AI Ghost Writer

Yes, with AI we have entered a new phase of the impact of IT. Beyond the general applications like ChatGPT there is a rapidly expanding market of AI applications with more specialized functions or capabilities. In the realm of scientific writing AI-Writer is an interesting example of the AI assisted production of scientific tests. After the specification of the topic you will receive several options to specify the content of the short paper you want to produce with AI-Writer. You may choose the headline, keywords, subtopics and the logical order of these subtopics depending on your audience. Alternatively, you leave all those decisions to the application and restrain yourself to fix the amount of words you would like the paper to have.
AI-Writer is a powerful ghost writer for much work even of advanced scientists. The quality of the paper needs to be checked by yourself, but the explicit list of references, from which AI-Writer derives its restatements of the content, is just next to it. Your ghost writer AI is likely to replace a number of persons that were previously involved to just produce literature reviews or large parts of textbooks sold to millions of students.
A much lesser known feature of such tools is the way it makes plagiarism much more transparent for the scientific communities and the public at large. These programs demonstrate the techniques of combining knowledge and the citation imperatives in a transparent, almost pedagogical way. This latter function will speed up scientific work like dissertation drafting, since the reading up and documentation of previous literature in a field is a time consuming early stage of academic degrees.
Email composition, rewording, plot generator or social media posts are additional nice-to-have features of the new AI-assistants. A lot of work that has been outsourced, for example, to lawyers, consultants or other technical professions, might equally be challenged. Ghost writers have been around for centuries. With AI for everybody, they will also be involved everywhere.
(Image screen shot of working with AI-Writer 2024-6)

AI Citation

In science we love citations. The whole issue about plagiarism is about use and abuse of citations. It is a core competence of scientists to properly cite the work of other persons who dealt with the same or similar topic. There are lots of conventions or ways of how to cite mostly defined by professional academic groups. How do we cite texts that originate from an AI-system? We shall have to establish ways of how to do this properly rather than to ignore the spreading practice of its use.
For the time being, we test AI-systems that provide references in addition to the text and even direct clickable links to the original work they use. The AI-toolbox is called “scite”. Your assistant by scite will draft a short note on a topic (for example: Minkowski space, see trial below) for you and provide the linked citations for follow-up. At the price of about 15 €/months it is affordable for students and young researchers. The texts generated will then, in many instances, acquire “intellectual property and publishing rights” by persons.
The ways to follow back on citations of AI-produced texts seems a trustworthy step ahead. The authors of millions of papers cannot claim more than the original ownership of the text. The academic mantra “publish or perish” has been turned into “publish and perish”. AI-enabled citations might alleviate the pain only a little bit. The profession of even university professors shifts as reviewer of texts from students to texts of machines.

Portable Grundgesetz

Celebrating democracy in Germany is rare. We take it for granted that democracy persists, as most of us have not experienced it otherwise in Germany. This is grossly mistaken as the opinion polls show repeatedly in recent years. Therefore, it is welcome to find the “Portable Grundgesetz” at the “Demokratiefest” in Berlin and Bonn at the event to celebrate 75 years of democracy in West Germany and 35 years in East Germany.
The century-old tradition to produce miniature books has been revived and the miniature books have been widely distributed at the event. A side effect consists in the eco-friendliness of this version, which saves a lot of paper. It is fun also fun to turn pages rapidly and discover some paragraphs which we would not have read otherwise. “Daumenkino” is the German word for versions that contain many images. Maybe next time, an illustrated and/or animated version of the Grundgesetz could encourage youth to celebrate using the texts, §s and images to discover the fundamentals of our constitution.
325 years ago, Weigel the Elder has illustrated, edited and published such a tiny edition of the Bible. It is currently exposed in the treasure museum at the “Kulturwerk” in the “Stabi Ost” in Berlin. “Back to the Future”, lots of ideas we get by taking archives seriously. By chance inspiration is undervalued. Search algorithms have a hard time to replace this in an effective way so far.

AI Reader

In the middle of the hype around AI it is useful to take stock of the reflection and evolution of AI. In my own analyses and writings on AI it evident that a narrowing of focus has taken place. Whereas before 2022 the writing dealt more with digital technologies in general. The links to the literature on the social construction of technologies was obvious. Algorithms and AI was a part of the broader topic of society and technology.
This has changed. The public debate is focused on “everything AI now”. We look at technological developments largely through the lens of AI now. Hence, my focus of assessments of technology from a societal perspective follows this trend. In a collection of blog entries on AI we try to demonstrate the far reaching changes that have started to have an impact on us. In the last few months the all encompassing concern about AI’s effect on us needs full attention of social scientists, policy makers, companies and the public at large. We can no longer leave this topic to the software engineers alone. By the way, they themselves ask us to get involved and take the latest advances in AI more seriously.
As a “flipbook” the online reading is rather comfortable (Link to flipbook publisher MPL). The pdf or epub files of the blog entries allow to directly follow the links to sources in webpages or other publications (AI and Society 2p 2024-4-18). The cycles of analyses and comments have become faster. Traditional book writing suffers from time lags that risk to make pubications outdated rather quickly. Dynamic ebook writing might bridge the gap between time to reflect and speed to publish or inform the wider public. The first update as .pdf-file is available here: AI and Society(2).

