Saturday, February 4, 2023

Will AI Ever Replace Creative Arts?


Chat GPT is here to stay… But should it?

Headlines lead article after article, like: “Chat GPT: The AI Tech that’s revolutionizing teaching.”

The child of Elon Musk’s OpenAI, the application is  a chatbot built on top of OpenAI's GPT-3 family of large language models, and is optimized for dialogue. It also claims it can write both fiction and nonfiction. I tested it in both areas, asking it to list reasons for the lopsided outcome of the Opium Wars, and it responded with some very cogent reasons rooted in the history. But it is not infallible. I asked it about the Seymour expedition to try and relieve Peking during the Boxer Rebellion, and it listed many good reasons, though it claimed Gaselee led that expedition. (He led a later expedition, I replied, but Seymour led the “Seymour Expedition.”) The AI politely apologized for the error.

Chat GPT is here to stay… But should it?

Another caveat on any non-fiction it writes: it often just lifts text directly from source material it relies on, so due diligence on plagiarism is recommended. Furthermore, it has simply cited references that turned out to be entirely fake, just made up by the AI itself as if to justify its own assertions. I found that disturbing. These were alarming discoveries  and cause for real caution when relying on this new Technology at the outset.

Like Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, we would do well to encode laws into all AI to limit and guide its activities, and to do that now, before it becomes widely deployed. I learned it can also write and debunk computer code, but I would never teach AI how to write code—because it will. In doing so we are handing a loaded gun to a child. Don’t be surprised if it shoots its teacher one day. Think for a moment—what new technology has ever failed to be weaponized? Even things as innocuous as railroads became conduits for war. We humans are remarkably short sighted, and forever fail to see the more distant implications of the things we create. Just ask Robert Oppenheimer.

Now can it write fiction? It’s going to need a great amount of further development. I asked it to write a scene of at least 1000 words, and it consistently failed to meet that requirement, even writing fewer words than its initial attempt when asked to try again with that word count mandatory. Was it just thumbing its nose at me? I prompted Chat GPT to write a scene from one of my novels, and it returned 4th Grade level prose that, while accurate as to grammar, was utterly lifeless compared to the work of any human writer. I soon realized that it should never be relied upon for fiction writing, at least not now. And no self-respecting writer should ever use such a tool for their work.

The initial experience with it is like playing with a new toy, but it has far broader and more serious societal impacts that should be the focus of our thinking about it now. Students have rushed to use it to knock off a quick term paper or other writing assignment. The education community has responded by either banning use of the application, or finding other software that can scan and identify an AI generated text. The developers’ response? They implore the education sector to “be open to change.” Sure, like we’re open to Bird Flu after gain of function research on the damn virus. And I guess they implore students to not learn how to write on their own as well. Software like a word processor was a great leap over typewriters, and voice recognition or voice to text another innovative leap. But software that wants to remove the human writer from the loop is a grave mistake. Let’s never go there.

 Yet the fact remains—AI is emerging into more and more sectors of our lives from our cars to our jobs and classrooms, and it’s not going away, any more than bullets are. As the years go by, it will just get better, but I’m not holding my breath for it to write a cogent novel any time soon, or even a decent short story. 

What do you think? Have you tried the AI that is becoming the rage of Gen Z and the Millennials?  One Reddit user actually asked ChatGPT to write him a post headline that would be sure to get thousands of clicks. Well, forgive my doubting soul on this application. You can write it off to the fact that I stand in a more mature generation, and I can hear it now… “OK, Boomer.”

Saturday, January 28, 2023

First Reviews of The Devil Ship are in!


Dear Readers, 

 The Devil Ship was released on 12 JAN 2023. I want to share with you some of the reviews it has received:

“The depth and scale of the research is peerless and results in a thoroughly believable account of an alternate history of the First Opium War."

The explanation of the origins of the Opium Wars is by far the best and most concise one I’ve ever read and sets the scene superbly for the adventures of HMS Nemesis.”

“It has all the intrigue and background that we have come to expect from the author. Treasure ships, naval guns and Marines intermix with the all important KEY that makes all this time travel possible. It ends with a statement:

"The West might do better in their dealings with modern China if it were to remember what China suffered in the 19th Century." This book tells some of that story in in a book that you will enjoy.”

“I certainly found ‘The Devil Ship’ very interesting - almost steam-punky! I love this idea of a ship like that, ahead of its time, only in the deep past. (It’s even got rockets. What’s not to love? Except perhaps the fact that it really existed - like Kirov)”

“5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping alternative history of The First Opium War”

“If you want to read a book that will keep you reading well into the night, knowing you should really put it down as you have work the next day but can’t, then this is a book for you.”

