually means in this context. The first event was the replacement in a production of Lohengrin of the word “Führer” in the final act.

Seht da den Herzog von Brabant!
Zum Führer sei er euch ernannt!
. . .
See there, the Duke of Brabant!
He shall be named your leader!

Substituted for Führer was the word “Schützer” (protector), a term which earlier in the opera is applied to Lohengrin himself. Now of course Richard Wagner, notoriously, had pretty revolting anti-Semitic views, but Führer was (and apart from one specific historical context, still is) a perfectly anodyne word, bearing no more significance than its English equivalent “leader”, until, that is, Hitler took it on as his job title. It’s the word for driver — your Führerschein is your driving license. In Lohengrin the word carries zero fascistic implication, but of course Hitler has for ever contaminated the word, and the juxtaposition of Hitler and Wagner here makes for a justification for the textual change. If I’m anything to go by, nobody would notice unless there’d been a news stir about it — I can rarely make out the actual words the singers are using even when they are singing in English. Of course, that’s also an argument for leaving the text as is — which is what I’d be inclined to do. After all, nobody’d dream of changing the notes, so how come we are allowed to play around with the words of this Gesamtkunstwerk? Making a fuss about the word just draws attention to the issue, which isn’t what the opera’s about. After all if we can cope with the use of the word in a car rental office, how come it’s troublesome in the case of the guy who’s obviously coming back to lead the army in the struggle against the eastern invader?

The other case is the news that Puffin Books have “edited” Roald Dahl’s children’s books for a recent reissue. Here’s The New York Times story, if you can get past the paywall. (Link via LitHub.) If the paywall gets in the way, here’s Time‘s take. Now, one understands that Roald Dahl may not have been the nicest human who ever lived, but I dare say that a certain rawness may have contributed to the success of his children’s books. Kids mostly cope manfully with depictions of tragedy. We don’t feel the need to edit “Little Red Riding-Hood” to make the granny be victim of a bad headache, rather than being eaten by a wolf. “Changes reported by The Telegraph include characters who are no longer described as ‘fat’ and references to ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ that have been updated to ‘parents’ or ‘family’.” You can’t really win with this sort of move, I guess — and some of the changes are to say the least odd.

Rick Behari, a spokesman for Puffin Books, says “When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details including a book’s cover and page layout”. This is of course on the face of it true, but generally what the process amounts to is the correction of spelling or grammatical errors rather than the imposition of today’s political correctness onto the author’s text. More substantial change would/should lead to a line on the imprints page announcing that this is a reprint with corrections, and of course this appears to be what Puffin Books are doing — so at least you’ll know whether you’ve gotten hold of the Bowdlerized edition or not.

Roald Dahl didn’t like having his manuscripts altered: “I never get any protests from children. All you get are giggles of mirth and squirms of delight. I know what children like.” Salman Rushdie may be a tad over the top in remarking “Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed” but some of the changes do seem a bit unnecessary (— maybe my literary executors will eventually change that word to “silly”). That the Prime Minister has gotten involved is a measure perhaps, in these days of UK political farce, of the lack of importance of this issue: his spokesman tells us “When it comes to our rich and varied literary heritage, the prime minister agrees with the BFG* that we shouldn’t gobblefunk around with words.”

Reassuring news comes via Publishers Weekly, in the shape of announcements by Dahl’s US and European publishers that they don’t plan to update their editions. Of course, if the copyright owner, the Roald Dahl Story Company, (which was purchased by Netflix in 2021) gets in on the act who knows how many of their words these courageous publishers may have to eat.

Within a couple of days of the outbreak of the furore, in the tradition of English compromise, Puffin Books announced that they will now reprint unrevised editions of Dahl’s books as well as the new revised one. I dare say customers won’t notice, but maybe this side-by-side test of “wokeness” will teach us something. I rather suspect it’s a foregone conclusion: bookstores are probably not going to rush to lay in inventories of the updated versions. With luck Penguin Random House haven’t printed too many of the new editions just to have to waste the stock.

There’s obviously something in London’s water supply — here we go again. Just the week after the Dahl news broke, here from The Independent comes the revelation that James Bond, or should I say Ian Fleming’s, books are being republished in partially expurgated versions. Publishers Lunch tells us, even more interestingly, that in Britain the books will apparently be published by the Fleming estate itself. “A 10-year license to Vintage UK to publish the Bond novels expired in 2022, and according to bookseller metadata the estate will publish both the digital and print editions directly in the UK, without a traditional publisher partner. William Morrow publishes the series in the US, with new editions — presumably including the revisions — scheduled for this spring and summer.”