Publishing2024

With new channels of publishing online the publishing world continues to change. Scientific research  moves also online and the reach of audiences has become a much more important factor in evaluation of success. Elite circles of in-groups publishing and quoting each other have a harder time to survive. It is a form of democratising the world of research which is by very large amounts financed by public budgets. Public radio and television now start to feel the heat as so-called influencers, some working independently, challenge the world of traditional journalism. The good news is that there are many more people active to produce news and entertainment and the two separate worlds become more and more integrated. Young people who have left the “official” media world, engage with their own peer groups and make their voices heard and more influential.  The quality of the provision of information is, however, a matter of concern. Audiences will have to check even more carefully than before which sources can be trusted. This is not an easy task. Speed of spreading information becomes an additional factor. It has always been like that, but the rhythm of a daily or weekly newspaper was very different from the publishing and consumption of news and information today.
The second factor that has drastically changed is the influence of “external” influences and information as well as disinformation campaigns that have an impact on “internal” reporting and commenting. What used to be the world of professional journalists has become an accessible possibility for many more than journalists. Publishing has become a very different world from the printing days and yet printing remains one important channel of publishing. (Link to own edited volumes of blog post for printing here).
Previously, we prepared the manuscript in paper, nowadays this seems to move online and the edited and sometimes corrected versions will be published in print later on. The challenge to science and journalism is ticking. Not accepting that there is a serious challenge is no solution either. (Image from Exposition “Books that made Europe”, 2016)

Stock taking

From time to time it is necessary to take stock of production and to review the material that has accumulated. As I have been working in archives, official book depositories and libraries for years, it comes almost naturally to deal with questions of how to keep track of all that content. Digital solutions are excellent devices in this regard. I do not have to deal with digitalisation, a huge issue for all historic archives and many recent small museums as well. I have to deal with backups at regular instances. To be sure, each engineer will assure you, better make a backup of your backup … . Yes, I do this as well. Now the ultimate backup of digital work is ? Got it, a printed copy of your digital work. The best advice I received on this comes from a computer magazine “ct” gadget mug with imprint advocating “No backup, no mercy“. To facilitate my printed archive I start with monthly collections of blog entries (Link to pdf-file December 2023 ->Brainstorming 23-12). The simple conversion yields 63 pages, a printer friendly version 56. Hence the expected yearly volume (60*12) will be somewhere near 720 pages. That is for the archive only or in case my eyes do no longer support online reading on screens for too long.
Digital archives have, of course, many other advantages. It is possible to reassemble my collection of entries by subject through a more thorough editing. Specific edited volumes will surface from this, which I have in my mind but only careful long-term followers of the entries might see already. Political economy and sociology are obvious candidates. Public health, labour, the world of arts and music could constitute other edited volumes. Lots of branches grow out of the trunk of content.

CO2 Footprint of Books

In view of the worldwide size of book publishing we should also keep an eye on the CO2 footprint of book publishing. The Italian association of publishers gave a brief overview of the likely CO2 footprint the printing of a book causes. Their best guess is at ½ a kilo of CO2 on average. For simplicity of calculation and assuming that an editors’ association is unlikely to overstate the amount, let us assume it is 1 Kg CO2 per book. The most CO2 is consumed not in the book production but in the transport of the items, machinery and personnel involved in producing, editing, selling etc. Of course, paper is recycled to a large amount. Certified sustainability of paper from trees has become a standard in most countries.
Nice twist to the issue: your own library at home has become a CO2 storage, if you keep them or lend them or pass them on to others. Reading can be a little bit addictive and buying books as well. Reading online or electronic books reduces your CO2 footprint. The best way to imagine the reduction of your CO2 footprint, however, is to buy or to borrow a book on travelling which replaces the actual journal by reading on the couch. Yes, being a couch potato is good for the planet, and if you want to buy a book, walk to the book shop or the library if possible. If you enjoyed flying previously shift over to buying books on planes, airports, clouds in images or stories that involve extensive travelling instead for the sake of your own CO2 footprint and future generations.
Even a book will need somehow wood as input, many alternative ways of leisure time or professional activities are worse in terms of CO2 footprint. Any e-book, e-journal or e-newspaper is even better for the planet, especially if we think of the millions of paper copies across the world that are printed but never sold. Knowing your market is crucial to reduce misallocation of ressources. E-books are so much easier to store as well using regenerative energy for the content servers around the world.

