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AI Can’t Read Books. It’s Reviewing Them Anyway

Wired (free to read): “ChatGPT-powered avatars recently gushed over a new book—unconvincingly. But if AI develops actual opinions, authors might be in for a shock…a PR release I received last week. The subject line: “AI book reviewers?” The press release touted “the first book to ever be reviewed by AI avatars.” I’ve written book reviews, and my books have been reviewed, and I know that the best examples of that art are penetrating and illuminating. Had someone cracked the code to do that via AI? So I followed up, and I found that the touted “book reviews” weren’t quite what I had in mind. It turns out that a PR firm was promoting a novel called The Cloud, one of those dystopian scenarios where a heroic human fights back against AI overlords, and the firm had come up with some AI gimmickry. It created a set of AI-generated characters—a rogue android, a time traveler, etc.—and had those characters offer assessments of the book. Sounds great, until you hear the details. The two- or three-sentence, ChatGPT-generated “book reviews” only drew on the jacket copy and some Amazon reviews. The avatars did not get access to the actual text of the book, “for copyright reasons.” Since most reviewers prefer to actually put eyes on the pages of the book they’re judging, these AI-generated comments would seem to not qualify as actual reviews. Indeed, they come off like promotional blurbs dashed off by a friend of a friend who hadn’t bothered to read the book or even ask what it was about. One typical example: “As a survivor of the post-apocalyptic empire, I can tell you that The Cloud by Robert Rivenbark is an enthralling read. With its gripping storytelling and memorable characters, I highly recommend this book.” Not one of these comments invokes the name of a single character, the theme of the book, the quality of the prose, or a glimmer that a mind was at work. Henry Roi, one of the PR execs in charge of the promotion, concedes that most authors do want actual humans to review their work. “But afterwards they want more content,” he adds, presumably for social media posts on TikTok and elsewhere. AI-generated content fits that bill…”

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