What about the integrity of the author’s text? It’s protected by copyright — though in these cases the guilty party is the author’s estate which owns that right. So, what about the integrity of grandpa’s text; and his wishes? I am inclined to agree with Richard Charkin, that this sort of revisionist political correctness is a type of hypocrisy: “We, as publishers, are happy to shout about our beliefs in these principles [freedom of speech and the freedom to publish]. We have prizes. We issue strongly-worded statements against governments which don’t quite share a definition of freedom. We believe in our authors and their books. We believe in the primacy and importance of intellectual property. We believe in the moral rights of authors, as well as their purely legal rights.” We believe in their moral rights that is, until such time as we think that their right might be wrong and may end up costing us a little money in lost sales. You can’t expect Beowulf to reflect the mores of the Geneva Convention: rewriting it to suggest it does would be stupid, sneaky and shameful.


* BFG stands for The Big Friendly Giant, a 1982 book by Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Always good to have politicians who are able to make literary references.

Mike Shatzkin’s latest lucubrations almost manage to imply that he himself caused Madeline McIntosh to resign as Penguin Random House’s CEO. — It’s no fun any more, he confides with us. There are no large publishing companies left to acquire, which means that the Big Five are doomed to extinction, so the job of Top Boss is obviously no longer worth having. It’s all become so boring. “From here it looks like general trade book publishers of scale can’t grow organically* anymore . . . But if big houses can’t grow organically, there are very few smaller houses to acquire, and anti-trust prevents them from combining with each other, they are doomed to a long, slow, decline. That’s where we are, and it is not a happy place.” So there it is: what’s a CEO to do? Pack it in of course, and seek happiness by doing something less boring.

The Big Five only publish x%** of all the books published, and 70% of books are being bought online, so, Mr Shatzkin admonishes us, trade publishing’s done for, having lost the edge represented in the past by their sales forces’s access to the market. His piece amounts in effect to a claim that because he predicted a decline of trade publishing, there’s going to be a decline in trade publishing; and here, despite all the evidence to the contrary†, it’s happening before your eyes — which the commentariat always likes to ensure are looking in the wrong direction.

He’s fixated on how everything’s changed. As if a car maker couldn’t say “Everything’s changed since the sixties” or a woolen manufacturer, or a bus driver, or a miner, or a farmer, or a retail clerk. Yes, Mr Shatzkin: things change, and will continue to do so. And if all you are really saying is that the car factory of today is very different from the car factory of the sixties — why bother? Everyone knows that, and has long ago dealt with it. Yes publishing is different, but it is subject to the same forces of change, and tends to deal with alteration pretty much like everyone else: wait and see what people want, then rush to provide it.

Beyond a doubt more change is coming. Maybe the Big Five will wither away, but that only means the death of publishing if you forget about the 90% of publishing that’s not Big Five. What’d we do without these five targets for our hatred and revulsion? Find another five of course.


* “Growing organically” means signing up more books to publish, (or selling more copies of those you already have on the go). No evidence is given to explain why this is no longer an option — probably because no such evidence exists.

** Who cares? Google will tell you 10% to 20%, but I’d bet that’s way too high. (In terms of commentariat-coverage though the Big Five suck up 99% of the oxygen in the room.)

† 2022 was only the second highest year in the ranking of book sales. We came in 5% lower than the number 1 year which was 2021. And all this leaves out of account sales of self-published books; a number we don’t know. Crisis! Crisis!

In a shocking turn of events, books written by the popular language model, ChatGPT, have started appearing on Amazon. The news has left many in the literary world scratching their heads and wondering what this means for the future of writing.

ChatGPT, known for its vast knowledge and ability to generate coherent sentences, has apparently decided to try its hand at book writing. The books, which cover a wide range of topics, from science and technology to literature and history, are gaining popularity among readers who are curious to see what a machine can come up with.

Some have criticized the move as a gimmick, arguing that a machine cannot truly understand human emotions or experiences, and therefore cannot write meaningful stories. However, others have praised the books for their clear and concise writing style, as well as their ability to convey complex information in an easy-to-understand manner.

