The Reason I Require a Subscription to Read My Free Articles

The Reason I Require a Subscription to Read My Free Articles

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Song of Myself, 51 ~ Walt Whitman

There's no sense burying the lede. I require a subscription because I fear AI.

It's not fear in the sense that I think Skynet will emerge like a horrifying butterfly from the large language model (LLM) caterpillars crawling the Internet. I'm not even sure conscious AI can ever truly be a thing. What disturbs me is the idea of having my work consumed and chopped up for parts, and then regurgitated into something unseemly, like a piece about Jar Jar Bink's sexual proclivities. ("Ooh, mooey mooey, I love you!")

I'm not a luddite. My day job the last 20 years has been in IT. I'm quite comfortable with code, and technology, and with using both to make life better, or at least to optimize my laziness.1 In fact, it's this background that makes me skeptical of LLMs. Those programs don't think—it's autofill on a breathtaking scale. There has been a rush to monetize the Internet with LLM-created content, which threatens to reduce the value of real writing practically to zero. Part of the reason I created this site was to offer a farmer's market alternative: 100% homegrown, organic writing. I don't even use Grammarly. Everything you read here is me, assisted with a bit of spellchecking.2

Even then, everything published at All the Fanfare was open to the public. Until I read this article:

Google Says It’ll Scrape Everything You Post Online for AI
An update to Google’s privacy policy suggests that the entire public internet is fair game for it’s AI projects. If Google can read your words, assume they belong to the company now, and expect that they’re nesting somewhere in the bowels of a chatbot.

As Bill Paxton memorably says in Aliens: "Game over, man."

Anytime you publish on the Internet, you risk people copying your work, shaving off the serial numbers, and reposting it as their own. It comes with the territory. But if a company as large as Google intends to Hoover up everything on the Internet, without a single concern about copyright, there's only one sane response.3

Luke Han lock the door

The subscription requirement is a soft defense, easily overcome, but it's at least something. I will continue to monitor developments on the LLM front, and adjust accordingly. The goodish news: I offer a sizable sample of every article before throwing up the "You shall not pass" message.

Gandalf "you shall not pass" subscribe page
I remain stupidly proud of this subscription prompt.

In addition, the free subscription ensures you never miss an article. I don't spam and I don't sell email addresses. The only thing you'll ever receive is stuff I genuinely think you'll dig.

  1. Here's how lazy I am: If the game I want to play isn't already in my Xbox, I'll play a digital game instead, just so I don't have to get up and walk 10 feet.
  2. I am a horrendous speller. To the point that sometimes spellcheck flags a word and just shrugs, as if to say, "Sorry, bro–I don't know what this is but it's definitely not English."
  3. In case you're new here: 3 Star Wars references per non-Star Wars article is par for the course.