Neal Stephenson Says AI-Generated ChatGPT Is ‘Simply Not Interesting’

The author, who coined the term "metaverse" in his science-fiction novel “Snow Crash,” says the algorithm-based tool doesn't resonate the way a book written by a real person does.

AccessTimeIconMar 3, 2023 at 7:06 p.m. UTC
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Neal Stephenson, author of the science-fiction classic novel “Snow Crash” where he coined the term “metaverse” and gave new meaning to the word “avatar,” sees artificial intelligence in general, and ChatGPT in particular, as underwhelming.

“I think it depends on how it’s used,” Stephenson told CoinDesk TV’s “First Mover” on Friday. “What we’ve tended to see is that it's used in creative applications where I don’t think it’s at all interesting.”

Stephenson said that with a painting or book, “what you’re doing is having a kind of communion with the artist who made thousands of little micro decisions in the course of creating that work of art or writing that book.”

A decision that is generated by an algorithm, “that’s simply not interesting,” he said.

Whether an AI-generated bot could have written “Snow Crash,” Stephenson said, “well, maybe one did.” But if that were the case, he added, a person would be reading only the output of an algorithm, “and if that’s interesting to you, then fine.”

“Personally, I know a lot of writers who are putting a lot of effort into creating their own original works, and I’d rather support them and hear what they have to say than just look at the output of an algorithm,” he said.

Sword One from "Snow Crash" (Sotheby's)
Sword One from "Snow Crash" (Sotheby's)

ChatGPT is an AI-powered chatbot that was released in November and has gained notoriety.

Stephenson has placed different parts of “Snow Crash” on auction at Sotheby's, an during the same segment on "First Mover," Cassandra Hatton, head of sales at Sotheby's, said the auction reflects a “transitional thing” that takes a look at items “that were created in an analog world,” but that were “predicting the future of the digital world.”

The auction, which went live on Sotheby’s metaverse NFT platform on Feb. 27, includes a 3D replica of the sword used by the novel’s protagonist, Hiro, alongside a non-fungible token and a manuscript of the book that Stephenson wrote in 1991.

Stephenson’s manuscript has a current bidding price of $35,000 with four bids, while the replica sword, with two bids, was priced at $55,000.

The original manuscript for "Snow Crash" (Sotheby's)
The original manuscript for "Snow Crash" (Sotheby's)


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Fran Velasquez

Fran is CoinDesk's TV writer and reporter.

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