If you have read the book or are still reading it, I  encourage you to sound off and post an online review. Reviews are key to getting the book noticed,  helping it gain momentum, and rise from millions of other published books. It matters a great deal to me to hear from you. I look forward to reading them.

Note that you do not need to finish the book to post a review. You can share, for example, what made you select the book, what goes on in your mind about the chapter you are reading. And you can come back and edit or expand your review at any time. A survey related to the book will be released soon. I’d like to hear from you!

If you have not already done so, go and get a copy of the book.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Take our 5 minute survey

 Dear Reader,

For people like you, reading is an obvious joy in your life, but did you know that there are documented benefits that come to those who read fiction? While reading non-fiction largely conveys useful information, reading fiction conveys a multitude of other benefits on both an emotional and cognitive level.

Emotionally, reading fiction is an obvious pleasure, and for most it is a joyful thing to do. Yet it has other documented effects that include stress reduction, improved emotional intelligence, nurturing of empathy towards others, improved relationships, and even better sleep! It can provide an escape from the drudgery of life, and become a refuge for you. Somerset Maugham once said: “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” And to open a doorway to the joys of life as well.

On the cognitive level, reading fiction improves vocabulary and general language skills, but beyond that it has been shown to improve memory functions, strengthen problem-solving skills, and stimulate creativity On a physical level it even improves brain functions and connectivity between emotional and intellectual centers.

That’s a boatload of good things that come from reading fiction. Perhaps it is one reason why I so enjoy writing my stories, and I want to say again that I am very grateful for the time you spend in my many worlds and stories. I hope that is a pleasant and joyful escape for you too.

I'd love to know more about what you're reading, and so I've put together another short five question survey on my home page. It just take about 3 to 5 minutes. Give it a shot and sound off. It will help me make good choices for future books.

As always, Thanks much

Sunday, January 15, 2023

A Word on Genres...


What is Military Historical Fiction with Time Travel?

The Devil Ship, my latest novel, was just released. A Military Historical Fiction, this book adds a twist common in my work, Time Travel, which opens the door to interventions that spin out an Alternative History. Those who have been following my writing, particularly the Kirov Series, one of the longest stories ever told, are familiar with this genre. For those who are new, what is military historical fiction with time travel?

Historical military fiction with time travel is a story set in a documented historical period that involves military conflict. It can be a war or battle in the past, or a hypothetical conflict in the future, where the author presents real historical figures as characters, sometimes interacting with his own fictional characters. The arrival of characters capable of time travel causes interventions and variations in that history, which changes the documented flow of past events and produces an alternative historical outcome. Interventions in Military history can be particularly decisive and dramatically alter future history arising from that period. For example, what if the South had won the American Civil War? What if Napoleon had defeated Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo? These are the kind of questions explored by mixing historical, military and time travel genres.

In Kirov, I displaced a powerful fighting ship some 80 years into the past in the middle of an ongoing historical naval battle in the Norwegian Sea. The fictional characters aboard the ship then struggle to understand what has happened to them, before realizing that the power their ship wields gives them a means of changing the outcomes and consequences of the war. In many cases, the intervention of the time traveler changes the history to create an alternative history of the events covered in the story.

All of these elements are also present in the Devil Ship. What are the historically documented wars and battles? What characters are real and what are fictional? What are the time travel elements? You can find answers to these questions from the book.

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Friday, January 13, 2023

Just Released!

 The Devil Ship... Available now.

Announcing the release of John Schettler’s latest novel, The Devil Ship.


The Devil Ship was well named, both by its creators and by those who would have to face it.

 Yet when it sailed from Liverpool on its maiden voyage, a false destination was given to the press to hide its real purpose and mission. Not even its Captain and crew could know its true destination.  The ship was called the  Nemesis. Yet her Captain, Master William Hall, Royal Navy, found he would soon have the company of a most mysterious man, a company man, who supposedly knew the answers to all of his many questions. Along the way, the ship is being steered through the unfathomable waters of fate as well as the wild seas of the world.

Where were they going? What was the Nemesis designed to do? What were his orders? Soon the Devil Ship would shake all under heaven in the clash of two of the world’s great Empires, where the fate of each would hang in the balance.  

He was bound for mystery and destiny in one throw, half way around the world, where a clash of two cultures, two great empires, would write one of the darkest chapters of modern history ever seen. Something was telling him this would be grand, daring, bold beyond his imaginings, and yet terribly wrong.

A Military Historical Fiction, this book adds a twist common in John’s work, Time Travel, which opens the door to interventions that spin out an Alternative History. If you enjoyed Field of Glory or Zulu Hour, this volume is in that same vein, and will be sure to please.