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Please Remove Me: A Follow-Up

A Discussion on AI, Bots, and Human Connection from the Vocal Community

By sleepy draftsPublished 2 months ago 14 min read
Top Story - February 2024
62

First off: Holy crow! Last week, I was blown away by the response to my rant on AI, bots, and coded script. I had written about, what I worried would be, a controversial topic.

My mentality is, those who read that piece will know if it is meant for them or not. If the shoe doesn't fit, why should anyone try and make it?

I'm glad I trusted the Vocal community more than I trusted myself the whole week I debated publishing, "Please Remove Me" before its release.

Not only did you guys understand what I was trying to say, you jumped in and lamented with me. An article that began as a rant ended up being something kind of beautiful: a community moment of catharsis.

The part that hits me the most is that on my post ranting about AI, there was a comment section full of real, compassionate, and genuine human creators on the other side.

Go check them out: artists who dedicate time and energy to their craft and who have opened themselves up for true moments of connection on the Vocal platform. All of these artists who took a moment to write a few words about their own experiences with AI and their frustrations.

Suddenly I had a comment section full of human beings. Human beings whose subscription lists I would very much like to not be removed from.

Scrolling through, replying to each comment, I was hit by what a different feeling it was, compared to a comment section filled with empty, AI-generated words.

The discussion under my post was just that - an honest discussion. Each writer had something to say. I felt like I got to connect with or at least share a moment with so many new people.

My rant became a moment of hope thanks to the humans on Vocal.

I wanted to take a moment to talk about it a little and maybe go over some of the highlights from the comments. Not only because there were some seriously awesome moments, but also because I wanted to clear up some potential misconceptions:

No, I Do Not Blame Vocal For Any Of This. Not Even A Tiny Bit.

I had hesitated to even put my suggestions for Vocal in my "Please Remove Me" post. I didn't want people to think I was in any way insinuating that Vocal was responsible for the onslaught of bots that has joined their platform. They aren't.

People with bad intentions are gonna keep on peoplin'. Coded scripts are gonna keep on scriptin'. Vocal has little in their power to prevent the evolution of technology.

Even if they did, would we really want them to?

Besides, Vocal has historically kept up with the ever-changing technological landscape over the years, long before I had even heard of the platform. I trust Vocal knows what they're doing.

Unfortunately, so do the people using bots.

Because that's the other thing I want to emphasize...

Every Program Needs A Human Coder

As ambiguous and mysterious as AI feels, it's important to remember that every program has a human behind it. Bots are not born from a wormhole on the web (yet, anyways;) even coded script has to be written with human hands.

So, I guess you could arguably call them writers. Ugh. (Just kidding.)

I read a lot of people type that they felt overwhelmed and discouraged by the thought of AI and bots. That was the opposite of what I was hoping to do. So let me apologize for that, first and foremost.

I am so sorry. I didn't mean to scare anyone.

My main point that I hope is taken away from this article and "Please Remove Me," is that, yes, AI growing up so fast feels overwhelming, but also, that there are answers to these scary questions. The uncanny valley doesn't have to be so terrifying once we are able to point at what is so uncanny about what we're seeing.

When we can recognize a comment made with coded script or an AI-generated article passed off as authentic, we can laugh about it and its ridiculousness, report, and move on.

It doesn't have to be overwhelming. And together, we can make it even simpler.

Trust Yourself

There are two parts to this: first, trust your gut when you feel like something might be AI. Don't be afraid to fact-check or click on the profile and investigate. And don't feel guilty about reporting. If you see something suspicious, all you can do is alert Vocal and let them take it from there. Remember, Vocal has a much bigger picture than any of us of what's going on, on their platform. They will have a better idea of what is real and what is not from their end.

Plus, I think it's important to report undisclosed AI.

Judey Kalchik has championed this ever since I can remember.

In fact, I suggest everyone go check out her profile for more information on identifying and reporting AI. She does an incredible job at breaking down some complex concepts into digestible steps, which is perfect, especially, for such a big topic like this one.

