Robotics for Writers

Simple Ways AI Can Help You Write

Non-Fiction - Writing/Publishing
155 Pages
Reviewed on 05/16/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Carmen Tenorio for Readers' Favorite

Robotics for Writers author August Niehaus has been involved in the tech industry as a designer for conversational interfaces. She is knowledgeable and even authoritative when discussing how artificial intelligence (AI) is used for language, communications, and writing. In this book, the author enumerates and discusses 30+ AI tools to enhance one's writing skills. She gives the real-world status of such programs for both their impressive and limited abilities and helps you arrive at a decision when it can be most useful or when to avoid using it. Fiction writers are her audience as she discusses each tool, its purpose and features, and how they can enhance or curb the creativity of the writing process. The author also talks about the actual sky-high cost of using AI as well as how much carbon footprint it generates when integrated into writing and communication.

First, the author makes it clear that any artificial intelligence tool is dependent on the kind of programming and training that it receives from its programmers who are not 100% flawless. As much as they can be remarkable and do amazing and impressive tasks, each writing tool only serves to enhance or assist, not take over. They are unable to replicate the creativity, sensitivity, or unique perspective of a human with infinite intellect. The sophistication of AI may be able to alter everything except how people think and act.

An ideal situation is seeing the strengths of these tools as complementary to the tasks that writers or human beings need to accomplish, and that's where the real synergy comes in. Anything done by a machine always runs the risk of creating an idea that's a poor, superficial substitute for a real concept, resulting in a product that was harvested from somewhere else and not actually initiated by the program itself. What's also special about Niehaus' well-rounded work is that she also raises awareness of the ethical use and regulation of AI and its carbon impact or footprint, its effect on the environment, and even human rights. A highly recommended book, not only for fiction writers but also for those whose curiosity is hooked by the allure of artificial intelligence and writing.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

Robotics for Writers: Simple Ways AI Can Help You Write is a guide for authors by August Niehaus. Large language models (LLMs) are tools that help users make connections, providing a stimulus for the creative mind. In this book, the author highlights example scenarios, prompts, and output while encouraging her readers to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) responsibly. Niehaus lists thirty-six ways to use LLMs with discernment, such as providing ideas for additional research that may be added to the story, learning more about a profession, discussing questions for a book club, helping with writer’s block, and pointing out plot holes. She outlines some of the drawbacks of LLMs, such as their “hallucinations” and tactfully enters the debate on AIs and sentience, urging fellow writers to only use AIs to enhance their ideas.

The author has a true understanding of LLMs, and her advice based on experience is priceless. Even though August Niehaus illustrates many ways to use LLMs, she always provides an alternative to using AI, like role-playing with a friend or asking for a beta reader’s help. Niehaus enjoys the developing capabilities of LLMs, but understands the implications for the future and cautions readers to use them wisely. Niehaus’s work is not a guide to teach writers ways to get AIs to do all the writing for them, so readers should approach the book as a resource on the best way to enhance their ideas. Using her own experience as a springboard, the author provides readers with specific examples, like finding a name or little-known information, and gives ways an LLM can help. Instead of letting the model do the work for you, it produces suggestions, keeping it a useful tool for writers. Individuals who consider using LLMs in their writing should read Robotics for Writers.

Joe Wisinski

Robotics for Writers, by August Niehaus, teaches us how artificial intelligence (AI), or more specifically, large language models (LLMs), can help writers to work more efficiently and effectively. The book is not about using LLMs to replace the hard work of writing. On the contrary, Niehaus clarifies that writers should not allow LLMs to replace what they do; they are only a supplement. The author lists 36 ways that LLMs can help writers. Some of those are “Come up with blog post ideas,” “Move past writer’s block,” and “Get rapid feedback.” For each of the 36 ways, Niehaus lists the idea of what an LLM can do, what writers should do instead of relying on an LLM, how an LLM can help a sample scenario, a sample prompt for that scenario, and a sample output, either by Bing Chat or Chat GPT. One section lists what LLMs are not, such as not always being accurate and not intended to replace someone’s job. The book ends with a list of resources.

Robotics for Writers is a superb guide. It’s well-written, fascinating, and can significantly help writers. I liked the emphasis by August Niehaus that LLMs should not be considered a shortcut to good writing or an easy way to write quality work. Instead, they’re a tool like any other tool that writers use. I also liked that she warns about the danger of LLMs if they’re misused. The book inspired me to revisit a book title from a novel I wrote several years ago. I’ve never been satisfied with the title, and Niehaus’ book made me wonder if an LLM could help me develop a better one. Within seconds, Chat GPT gave me several ideas to consider. Anyone who reads this book accepts the potential drawbacks of LLMs and understands their proper use, which you will because Niehaus writes in an easily comprehendible way, and you can similarly benefit from an LLM. I highly recommend it to all writers, whether new to the craft or with years of experience. You will learn from it, get some excellent ideas to improve your writing, and discover how to balance using LLMs with your efforts. Kudos to Niehaus on a fine and valuable book.