S. B. Divya Promotes Sudowrite

S. B. Divya surprised colleagues this week by recommending Sudowrite’s “Story Engine”, marketed as an AI tool for writing long-form stories. Her tweet came out the same day that Sudowrite co-founder James Yu announced the product launch.

https://twitter.com/divyastweets/status/1658946897430843392

S.B. Divya is the author of Meru and Nebula-finalist Machinehood. She formerly co-edited Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast. She holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing and has worked for 20 years as an electrical engineer in various fields including pattern recognition, machine intelligence, high speed communications, digital music, and medical devices.

Numerous critical comments were made in response to Divya’s recommendation, of which the following were among the first:

Divya has yet to reply to other tweeted questions about her personal stake in the product, if any.

Sudowrite was founded by writers Amit Gupta and James Yu. According to a FAQ on the company website, “The AI works by guessing one word at a time, based on general concepts it has learned from billions of samples of text.”

Elsewhere on the website the concept is explained in more detail:

Sudowrite is based on GPT-3, a 175 billion parameter Transformer model, which learns general concepts from its training data. The bigger the model, the more complex these concepts can be.

The model generates text by guessing what’s most likely to come next, one word at a time. Kind of like autocomplete on your phone. It’s not copying and pasting sentences from a database. It actually writes each word individually.

Twitter user @ZinniaZed located video of a talk that Divya and Sudowrite’s James Yu presented two months ago to UC San Diego’s “The Design Lab”, “AI and the Future of Creative Writing”, which includes the following quote showing Divya’s awareness of the technology’s potential impact on professional creators:

One of the one of the sort of existential questions about art that is what does it even mean and does it have to be produced by a human being? And I feel like you know with the advent of some of these tools as we enable people to produce their own writing, to produce their own um paintings, there is going to be shrinkage in the market for buying those same products produced by human hands, right, because the same way that if I want to I can take my own wedding pictures today I don’t have to hire a photographer and they can turn out really, really good…

Divya is not the only well-known author to speak favorably of Sudowrite – Hugh Howey and Mark Frauenfelder are quoted on the company website itself. A Google search yields many other examples.


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21 thoughts on “S. B. Divya Promotes Sudowrite

  1. Well, there’s a Twitter thread that’s not going well…
    Two days now, and her only response has been the May 18th tweets quoted above.

  2. I’m not sure there’s any way she could respond that would appease the people who are mad at her for it, so… why engage at all?

  3. Agreed, there’s nothing really that she could say that would change my mind on this. I don’t want to read AI “writing.” I don’t think it’s good in the long run for anyone. She disagrees.

    And that’s it.

  4. There are some pretty appalling allegations in @ZinniaZed’s tweet thread – allegations for which they appear to have the receipts, e.g., Sudowrite solicited unpublished novels from people too inexperienced to know better to train their algorithm on, in exchange for free outlines and synopses.

  5. That post was disappointing and frustrating.

    Most of the quote-tweets (that I could see) are variations of “NO WAY” with one solitary soul claiming that everyone was “dogpiling” because they don’t understand the tool. Did the solitary soul need AI to write that silly claim?

  6. AI is not “intelligent”, it isn’t a writer, and it shouldn’t be treated as more than a tool that generates word strings.
    It might be useful for generating writing prompts, but not more than that.

  7. Oh dear. “Author” Elizabeth Ann West admitted she has been using AI to write (and publish) Jane Austen variations since 2021.

    https://twitter.com/EAWwrites/status/1659405418764926978?s=20

    Uuuugh.

    It’s true that it’s rough for indie writers. But part of what makes it rough is other indie writers who keep trying to sell them dubious schemes and seminars. (Write this many books, publish this often, review each other’s books, make your cover look just like mine, etc.) They’re the perfect targets for AI “tools.” But I think the people making the most money are the ones selling these “tools” and “schemes” to writers.

  8. I hate this on so very many levels…but I will note that as far as a time frame for replies is concerned, Divya’s disability may impact her ability to engage.

  9. I tried Sudowrite. It was a very sophisticated prompt generator, and it had some other nice features. I didn’t think I needed it, but I saw that it would be fun to play with.