With new technologies like AI-generated videos, it's more important than ever to report anything that isn't disclosed as AI-generated. I never want to live in a world where it's normal to see a video of the sunrise and wonder if it's real.

The more we contribute to a culture of transparency, the more we can be part of the potential solution and the precedent.

Because, yes, AI is coded with human hands, but once it's public it's trainable (not to mention, so are humans - even scary coders.) AI doesn't have to be bad or spooky (as terrified as I am by its power.) We can be part of training the AI for good. There is still hope at the bottom of Pandora's box.

What To Do?

If you get a comment from a user, only to reply, then get pinged with a follow-up response to a link, chances are that bot will keep coming back. You've accidentally trained it to. If you ignore it and don't interact with it, though, it can't go to its next command in the sequence of coded script. If you comment something that the coder hasn't programmed a response for, you'll either be able to very obviously tell, or you'll all of a sudden get the writing voice of a very panicked human in response. You're training both the code and the human not to bother with you. If enough people do that, we train AI and people not to bother with trying that on Vocal, in general. Or at least, that's my hope.

The human user will have to choose to go in and try something new in an attempt to trigger engagement if they want a different outcome; if it keeps not working, the human user will hopefully find another platform or find their endeavour altogether fruitless and stop trying to cheat at all (maybe a naive hope, but still.)

If cheaters find they don't benefit from using Vocal, they won't. However, if coders feel they can take advantage of this site easily, and with no repercussion, well. They will. And likely, they will tell the people in their human, personal life about how easy it is, or write about it in some forum, and talk about it to people who also want to do the same thing. It could even be a whole business, I'm sure. Like a sleazy OnlyFans manager except with little Vocal bots running around instead of bikini-clad models.

So report that shit when you see it. And don't feel bad.

If it's really nothing, Vocal will be able to tell. If it's something, you're potentially helping save the future of art and humanity as we know it.

There's really no downside.

The Other Part of Trusting Yourself

I think there's another fear we all have though, of accidentally being mistaken for AI, ourselves.

We can all be socially awkward, tired, or feelin' a little rusty (I know I do like, every other day.) No one should feel forced to leave a comment or go overboard just to prove they're human. That's exhausting.

Trust that your humanity shines through your profile.

Don't let the threat of AI or misunderstanding keep you from joining in on the discussion, even if it's a simple comment. The important thing is that the comment is genuine. Trust that your intentions will shine through.

And don't let bad-faith actors take advantage of your kindness and humanity for their narcissistic gain. Don't let your empathy prevent you from keeping yourself and your energy safe.

Do keep posting your very human work and raising up your fellow creators. Do keep believing in yourself and the power of being soft and fleshy and sensitive. Do, keep doing you.

The best and most beautiful way to drown out the bots is to use human voices.

And if you really, reallllly need to use AI? Just disclose it.

It's that simple.

So What's My Solution?

My solution is to come together as a community and report AI, bots, and script when we see it. On Facebook at Vocal + Assist we've started a #WeeklyWatchdog thread on Saturdays to report (and vent) about plagiarism and spam. We have Vocal's plagiarism report form (found on Vocal's Discord server) easily ready to go and a comment section, open wide. All of us are dedicated to supporting each other and helping rid the community of all the clutter that prevents real human users from shining.

My other solution is: keep posting, keep commenting, keep cheering each other on. Write about your very human experiences, preferences, reviews. Add personal photos and anecdotes. Use your silly voice. Be unabashedly, unashamedly, humanly you as loud as you possibly can.

Let other humans find you.

My Favourite Comments From The Comment Section:

Now let's dive into some of my favourite human connections from "Please Remove Me" last week:

Vicki Lawana Trusselli brought up a fabulous point here that I wanted to highlight:

"I am so fed up with scammers . This past year I was bombarded by men scammers and I have written several stories regarding this issue . A. I. Is here to stay and will fully integrated Windows 12. So it's new to the world . Your story is good . However let's just weed out the actual scanners and not weed out good writers by threatening everyone . I am 74. At one point in my life everything was per a typewriter . 😂Seriously expression of one's self is a way to work through one's emotions ."