One reviewer wrote, “I was skeptical at first, but ChatGPT’s book on quantum physics was actually quite insightful. It presented the information in a way that was accessible to the layperson, without dumbing it down too much. I’m impressed!”

Another reviewer was less enthusiastic, stating, “While ChatGPT’s books may be technically accurate, they lack the heart and soul that comes from human experience. It’s like reading a textbook instead of a novel.”

Regardless of the controversy surrounding ChatGPT’s foray into book writing, there is no denying that it is a fascinating development in the world of artificial intelligence.

Written by ChatGPT; published at Fudzilla.

The preceding piece, written by ChatGPT, was not “commissioned” by Making Book but by Fudzilla and comes from their post entitled ChatGPT books flood Amazon written by Nick Farrell. (Link via LitHub.) From here on it’s me writing — hope you can take that on trust.

Mr Farrell detected over 300 ChatGPT-generated books on Amazon on 22 February, which doesn’t seem like a huge number, but is no doubt just the beginning of things to come. It would also be a collection of items where ChatGPT was given some credit — silent bot authorship would be harder (impossible?) to detect.

How bad is this news? Mr Farrell writes “While there is a ton of things wrong with this, the biggest problem is that ChatGPT learns how to write by scanning millions of pages of existing text. So, the software is just correcting other people’s books and plagiarising them.” Not sure I see it that way. After all a person with an eidetic memory would presumably be in an analogous position, yet nobody would claim that Sheldon Cooper’s ability to remember stuff constituted plagiarism. Academics refer to and build on colleagues’ work, producing texts which nobody criticizes as plagiaristic — because academics spend much care and attention to making sure they acknowledge every source (the more the merrier it often seems) in order to bolster every claim they make. [As Wikipedia might say here: “Reference required”.] When it comes to publishing, the key factor is credit, and I believe that an admission that an artificial intelligence program wrote this material would carry with it the implication that your book was included in what the bot used for training. Direct quotation would of course be an instance of copyright infringement, but thoughts and ideas are not copyrightable, nor are words and letters of the alphabet.

ChatGPT and AI in general isn’t intelligent in the way we normally think of intelligence. It doesn’t know anything: it has just memorized a whole lot of text and been taught how to express itself in smooth prose (or verse). It works by figuring out the probability that this or that string of words should/might follow on from some other group of words. It is for this reason that chat bots are just as proud to deliver up slickly expressed lies as they are to give you slickly expressed truth. For them, both are identical: probable/possible word sequences. But, if they are lucky and avoid clangers, bots like ChatGPT can do a job which it’s hard not to call excellent. The example above, while not telling you anything much, does appear utterly plausible.

The Fudzilla subtitle, “Authors that didn’t write books, for readers who can’t read”, is way over the top. People who can’t read aren’t the problem; it’s people who can and do that we need to worry about. If ChatGPT is listed as an author then I’d say there’s no real problem. Caveat emptor governs the sale: and lots of authors write worse that the above paragraphs in blue. The sort of book that Ammaar Reshi published is surely fine ethically and practically — nobody’s being deceived, and nobody’s getting anything other than a perfectly respectable product. Some books might be argued to be of lesser value, but as long as their origin is clearly labelled, nobody suffers. The potential problem of course lies with the “unknown unknowns”. How are we to know this or that book is or isn’t written by AI rather than by a person who may be masquerading as the author? Now, to some extent I’m not sure this really matters either. Another romance by an author you’ve never heard of, a made-up nom-de-plume, — OK, so what? Does it matter whether it’s a machine or a human being, if you enjoyed the book? The real trouble comes with a book pretending to be by a real author who actually had nothing to do with it. This maybe has more in common with a deepfake than with a copyright infringement, but I do think authors and publishers need to get down to doing something about protecting the integrity of an author’s work: maybe by just preempting the deepfake market by doing it yourself, as I suggested recently.

The Collation shows us a bill of lading dating from November 15, 1623 (Folger MS X.d.729).

The detail on the right shows more clearly that this was a preprinted form. The black ink shows the base document printed, in the cursive secretary type, now called Civilité, first made by Robert Granjon in 1557, and the brown ink shows the handwritten insertions into the windows left in the blank form entered no doubt by the purser of the ship Phoenix, bound from London to Venice. The holes you can see in the detail show where the document was stored on a string (the contemporary equivalent of the bulldog clip) along with all the other BOLs covering the rest of the Phoenix’s cargo.

