The Big Idea: Alaya Dawn Johnson

The “rise of AI” is a growing concern for many creators. Award winning author Alaya Dawn Johnson has some unique ideas on this AI problem we all face, and talks in her Big Idea about how our world’s AI compare to the AI in her newest novel, The Library of Broken Worlds.


I didn’t set out to write about AI. I certainly didn’t anticipate, back in 2014 when I started drafting The Library of Broken Worlds, that it would come to dominate our conversations about art and literature, just as my AI-haunted complicated utopia was about to be released. As I write this, my browser of choice, Opera, has just launched AI plugins that can summarize the thesis of this entire essay, create a meme based on it, or revise it according to some AI-generated standard of good taste. I have to wonder, am I writing this essay for the enjoyment of organic intelligences, or for the consumption of artificial ones? Is my real contribution being included in a database that will use my idiosyncratic word choices as both template and error bar, a process inevitably designed to corral human expression into neat circles able to be more efficiently processed by ever more artificial intelligences?

I feel predisposed to a pessimistic view of this process. Like many Science Fiction writers, I am as alarmed by the evil ends to which new technologies can be put as I am heartened by their potential. As an anti-capitalist, I am particularly worried about the use of these technologies to further degrade the value of human labor, particularly artistic labor, which has already suffered gross devaluations over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. In other words, the immediate threat of ChatGPT and MidJourney is an acceleration of trends that we’ve seen for decades. They can’t be separated from less obviously science-fictional corporate innovations like the indefinite extension of copyright, the critical loss of diversity in the marketplace for both publishers and booksellers, the rise of predatory work-for-hire contracts, and the reduction of royalties and residuals…

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Read on at: The Big Idea: Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Library of Broken Worlds: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s|Waterstones

Author’s Socials: Website|Substack|Twitter|Instagram

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