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Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
J. Thorn has published two million words and has sold more than 185,000 books worldwide.

Ep40. J. Thorn: From A.I. Prompts to Process

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Ep40. From A.I. Prompts to Process: How ChatGPT-4 & GenAI is Impacting Writers from A.I. Author, Editor & Independent Publisher J. Thorn

In the rapidly evolving world of artificial intelligence, few areas have been as profoundly impacted as the creative industries with the onset of GenAI. From writing and publishing to art and entertainment, A.I. is reshaping the landscape in ways that were once the stuff of science fiction.

To explore this fascinating intersection of technology and creativity, Helen Todd recently sat down with J. Thorn, a prolific author, podcaster, and A.I. enthusiast, on the Creativity Squared podcast. J. also authors the Creative AI Digest, a newsletter about the intersection of A.I. and creativity, delivering a humorous and wise perspective for experienced creative professionals.

J. recently released the Self-Paced Online Course — Content Marketing with ChatGPT: The Definitive Content Creation Blueprint. He created it to boost your content marketing strategy with the power of artificial intelligence.

With his unique blend of insights as an author, entrepreneur, and educator, Thorn offers a captivating glimpse into the future of writing and publishing in the age of A.I.

To discover more about their conversation, continue reading below!

The Changing Face of Publishing

As the conversation begins, Thorn shares his origin story as an independent publisher and author and dives into the rich and storied history of the publishing industry.

“The publishing industry is pretty traditional…going back a century or more, there’s been a publishing industry of sorts.”

J. Thorn

As Thorn explains, the rise of digital technologies in recent years has brought about seismic shifts in the way books are written, published, and consumed.

Perhaps the most significant of these changes came in 2008, with the advent of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.

“Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform allowed anyone to publish a book,” Thorn elaborated, “and there are literally millions and millions of books on Amazon now, most of which are never even opened.”

KDP democratized the publishing industry, making it possible for anyone with an internet connection to become a published author. This led to an explosion of new voices and ideas, but it also created an oversaturated market where millions of books compete for readers’ attention. Many of these books, Thorn notes, remain unread, lost in the vast sea of content.

The emergence of A.I. has added yet another layer of complexity to this already dynamic landscape. For Thorn, the realization of A.I.’s transformative potential came in a sudden, powerful moment when he first experimented with ChatGPT-4.

“The difference between the free version of ChatGPT — as of recording this is 3.5 — and 4 was phenomenal,” Thorn describes. 

“I knew within a matter of minutes that this was going to completely transform not only the publishing industry but…most of our society.”

J. Thorn

This epiphany set Thorn on a journey to explore the creative possibilities of A.I. and share his knowledge with others. As an author, podcaster, and educator, he saw an opportunity to help others navigate this new frontier and harness the power of A.I. for their own creative pursuits.

Embracing the A.I. Frontier

As an independent author and entrepreneur, Thorn has always been willing to take risks and experiment with new technologies. He attributes this mindset, in part, to his diverse background and the fact that his income isn’t solely dependent on his fiction sales.

“I’m a bit fearless in that I’m not really worried about what people say,” Thorn says. This has allowed him to dive headfirst into the world of A.I., exploring its potential applications in writing and publishing without fear of the consequences.

“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, and I think part of being an entrepreneur is the willingness to take risks, and to try things, and to be on what’s often called the bleeding edge.”

J. Thorn

For Thorn, being on the bleeding edge means embracing A.I. as a collaborator in the creative process.

He recounts a particularly illuminating experience where he “co-wrote” a story with ChatGPT, taking on the role of the protagonist while assigning a character role to the A.I. The resulting dialogue was remarkably coherent and engaging, showcasing the potential for human-A.I. collaboration in storytelling.

“I thought, what if I co-wrote with A.I.? But instead of writing it, we performed it,” Thorn shares. “I thought, what if I took the role as the protagonist, and I assigned a role in the story to ChatGPT?”

This experiment, and others like it, have convinced Thorn that A.I. is not a threat to human creativity, but rather a powerful tool that can enhance and augment it. By embracing A.I. as a collaborator, Thorn asserts, writers can push the boundaries of what’s possible, exploring new forms of expression and storytelling that were once unimaginable.

Accessibility & Ethics: A.I. in Creativity

One of the most compelling aspects of A.I. in the creative realm is its potential to increase accessibility. For Thorn, this is a deeply personal issue, as he has seen firsthand how A.I. tools can empower individuals who may have previously faced barriers to writing.

“A.I. is giving voice to people who haven’t had it before.”

J. Thorn

“There are authors who have physical limitations, disabilities, unfortunate circumstances, and they haven’t been able to write or they had to stop writing for some reason,” says Thorn. “And now A.I. is giving them the opportunity to do that again.”

Thorn explains that A.I. can level the playing field by assisting with tasks like proofreading, editing, and even idea generation, making it possible for more voices to be heard.