Much early printing was this sort of pre-printed blank kind of thing. Indulgences were a significant component in this business category. Of course, so is much of today’s printing output.

A publisher’s production department will become engaged with bills of lading primarily in the case of overseas shipments where it falls to you to ensure that the documentation of the shipment reaches your customs agent before the ship docks. But of course all shipments of books are covered by some kind of bill of lading. It makes for a shaky business if 70 cartons of books are loaded onto a truck in Kingsport, TN, but only 68 cartons are checked into the warehouse in Portchester, NY. If you’re be being billed for 1960 books, but only have 1904 to sell, your accounting system will, to say the least, be all messed up. Counting cartons is pretty basic, and doesn’t devolve on the highest-payed employee, but it is absolutely fundamental to the success of the company.

On February 8th a Manhattan jury “awarded Hermès $133,000 in damages for trademark infringement, dilution, and cybersquatting.” Mason Rothschild had been sued by Hermès for selling NFTs showing Birkin bags (an exclusive and wildly expensive brand) of various extravagant designs. Hermès claimed this diluted their brand. Reuters has the story. Mr Rothschild’s lawyer called the result a “terrible day for artists and the First Amendment”. 

So, do legit artists really suffer from this judgement? Described by his lawyer as “a conceptual artist”, Rothschild, “whose legal name is Sonny Estival, argued that the works are an absurdist statement on luxury goods and immune from the lawsuit based on First Amendment protections for art.” Rothschild had hired people to execute the “art” under his instruction — he can’t actually do the work of creating an NFT of a Birkin bag by himself. This may be irrelevant legally, but seems important to me. Rothschild was getting $450 a pop for his NFTs — which forces upon us the question of to whom such a thing might appear to be worth $450. Answer, I dare say, nobody, but once people start buying things it seems there’s no stopping them. Does the use of cryptocurrencies affect how people judge their expenditures?

I suppose anyone can easily make an “absurdist statement on luxury goods” and show it around to family and friends. The trouble comes if they try to sell that statement. It’s probably impossible to sell anything in any way connected to a luxury good without the reputation of that brand affecting the sale. So keep your absurdist statements to non-branded items please. Artists worrying that this judgement represents a “terrible day for artists and the First Amendment” need only reflect that the most artfully and beautifully expressed “advocacy of the use of force” will not be viewed as protected speech — the First Amendment is not a license to say whatever you want, however you want, whenever you want. I suspect that artists, conceptual or otherwise, will find it easy enough to deal with this judgement.

Of course we can’t get rid of this sort of thing by just laughing it off. This type of business is here to stay, and will affect businesses beyond bags. Maybe the Supreme Court and Congress are really going to be able to come to grips with the fact that social media, in the first instance, need regulation of some kind; and this may open the floodgates to regulation of other aspects of the internet. Once we dreamt that crazy stuff would be drowned out online by all the informed and responsible dialog — the dream is I fear dead. Care will need to be taken — babies and bathwater and all that!


* Cybersquatting is the practice of registering, trying to sell, or using an internet domain name to profit from the goodwill of someone else’s trademark.

Jane Friedman’s story about two TikTok successes is full of good advice about promoting your books on TikTok. She tells us “more authors than ever are wondering if they ought to join for the sake of book marketing and promotion.” Of course self-promotion isn’t for everyone: if it’s not for you, perhaps you can get your family to help —

People Magazine (link via BookRiot) brings us an account of the success generated for a twelve-year-old book, Stone Maidens by Lloyd Devereaux Richards, by a new TikTok account opened by the author’s daughter. “The first TikTok she created about her father’s story was viewed more than 43 million times, and received more than 9.6 million likes.”

Sales of Stone Maidens had been pretty desultory upon first publication but now they’ve taken off. Let’s hope Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint, can keep up with demand for their number 1 bestseller. Presumably they are banging them out at CreateSpace using their POD capabilities.

LitHub has a piece by Leigh Stein scolding us for ignoring BookTok: at a recent conference apparently of 120 writers in attendance, only one had previously heard of Colleen Hoover who just three days before had published her latest romance which sold 800,000 on its first day out. Apparently in 2022 fiction was the book category with the largest increase in sales, 21% — without Colleen Hoover that would have been 3%. If she hadn’t had a BookTok presence Ms Hoover would of course have sold some books, but how many fewer? “The hype, and the backlash to that hype, have helped to make BookTok into the most powerful word-of-mouth engine the book publishing industry has ever seen. According to Publishers Lunch, the top 90 BookTok authors saw their cumulative sales go from nine million units in 2020 to 20 million in 2021.”