    Can it replace writers? No, that’s beyond its capabilities. It’s more like having a friend who drank one too many espressos and keeps offering you ideas. Some of the ideas might be helpful, some are not, but you still have to sort out which ones are good, and then do the real work of writing.

  10. Just another part of the picture: my impression is that Sudowrite has been low-key a part of the writing landscape and community for some time now; Suzan Palumbo mentions presence on Critters, Codex, and sponsoring Clarion application fees. I think they did have some store of goodwill built up, whether you attribute that to cunning or to naivete.

    We’re now at a point of greater clarity and greater attention, and so now is when that goodwill is going up in flames. But, considering that “oh, that Sudowrite place, not really sure where any of that’s going but they’re pretty nice” was a pretty popular opinion until quite recently, I would push back on accusations against Divya herself, and urge some patience and caution on condemning her personally — while, at the same time, I absolutely agree with the staunch wall-to-wall objections to the actual recommendation/promotion, and am glad to see them.

  11. @Sue Burke: Re Prompt: As a amateuer (very amateuer) writer a prompt is probably the help I found the last usful. Ideas for story are (for me) the easiest part.

    The only thing that I would say that twittertreads can be overwhelming and I understand that it is difficult to answer one, but this is is angry but imho not so toxic as exspected from twitter, so we will see, if there is a response.

    From all the more exsperienced writtters, it would be interesting, what tools you all use (beside the obvious) to asist your writing and if Sodowriter is a householdname.

  12. Every published author trained themselves by reading others, largely without compensation.

  13. I don’t think “largely without compensation” is really true. They bought some books and magazines, and read other things borrowed from libraries.

  14. A lot of people fighting for AI to replace everything going forward are conflating art with a product. See Roko’s Twitter thread, linked above by Jake. Should we automate certain medical operations? Maybe! Should we see if self-driving cars are actually a potential option to make the roads safer for all passengers? Maybe. But are either of those all comparable with art? No, and it’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

    I’m not going to claim some people wouldn’t be fine with AI-generated movies or books or whatever. But to say we can and should just throw out all artists and the heart and unique human signatures they bring to their work is just silly and honestly really condescending. “AI will just write your books for you!” “AI ‘actors’ will be vastly better than human!” Really?

    To the AI champions out there making those sweeping and dismissive generalizations, I say try having some actual care and compassion for your fellow human beings instead of actively working to erase them.

  15. By the way, though she didn’t disclose it, Elizabeth Ann West works for Sudowrite.

  16. I’ve been shouting about this blog post wherever this conversation is going on:

    The Rise of the Machines: AI ‘story engines’

    I think she’s got it right. Sudowrite Story Engine is great if you want to generate a lot of “novels” that pass the lowest possible bar for the form, which you might want to do if you make your living content farming; but it’s not writing. It’s just text prediction with a huge database and a complex algorithm. By definition, what it produces at every stage is the most predictable answer to “what happened next?”

    Jason Sanford is also on the case with his Genre Grapevine.

    I find, as a defense of Sudowrite (which I see in the Roku thread), that “hey, if your stuff got used to train AI, don’t blame Sudowrite, blame OpenAI – OpenAI did the nonconsensual training, Sudowrite just benefited from it” to be very, very disingenuous.

    @StefanB – as an eternally neo-pro writer myself, I use writing prompts all the time; I have a daily freewriting-to-a-prompt exercise that I think benefits my craft, my practice, and my story output. I don’t use Sudowrite or OpenAI or the like to create those prompts, though, and I can’t see doing so. Closest I get is, I keep a Twitter list of accounts, some of whom are bots, with consistently evocative output, and some days I’ll just open up that list and choose the first three tweets that grab my eye.

    (I also subscribe to several writing prompt mailing lists, I have bookmarked various randomizers, and I use several Tarot decks both online and physical.)

  17. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 5/23/23 I Had A Pixel Scroll About An Hour Ago, And It Went Right To My Head | File 770

  18. Sudowrite is a tool; that assists the writer, like Grammarly and other tools. If I have problems with a paragraph or two, I run it through the Rewrite function. Sometimes, I’ll use parts of the rewrites in the original or it gives me an idea for another rewrite.

    By the way, Grammrly now demands that I rewrite some of what I’ve written here.

    Sudowrite doesn’t take the place of my voice or writing style; it helps a bit and it’s no different from an editor or proofreader.

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