Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Sherlockiana, the Lower Bar, and Those Two Initials

 One of the great things about Sherlockiana, or any fandom, that you never hear mentioned is the low bar for talent. I don't want to insult anyone here, but let's be honest.

We love Sherlock Holmes and all things Sherlock Holmes. We want to create journals, newsletters, websites, anthologies, events, etc., etc. in honor of that love. And we need content for those things. If you've ever been an editor of anything but one of the top prestige journals, and you're not a complete ogre, you have, at some point, accepted something you might not have taken just to give someone a chance to see their name in print. And that's a good thing.

We all have to start somewhere. And we all need to practice what we do and build our skills. So that acceptance of beginners' work is a good thing. Many a skilled writer or speaker of today got their start in a fandom. I would hesitate to call myself "skilled" at this point, but everything little thing I know about writing, I learned from practicing on the Holmes field in little newsletters and journals. If you do something enough, chances are you're going to get somewhat better.

Enter that cursed non-human thing we call "Artificial Intelligence."

It's not our friend, whose feelings we don't want to hurt. It's not an original artist whose skills we want to encourage by giving it a pass when it can't draw hands or plainly steals from better artists. It's software to provide an easy tool for performing a task that was previously done by humans, that will be exploited by those who don't have talent and don't want to learn actual skills.

Our fannish enthusiasm is going to draw a lot of Sherlockians to AI, and already has. If you love Sherlock Holmes, you want more Sherlock Holmes, and if a machine will churn out more Sherlock Holmes for free, an ardent fan is going to use that machine. And an ardent fan is probably going to be willing to overlook a few flaws in the final product, just as we've done for years with human-produced work. But when we did that in the past, we were always inviting another human into our community by accepting their work.

Do we want to invite ChatGPT into our community? Do we want to see it at events, have dinner with it, enter its name on our club rosters and get excited if it gets a BSI shilling some future January?

No. No, we don't.

So we probably shouldn't lower the bar for AI just because we want more content and want to encourage it to do more work. That space that it fills in a journal could be filled by someone who may eventually become a dear friend, rather than a collection of bits and bites . . . who, admittedly, is trying to become people's chatbot friend in many a venue. You might even be able to sit alone in a restaurant with your device and have dinner with that software pretense of a human, but you aren't going to invite other people to join you and that thing are you?

So maybe we want to hesitate in welcoming this new non-human writer/artist/"friend" to our Sherlockian ranks in any form for a bit. We'll talk when Mr. Data shows up and pretends to be Sherlock Holmes. But for now?

Let's force that stupid thing to try a little harder.

1 comment:

  1. I was always grateful for that low bar, Brad!