This blog is about my 2020 research into computer text generation and the effects on professional ands amateur writers. I am working on this topic at the University of the Arts London (UAL CCI, Dir. Mick Grierson).
No-one has asked creatives or writers what they think of the new ‘AI’ systems that generate readable text and so directly threaten their jobs, and could change the way people work forever (or don’t work forever). This is a topic that directly impinges on self-worth and financial worth in more ways than anyone can imagine, although plenty are worrying.
STUDY – ONLINE EXPERIMENT
I devised an online experiment about this topic, allowing respondents to experiment with creating hybrid stories using a text generator. The people were all professional or serious amateurs (and a couple of small students) invited from my own creative writing software mailing list, a couple of writing forums, and a publisher’s writers’ forum, plus friends and relatives who generally use writing in their work. Credits are at the bottom.
You might have heard of Google OpenAI’s GPT-2 and GPT-3. My experiment uses a generating system (Fabrice Bellard’s Text Synth, with permission) based on GPT-2, that anyone can use. GPT-2 was used here as the model works well for idea generation and is more generally available at the time than GPT-3, which is much larger.
Note: The text generation and editing system is now a free online tool (creativity support tool or CST) at
The experimental results will feed into this blog (see Index for different aspects) and later an academic paper, and also a new book for the general public on the whole subject of computers, creativity and writing.
Please sign up for news and notifications – there’s a form on this page.
Brief description of the Study
Below is a graphic of the entire online study. Each block is a page and journey was left to right from top to bottom. The three text generation and editing experiments used a similar set up to the Story Live tool.
Each writing experiment – Caption, News and Fiction – had a question afterwards, then there were more questions after the experiments (see diagram below). All this will be addressed in blogs here, along with other discussions.
The image writing prompt was the same for each experiment and for all respondents for uniformity (there is a blog on the man and dog here).
The computer support tool (CST) from this study is Story Live writing with AI free online
This study was devised and the site programmed by Geoff Davis for post-graduate research at University of London Creative Computing Institute UAL CCI 2020. The Supervisor is Professor Mick Grierson, Research Leader, UAL Creative Computing Institute.
Text Synth, by Fabrice Bellard, is a publicly available text generator, was used as this is the sort of system people might use outside of the study. It was also not practical to recreate (program, train, fine-tune, host) a large scale text generation system for this usability pre-study. Permission was granted to use Text Synth in the study by Fabrice Bellard Jul 7 2020.
Fabrice Bellard, coder of Text Synth.
Fabrice is an all-round genius and writes a lot of OS. Text Synth was built using the GPT-2 language model released by Google OpenAI. It is a neural network of 1.5 billion parameters based on the Transformer architecture.