All this forces you to think “What is it about TikTok that sells books?” The word to use is “discoverability” apparently.* It seems unbelievable, but there are, it seems, lots of people out there who’d love books but are ignorant of their individual existence. If you like books about serial killers, it is apparently quite easy to remain ignorant of the publication of a new book about your subject. Of course there’s more to it than that. You can’t just have Simon & Schuster’s marketing department take to social media, and blast out stories — even an idiot can figure out that the publisher might have a vested interest in trying to contact you. To my mind rather embarrassingly some publishers are employing “influencers” to talk up their books on social media, disguising the fact that they are shilling for the publisher. By its very nature the success or otherwise of this sort of commercial flim-flam is unlikely ever to be revealed, but I suspect readers can discriminate to some extent at least. The secret seems to hover around hearing someone you trust enthuse about the book. But it’s got to feel real; not the George Burns joke version of “Sincerity — if you can fake that, you’ve got it made”!

See also Social media lessons.


*The other new discoverability route is SVOD (streaming video on demand) which not only has a voracious appetite for book content, but is vigorously motivating its viewers to seek out such material, whether the book the video was based on or related content.

A copy of Robert Burns’ first publication, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, was found in a barber’s shop in Shrewsbury. The first fifty pages are missing. According to The Guardian, before the book was “rescued” in the late nineteenth century by John Murison, a traveling seed merchant from Glasgow, the barbers would tear out pages and use the paper to clean their razors. — Can this really be true? Would not even the most aggressively anti-book barber think there might be some cash value in a hundred-year-old book they found lying around?

Only 612 copies of this “Kilmarnock edition” were printed in 1786 by John Wilson. Of these 84 survive, so the barbers’ cleanliness has not deprived us of any unique information. I’m not sure if this copy counts as one of the 84, or whether we actually have 84¾ copies. One of these surviving Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was sold at auction in 2019 for £56,250. 

Link via BookRiot.

We should probably applaud this initiative to get more books into people’s homes. If we have to slip them in as home decorating props, that’s surely better than not. Pottery Barn offers you a selection of decorative books, which they seem to have acquired in the remainder market, maybe even, who knows, from Wonder Books. The Pottery Barn marketers encourage us thus: “Take your bookcase to new design heights with these color-grouped collections of modern hardcover books. Each pack measures one linear foot, so you can perfectly plan out your shelf space . . . All books are published 1980-present and include a variety of literary works, period novels and topical texts with light overall wear.” Scroll down and you’ll discover that they also offer “Dust Jacketed ColorPak Books”, “Paper-wrapped ColorPak Books”, “Modern ColorStak Book Sets”, “Modern Dust Jacket ColorStak Books”, and “Linenwrapped ColorPak Books”. What’s to stop you? You can get them in lots of different color schemes.

This collection of nine Linen-wrapped books with what amount to rather flimsy cloth chemise bindings, will set you back $349. If you care, you can find out what the books are when the parcel arrives. Why would anyone waste their time going into a bookshop? Actually lots of bookshops have been going in for that “mystery package” type of bookselling: What you are offered is a plain brown-paper-wrapped item — buy it and have the thrill of opening it up and seeing what you just got for your $25. I guess there are people out there who don’t care what they buy, just so long as they are seen to be buying smart stuff.

Do you keep that jute twine on though? It’s part of the design, and I think you’re meant to, though that’ll make reading the books even harder — but I don’t think that’s what you’re expected to do anyway. As Pottery Barn assures us when describing Paper-wrapped ColorPak Books, “This color-coordinated book collection serves as a chic design accent – a fun way for readers (and non-readers) to decorate their space.” Who can resist a chic design accent?

The good news is that Microsoft and Adobe are working on a lie detector system for online AI-assisted fictional creations purporting to be real stories. CBS News carries a report. (Link via Technology • Innovation •  Publishing.)

Trying to make a system to detect when a video is a fake is subject to the wasting problem that creators are always going to be able to make software tweaks, and so the good guys are perpetually doomed to be running to keep up. Better (or easier for sure) for the defenders of the real to go at it from the other end, and create a sort of sincerity watermark. They are calling this “Content Credentials” and already nine hundred companies have agreed to carry a button for this.

