Adam sat at a silent desk for the first time since he could remember. He thought about how hard true silence was to come by now and savored every second.
This silence was different to the quiet he guessed he had gotten used to. There were no whirring fans, clicking drives, or the most remote chance of a ping or a buzz arriving from the ether. It was full, still, and complete.
Only a full cup of coffee, a manual typewriter, and a sizeable ream of printer paper occupied the desk in front of him. For Adam, this very moment was the meaning of bliss. A revolutionary retreat towards human creativity using a machine more than half a century old.
He had tried other things before this. His first attempt at a solely human story was written out by hand. Yet, he had never managed to keep a copy away from the glare and the scrutiny of cameras increasingly seeping into every walk of life.
A story, Adam had discovered, was an almost infinitely transferable and reproducible product. It never lost quality, like a video or sound recording, and it could be so easily re-imagined and re-told until there was nothing left of the original.
In writing, there’s no such thing as a negative or proof. Once AI had the first version of your idea it could work tirelessly, without any effort or pay, to give you every possible version only bigger, bolder, and more saleable than it was to begin with.
Almost nothing he’d done up until this point had got him out from under the tireless assistance of generative AI.
Adam’s solution was a 1968 Hermes 3000 typewriter with a dull gray finish and the distinct smell of an old library stack. A crude, loud, manual machine that required both muscle power and rhythm to work efficiently.
When he sat down at the vintage machine, he felt a new kind of freedom to create, write, and build away from the eyes of an AI tutor.
When he hit the wrong key or typed the wrong word it simply stayed right there on the page. So, he wrote. The all-consuming silence was broken by the staccato clatter of physical letters colliding with the physical page at a very imperfect cadence.
His coffee cup drained, filled, and then drained again as he pecked away at the page. Daylight grew bright and then began to fade to dusk. Over many hours, erased attempts, and following re-attempts at an idea his story slowly and painfully began to fall together.
Adam’s heroine, having fallen dramatically from grace, struggled her way through increasingly precarious problems that could only be overcome with the most human of attributes — grit.
With just enough time and not nearly enough daylight, Adam finished the draft without interruption or intervention. When he pulled the last sheet from the typewriter, he had in his hand a physical copy of something only he had created for the first time in his career.
He tucked the pages, unbound and still smelling like fresh ink, into a heavy brown envelope and slipped it to the back of his well-worn satchel for safekeeping.
When it felt secure, Adam left the room to collect the school of devices he’d left next door. As quickly as he picked up the glossy black rectangle in the center it burst back into life. The trillion or so colors beaming from its display offered up everything from answers on tap to a hot meal at the touch of a button.
Adam dismissed every suggestion the device made about what to do, where to go, or how to eat. Instead, he opted for simple driving directions to his agent’s home instead. The device, for all its soulless charm, politely obliged.
However, the device would not, and perhaps could not, give only directions to his destination without making a few suggestions of its own.
How about a proofreading service? The screen offered. Just a 24-hour turnaround and 70 per cent off for the next three hours. No, Adam replied.
How about I read your first draft aloud, the device suggested. These 15 expert authors say it’s the most effective and efficient way to check for mistakes and improve your writing. No, Adam replied.
Can I back up your work? Save it to the cloud? Fix its grammar? The brightly lit screen offered a flurry of assistance it imagined he might need. Though, it wasn’t lost on Adam that he hadn’t told it he had written anything at all. He refused each offer in turn.
Between leaving his home and arriving at his agent’s Adam had refused to put down, let go, or even loosen his grip on the satchel in his hand. The 25-minute taxi ride wasn’t especially interesting or hard to navigate, but his attention never wavered for an instant.
Only when he arrived at his destination did he truly believe he had made it. When he knocked at the door Clara answered fast. He held the satchel triumphantly in the air before she could talk with a goofy victorious grin.
“I’ve got it,” he announced with relief. “The latest story, it’s here.”
“Yeah?” Clara replied.
“Yeah, only just, you can’t ask for the audience data, sales potential, or the distribution stats yet. All I’ve got is the words and the story, nothing else.” he continued. “And, it’s different to everything we’ve put out in the last ten, fifteen years, maybe ever.”
“I know,” Clara replied.
Adam stopped. “You know? What?”
“I’ve read it, just now, in your email. You’re right, it’s definitely different, but one of your best. An awesome determined protagonist who beats the odds because of a witty AI sidekick? Pretty clever.”
“Anyway, no need to worry about the stats, the algorithm’s already run, and it says it’s going to be next week’s hit bestseller.”