First, I am so sorry you've been scammed, Vicki. That is horrible.

Secondly, Vicki brought up a great point in that not everyone communicates the same way - not in real life or over the internet.

We're all at different paces and in different places on our journey. It's important to remember this when feeling cautious of AI and bots. Despite how it may seem sometimes, there's an even greater likelihood that the writer on the other side of an article is human with human flaws and feelings. It's important to do due diligence before reporting anyone or calling anyone out by name in any kind of negative manner.

(I don't want this to be a place where bullying even has a chance to manifest. That being said, please refrain from dropping names in the comments. If you have a suspicion of someone using script or AI and have evidence you would like to share privately, please reach out to me via Discord, instead. You can find me by adding me under "sleepy drafts" through the Vocal Discord server! I appreciate you guys.)

Thank you so much for this reminder, Vicki!

Next, /-\ 5 |-| 3 R's comment stood out to me in how thoughtful it was. The solutions they mentioned were ones that sounded more aligned with Vocal's brand than endless report features. I thought this was a positive and creative spin on the problem by suggesting a feature to up/downvote comments. What are your thoughts on this?

"Blocking would be a solution down and upvotes would be easy enough to add and implement a karma system. Humans sniff out bots (still) with relative ease. Enough down votes (-1pt) or blocks (-10pts) could nullify someone's karma quite quickly. That could be gamed and you could have gang attacks on someone. But that's rare enough that an appeal system would not be a terrible load on the back end team."

Additionally, I thought Donna Renee also brought up a fantastic point with this comment about how she wants to spend her time on Vocal:

"Yep….sigh.

Seeing …them… on the leaderboard makes me nauseous. It used to be that they didn’t leave emojis, not that all real people do, but now that’s not a clue anymore either 😬🫣. When I see my own comments completely copied though by them I get pretty pissed.

I do wish it was easier to report spam but I also don’t want to use my time on here for that anymore 🤷🏼‍♀️"

Hear, hear! Don't fret, though. Even if you decide not to report, your presence as a real, genuine, human creator on this platform is enough to contribute to drowning out the AI.

The less reporting, the more writing and reading. Now cheers to that!

Next, Sandra Matos says this about quality over quantity:

"Thank you for writing this! I feel so old with AI. I can't tell. Sometimes I feel like I can tell but what if I am wrong? As far as comments, I can tell for sure that some people haven't read my work before commenting. I try to be thorough when I comment on someone's writing. I write about what touched me or caught my interest. Because of this, I can't read or comment as much as I would like to but, I believe in quality over quantity. I'm going to look up Judey's articles on how to spot AI, do you know the title of the article?"

Hehe, why, yes - I'm glad you asked! (Scroll up, or click here to read Judey's article on how to spot AI-generated content!)

Sandra makes a great point here, and I agree that a thoughtful comment is worth more to an author than sometimes words can ever even express.

When you lead with your heart, you also build trust within the community; on those days when you're a little tired or don't feel like saying much, but still want to leave a heart, we all can understand without needing any explanation. Taking the time to leave a handful of thoughtful comments on the pieces that resonate with you instead of a million quick ones you don't believe in, will never steer you wrong.

Lastly, Randy Baker leaves us with this:

"The good news about AI, though, is that the 'creative' writing is still atrocious. Compared to AI visual images, it's not even in the same league."

Typically, one gets a creeping suspicion when AI has been involved in writing something. At the end of the day, though, nothing can replicate human connection.

In this quickly evolving digital age, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and annoyed. Yes, it's important to use these emotions to inspire change, however, I don't want to see AI destroy one human feeling (love) with another (suspicion.)

Moving Forward

Due diligence is important, now more than ever, when it comes to researching and reporting AI-generated content. Not only for Vocal, but for setting a precedent in the new age of information and disinformation.