Work Subordination

One of the defining principles besides the job description, working time, working place, remuneration of a work contract is the subordination to a superior. The employment contract entails some more or less strictly executed form of direction, but a right of direction nevertheless. This element of subordination has become a major issue in the definition of whether you are effectively an employee or a self-employed person. The digital revolution had enlarged the kinds of subordination. Platforms and algorithms, that distribute work among several employees (but named platform workers) disguised the subordination to a superior level of management to the platform and its seemingly anonymous algorithm. Many young riders were saying, I don’t like bosses, but I am willing to accept a “technical” platform that distributes work tasks only seemingly in a non-discriminatory way. Due to a failure of labour legislation to regulate early enough a thriving model of fake self-employment developed throughout Europe and beyond. Labour Courts have contributed a lot to correct the disguised subordination. Even Uber is advertising that they only operate as a broker of tasks, but have no subordinated employees. The related issue of subordination remains largely the same. Subordination to an algorithm of the distribution of tasks is the end result.
Many start-up enterprises use Kanban boards to facilitate project and team management. Shifting tasks between employees, introducing new tasks and self-selection of tasks are potentially subordination-free allocation of tasks (example software). Flat hierarchies seem more manageable through the use of such tools. The number of tools that integrate other office functions is impressive. When testing such tools, that become more popular also in the distribution of household tasks, beware of the data-hungry nature of such tools. For example, https://trello.com/ warns correctly in the small print that for its full functionality it would need to have permission to use “your” camera, microphone, contacts, photo library, calendar etc.
This demonstrates that subordination, nowadays, is complemented by the algorithmic use of a lot of privacy, we would never have agreed to a boss in person should even ask for. The new and old subordinators have powerful tools at hand, the subordinated will have to get their act together and limit the amount of subordination they are willing to accept.
Again, this is a generational topic. The low threshold to accept technical subordination in younger generations, your autonomous level-5 car is breaking earlier than you even perceive a risk, is confronted with the higher threshold to accept personal subordination for youth. Interestingly, for older generations the obverse is true. All in all, we have ample reason to rethink and re-define also in legal terms the manifold, disguised and new forms of subordination related to work.

Books

Some say, a book is a book, is a book. This is to reiterate the lasting effect a printed volume might have. Many books are a form of a documentation of facts. Creative writing in whatever form finds most of the time some way into a format of a book. For centuries books have facilitated the diffusion of myths and stories throughout societies including translated versions of the content. 2 aspects are constituent here (1) form and (2) content. Annual book fairs receive most attention for new content within more or less the same rectangular format. There are, nevertheless, interesting variations of the form to be discovered as well. Traditionally book binding was the art that gave shapes to the content. Images in form of film are yet another representation of the book content. All this is “dealt” with at the Frankfurt book fair #fbm23, particularly in form of dealing in and with copyrights. New forms of delivery of content, online or as e-book, have added to the variety of books. Pay as you go or as abonnement with monthly delivery is the old and maybe fashionable new way to digest abundant content. People trust in books. The format as book in general seems to remain an authoritative form to present content, irrespective of the truthful or fictional kind of the content. The more we live in insecure circumstances, the more we tend to be willing to hold on to a pile of paper nicely woven or clued. It is still a very powerful tool to guide imagination for all ages. It allows us to learn at our own rhythm as far as we are willing to go. We are, or seem to be, in control of the process as well as the likely outcome. And yet, the spice of life is the surprise. Book it.

Fröhlich

Fröhliche Wissenschaft. Das geht. Nach gut 6 Monaten mit einem Blogeintrag pro Tag hat sich eine Textsammlung ergeben, die recht umfassend ausgefallen ist. Nach eigenem Monitoring der Themen, wie die Bearbeitung der UN-Themen zu strategischen Entwicklungszielen, oder der alphabetischen Auflistung von Schlüsselwörtern der Sozialwissenschaften sind nahezu täglich Kommentare entstanden. Neu war für mich die Bildredaktion, als Kommentar, Erläuterung, Selbstkritik oder wissenschaftliche Referenz. Eine interessante Variante, Erkenntnisse mit Key-Visuals zu unterstützen. Die bildliche Erinnerung an Beiträge ist ein eigenes Inhaltsverzeichnis. Klar, Hund- und Katzenbilder werden das Ranking der am meisten aufgerufenen Beiträge gewinnen. Egal, wir machen fröhliche Wissenschaft, immer weiter, immer heiter, so bleibt es lebenslanges, lebensweites Lernen.

Book Creation 2017

Writing and creating books has been ongoing for more than 2000 years. The history facilitated by Gutenberg’s invention of multiplication through the printing press has helped along the reformist movement of Martin Luther as well. Single pieces of book art are more rare. The Bibliotheca Wittockiana in Brussels has a rich collection and changing exhibitions. The photo below was taken there in July 2017.

As I attended a workshop on book binding held by Mina Aboudarr I went through all steps of book production myself to get a hands-on impression of this centuries old profession and art work in special cases. With much fun I walked through the process of writing, months before, and self-production of my very own monograph. Self-publishing is likely to be the next step. Currently the book is “in pressing” but not in press.
… and all beginings have some magic … or in original voice from Hermann Hesse: … und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne, …