Can you easily tell that these are NOT Tom Cruise, President Obama, or President Zelenskyy, but are products of artificial intelligence software? CBS NEWS photo. You can see video at the CBS link above.

Content Authenticity Initiative’s website lists members and outlines what they are doing. “We use cryptographic asset hashing to provide verifiable, tamper-evident signatures that the image and metadata hasn’t been unknowingly altered. At creation, choose what information to attach to the content being created. Throughout this process, the creator of content can choose to preserve attribution or to remain anonymous. Privacy and security of photojournalists and other creators are of the utmost consideration in our work.” Obviously this calls for activity on the part of content creators. Something automatic and unavoidable, built into all software packages, might provide a better guarantee, but maybe we can’t force people’s hands like that. It looks like Adobe‘s taking that route, but switching the system on remains under the user’s control. Still if it remains voluntary . . .

Once this authentication system is in place, when you click on a video or photo you may get a pop-up warning that the Content Certificate is incomplete, encouraging you to dig deeper or just view the item with suspicion. However the exact way the system will operate is still up for discussion.

This sounds like an approach which would work for the hypothetical ChatGPT problem of faking authorship of a book — though of course the Content Certification system has to be dependent on the honesty of the creators: unfortunately we have to admit that there exist publishing operations which might be perfectly happy to attest to the genuineness of absolutely un-genuine material.

Mark Williams, at The New Publishing Standard reminds us to stop fussing and just shut up and get on with our jobs. AI is going to happen, and, yes, it may cause the loss of some jobs, but the world, including the world of book publishing, will go blithely on, shrugging off the change as it’s shrugged off all previous changes, without a second glance.

Now I cannot definitively judge as to whether it is true or not, as he suggests, that “at the mere mention of ‘AI’, almost the entire publishing industry is screaming that the sky is falling”. I suppose there may possibly be one or two cases of concern, but by and large I believe that such anxiety as there is is exclusive to the commentariat, who might be thought to have a vested interest in making things appear more exciting. “The entire publishing industry” is I think far too busy rushing the publication of its books to have much time for fancy or fantasy.

To be sure, if you’ve been making a bit of money off narrating audiobooks, then you are quite likely to be concerned that AI can apparently supersede you. Reports that Apple has joined Google in using AI to narrate audio books no doubt worry you more than others, to most of whom this is a bit of a “so what” event. However, as Mr Williams points out rather comprehensively, technological developments have for ever meant that people who did certain jobs could no longer do them. They have tended to find other work, some of which even turned out to be preferable.

I dare say Jerry Seinfeld et al don’t really want to make more and more episodes of Seinfeld. Now they can relax: it’s already being done. Nothing, Forever is a never-ending “episode” of Seinfeld, which has been streaming non-stop on Twitch since 14 December. The art is basic:

The dialogue is generated by OpenAI’s GPT-3 and with minimal human moderation of the stream. “Aside from the artwork and the laugh track you’ll hear, everything else is generative, including: dialogue, speech, direction (camera cuts, character focus, shot length, scene length, etc), character movement, and music,” one of the creators wrote in a Reddit comment.” The creators present this as a parody. The Vice article about it doesn’t tell us about Jerry Seinfeld’s reaction, but he was asked about it during one of his live shows at The Beacon, and pooh-poohed the whole thing. The show was actually been banned by Twitch on 6 February for 14 days not for copyright infringement, but for hate speech. The main character, who goes under the name Larry Feinberg, went on a transphobic rant. Oh, Artificial Intelligence, you constantly reveal yourself as Arbitrary or Approximate Intelligence.

The other day I speculated on an AI-generated novel in the style of Anthony Trollope, dealing not with the Palliser prime ministership, but with the Truss administration. If you’ve been making your living writing political tragedy (or is it farce or now even historical fiction?), maybe this idea will be disquieting. No doubt it might lead you to write in a different genre, but for the rest of us (assuming that such a text is any good) this would be nothing but a positive development. OK, maybe AI is still evolving, but it has such widespread potential applications that business and the military are not going to let it languish in its present unfinished state. Investment is pouring in, and almost as a side-effect the ability of AI to write a perfect story will come to pass. The one thing that could stop this development is a consumer refusal to countenance such a thing. Who thinks that’ll happen? And who could tell anyway?