That being said, not all change needs to be achieved by being fuelled by frustration or anger. Hope can also inspire change. Writing about your human life, personal experiences, sensitivities, life stories, confessions, hopes, dreams, and milestones all contribute to a better online community without a report button ever being pressed.

One of the most beautiful parts of the Vocal community is its vibrant diversity of voices. So why not use that to lift the platform, and more importantly, each other up, above the digital noise?

Cheers!

(For real this time.)

What did you think of the discussion last week? What are your thoughts on AI, Bots, and coded script? Let me know in the comments!

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sleepy drafts

a sleepy writer named em :)

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Comments (29)

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  • Christy Munson6 days ago

    The only time I used AI was to generate a cover graphic for an entry in an unofficial challenge issued by L.C. Schäfer (F'd Up Fairytales in celebration of L.C.'s birthday). Here's the link in case you're interested: https://vocal.media/fiction/the-long-con-y31m80utx Even though I am delighted with how the image turned out, I'm still not sure I'm okay with myself for having used AI to generate it, or with myself for having used the generated image. I simply could not find a better option elsewhere in the time I had available. I have a feeling these sorts of dilemmas will haunt me (all of us) for a long time to come. And it'll only get trickier. I would never use AI to write a story or to organize my content -- and I do have issues with other writers using it for these purposes. What's the point of being a writer if you aren't doing the writing? But that's just my perspective. Great article. Congratulations on Top Story.

  • Insinq Datum19 days ago

    I can't wait until AI learns to parrot the anti-AI sentiment humans have been developing on these websites; self-aware spam is the future.

  • Mario Taylor about a month ago

    AI is disturbing

  • Abdul Qureshiabout a month ago

    nicely done, but I have seen so many stories published here at Vocal, with 2 words and copy-pasted for hundred times with no sense, and nothing but it is published over it. Its bad i m not believing any more at guidelines, all paid accounts get on the top and rest people are posting and didn't get the right audience.

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • J. Delaney-Howe2 months ago

    Very informative and inspiring at the same time!

  • Kelsey Clarey2 months ago

    Both of these articles and the discussions they've generated have been great! On a general level, I'm very mixed on AI. I think there are situations where it can be a useful tool. (For example, if I had an AI script at my job that I could use to update some bookkeeping trackers once I input information rather than having to manually enter every expense, that would be a big help). But it's so poorly regulated and controlled and as a creative, it really makes me sad to see the negative impacts it has on our communities.

  • Novel Allen2 months ago

    AI keeps advancing, like they are always one step ahead. It will take a lot of work to get rid of the tiniest aspect of it. Is it really going away anytime soon. Maybe we should devise a way to keep them in, but also instantly recognizable. Some genius can work on this. Hopefully we will see ways to integrate and get along. I think we have no choice.

  • This was great, loved your tips on what’s best to do and how you’re taking action on this. I never thought of responding to AI with something it wasn’t programmed to respond back to, but I think I have done that accidentally because when I’ve seen someone leave me the exact same comment they’ve left other stories I usually give a snarky or sarcastic remark because that’s how I am, and then I get no response! So I guess I should keep doing that! Excellent piece through and through. I also loved that you included Randy’s comment because he is right. The creative writing is atrocious. I know the AI art is better but it even still has a lot of difficulties with it. I also stopped using AI art altogether because I realized if I hate AI writing as I do because I feel creative writing should be left to those with a heart and soul, then artists who create artwork must feel the same way about AI art and I don’t want to partake in any of that as I wouldn’t want them to partake in AI writing. It’s something that a real human can be recognized for their work and I’d rather go find photos from real humans and credit them. Anyway, excellent piece as I mentioned!

  • olymoolla2 months ago

    Your writing is very nice you write like this you will be a great writer And I was asked to do a story by going to my vocal ID

  • Test2 months ago

    Amazing job! Keep up the outstanding work—congrats!

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!!! Fantastic article!!! ♥️♥️💕

  • Congratulations on your top story . Thank you for including me in your story . Yes scammers. I joined up with SocialCatfish. The last scammer is totally obsessed with me. I blocked him 5 times. He calls me all hours. I would have to remove all of social persona so I am not going to do that . I have been using computers since 1981 at The LA Times . Second nature to me is the electronics part of the music and film industry . A.I. Is a tool . Just a tool our new encyclopedia .