He envisions a future where A.I. is an integral part of the writing process, bridging the gap between the author’s initial drafts and the final, polished manuscript.

“I honestly believe this is the stopgap between the author’s last revision, where they’re so close to the work that they’re blinded by it, they can’t see it anymore,” continues Thorn. “And then before it gets to their editor, I think that’s a place there where A.I. can really make a difference.”

By catching errors, suggesting improvements, and even offering stylistic guidance, Thorn believes A.I. can help authors refine their work and bring their unique visions to life.

While Thorn is an enthusiastic proponent of A.I. in the creative process, he also acknowledges the ethical concerns surrounding its use.

One phenomenon he’s witnessed that he finds particularly troubling is “review bombing,” where authors who use A.I. in their writing are targeted with negative reviews and harassment by those who view such use of the technology negatively.

For Thorn, this behavior is not only misguided but also deeply harmful.

He insists that it fails to recognize the transformative potential of A.I. to make the creative process more accessible and inclusive.

Moreover, he believes that it perpetuates what he views as a false dichotomy between “real” writers and those who use A.I., while ignoring the fact that the technology is simply a tool, not a replacement for human creativity. At Creativity Squared, we also want to advocate for all writers, whether they use A.I. or not, and to stop review bombing because as J. explains, it hurts their livelihoods.

“I think a year from now, we probably won’t be talking about this,” Thorn goes on. “But it’s the kind of thing that’s happening right now. That’s really unfortunate.”

As A.I. becomes more ubiquitous and integrated into various aspects of our lives, Thorn believes that the resistance to its use in creative pursuits will eventually fade away. He envisions a future where A.I. is simply another tool in the writer’s toolkit, as common and accepted as word processors and spell checkers are today.

The Future of Writing & Publishing

Looking ahead, Thorn sees a world of endless possibilities for writers and publishers in the age of GenAI.

He believes that digital books, in particular, are an underutilized channel that creative professionals should be leveraging to reach new audiences and monetize their work.

“You can turn anything into a book,” Thorn explains. “A podcast, a YouTube video, a conversation, an interview — all of that now can easily be transcribed and collated and turned into text and then sold.”

With A.I. tools making it easier than ever to transcribe and transform content from various mediums into written form, Thorn believes the barriers to entry for aspiring authors are lower than ever.

The End of the Entertainment Industry as We Know It?

However, according to Thorn, the changes A.I. will bring to the creative industries go far beyond just writing and publishing.

He predicts that the entertainment industry as a whole will undergo a radical transformation in the coming years as A.I. begins to play a larger role in content creation and distribution.

I believe that the entertainment industry as we’ve known it will cease to exist in the near future because of A.I. — and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.”

J. Thorn

He envisions a future where A.I.-generated content is the norm, where virtual actors and fully realized A.I.-generated worlds are indistinguishable from reality. While some may view this as a threat to human creativity, Thorn sees it as an opportunity for artists to push the boundaries of what’s possible and explore new forms of expression.

“I’d like to say to people: If you really love creating art, by all means, keep doing it,”  Thorn elaborates. “But take some of the financial expectation off of yourself.” Thorn goes on to assert that creativity has historically not been a viable career path: “I think the past 10 to 15 years — whether it’s musicians or authors or performers — the ability to make a living at that was really an anomaly.”

“It’s a blip in human history,” he continues. “We’re outliers, and I think that era is coming to a close. Like a blacksmith — now, if you go to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, there’s a blacksmith there, and that blacksmith is an expert, and they love it. And they might sell a few things there. But, like, blacksmith isn’t an occupation.”

“People who love working with metal will continue to do that,” says Thorn. “And that’s great, but it’s more artistic. And it’s not necessarily for financial gain, in the way that we think of entertainment.”

Of course, this brave new world of A.I.-powered entertainment also raises a host of ethical and philosophical questions. As A.I. becomes more sophisticated and able to replicate human creativity with increasing fidelity, we’ll need to grapple with thorny issues around authorship, ownership, and the very nature of art itself.

But for Thorn, these challenges are not insurmountable. He believes that by approaching the A.I. revolution with open minds, empathy, and a commitment to using the technology for the greater good, society can navigate these uncharted waters and emerge stronger and more creative than ever before.

Just be kind to each other. You don’t know what people are going through and what their situation is. And don’t rush to judgment. Just be kind to each other.”

J. Thorn

As the creative community grapples with the challenges and opportunities presented by A.I., Thorn maintains that it’s essential to approach one another with compassion and grace, recognizing that everyone is navigating this new landscape in their own way.

By embracing the transformative potential of A.I. while remaining grounded in our shared humanity, Thorn believes we can chart a course toward a future where technology and creativity work hand in hand to unlock new worlds of possibility — where the power of the human imagination is augmented, not replaced, by the tools we create and everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, has the opportunity to share their unique voice with the world.

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Thank you, J., for being our guest on Creativity Squared. 

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.

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