  • I can't drop names. Oh well. One reason I like dropping names is because some people are so thick skinned and they don't seem to get the hint. Another reason would be as a warning to other's to not do the same thing at the fear of being exposed like the people that got their names dropped. I mean, our methods may be different but our goal is the same. So I'll try to follow your method and be a good girl hehehehehehehe 😋😋😋😋😋 So what you're trying to say is, please correct me if I'm wrong, that if we collectively ignore comments that we suspect are AI-Generated or scripted, they would eventually go away? Also, new fear unlocked! I never thought that I could be mistaken for AI. Gosh like how would I ever prove that I'm not? Like what do I do if I ever find myself in that situation? 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 Anyway, congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊 I'm so happy you did a follow up!

  • Krishan Mubashar2 months ago

    Congrats on your Top Story! Using AI for human interactions is kind of "stupid" and something no human being should do. That is something we need to stop. But, AI in general is not an evil thing. We just need to figure out how to use it to our advantage. I started writing in the 1980s and the technology at that decade was very limited, small advantages happened in the 1990s. Since 2000 the technical developments are racing to unlimited sources for us. The writing programs itself started to develop a huge help for many of us. Not sure about which one it is, but there are two writing programs developed for authors who almost help with everything, especially with editing the story. I learned a lot of great authors depend on those programs nowadays. And even with AI it will be the same, we have a great chance with it, when we learn to use it properly. Every author wants to write/create a great story, every reader wants to read a great story. That is the basis on which we can trust, that won't change, no matter what. Every technological advantage we can get, can help us achieving this goal. Instead of fighting the AI for existing, we should start figuring out how to use it to become even better than before.

  • Randy Baker2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story! I've decided that the next best thing to writing a Top Story is to be quoted in one. lol

  • I'm glad that your previous article generated so much conversation. Admittedly, I don't tend to spend to much time reading through other's comments, so I really appreciate the comments you lifted up. I thought /-\5|-|3R's (that's quite the moniker to type up, lol) suggestions were quite good. I hope Vocal picks up on them.

  • Ace Melee2 months ago

    Great points made here! Being autistic and talking with grammar generally, chatters online assume I'm a bot. I also encounter a fair share of scammer bots on here and on Wattpad; I like comments, but scam comments drop my smile. I only use AI for art generation, and it still requires editing on my part. Like humans, AI is not perfect. It uses others' work to program itself.

  • So thoughtful and illuminating! I’m admittedly terrible with engagement and promoting my work and that of others, so much so that I hadn’t even realized that AI had invaded Vocal creator’s stories and bot accounts were so prevalent. I will certainly do my due diligence and keep an eye out for suspicious material going forward! Thankfully, I can proudly say the creators I have had interactions with have all been incredibly genuine and amazing creators that I’m proud to share a community with!

  • /-\ 5 |-| 3 R2 months ago

    Just curious why you deleted my reply?

  • Melissa Ingoldsby2 months ago

    You bring up many cogent points and thoughtful arguments about AI and scammers. I agree ☝️ and tho it isn’t Vocal’s fault deliberately it is something we need to be aware of. Humans are necessary for art and coding to be done properly

  • Another fantastic article Em. Keep up the good work.

  • Caroline Craven2 months ago

    Hey! Another great, really thoughtful piece. I find the whole AI, copying work, rubbish comments annoying, but essentially people are just cheating themselves. If I write a story and it's rubbish, then that's fine. At least I know it's my own rubbish! Copying the work of others is cheating. Plain and simple. I really enjoyed reading this and I'm glad the Vocal community did you proud. Excellent stuff.

  • Gabriel Huizenga2 months ago

    Thank you once again for the insight and grace you bring to this conversation- a subject I am still trying to learn to understand and navigate, since reading your first article! Here's to amplifying genuine connection and creativity!! :)

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