Are we the owners of our own ideas? We often like to think so, but linguist, professor, and writer Donna Jo Napoli isn’t so sure. She sees creative conception as a deeply collaborative process: the final "idea" is just the tip of an iceberg that runs deep into what you have shared and experienced in your life. So, if our ideas aren’t even our own, why are we afraid of sharing our creativity with Generative AI?

Generative AI for Writers: A Tool or a Threat?

Is Gen AI a tool or a threat in creative work? In that regard, Donna Jo is agnostic. She isn’t sure that Generative AI will hurt our creativity, but she also isn’t sure that it won't. This episode of Merging Minds centers around a specific question: How and where can #GenAI help in creative work like #writing or translating? And, where will it hurt?

Donna Jo and Gabriel discuss how writing is essentially an iterative process. The writer returns to their work over and over again, and it is in this constant evolution of their work that they experience the infinite creativity of the writing process. So, if Generative AI helps start that process, what’s the problem?

The problem, according to Donna Jo, is when the start that AI provides is all wrong. If Generative AI helps to establish the bones of your writing, what happens when they are bad bones? She suggests that writers need to be flexible with their initial frameworks and drafts, whether they use AI to create them or not.

As an example, Donna Jo talks about how one of her published books hardly resembles the initial draft at all. She revisited the book constantly over many years, each time as a different writer. The work morphed as she brought a different self to its creation, which made her question why we are so obsessed with the idea of our own originality.

The other issue that Donna Jo raises about AI in writing is that context can never be broad enough, which makes her worry that #AI will never review for errors as deeply as a human. She gives the example of a famous movie that botched a comment about American Sign Language in a way that only a speaker of ASL would truly recognize.

But, Donna Jo isn't purely skeptical of AI's role in creative and intellectual projects. She reflects on how useful large data sets and automated reviews could have been in her academic work, specifically in a project where she and her coauthors got some things fundamentally wrong.

She also acknowledges that in a world where instant communication is so vital to questions of equity and accessibility, we need AI to give us a hand.

Donna Jo and Gabriel go deep on questions of context and authorship, and they really try to get to the bottom of how we can collaborate creatively with AI to enhance our creative process. They may not answer these questions once and for all, but they do make some great progress.

In this episode of Merging Minds, they discuss:

- Donna Jo’s vast experience in academia and writing

- The iterative essence of all writing

- The illusion of true originality

- The beauty of having an objective, separate view of creative work (and how AI can help with this)

- The danger of AI taking away from the creative “Vomit Process”

Click play to hear Donna Jo and Gabriel discuss creativity, #authorship, #translation, and AI.

You can learn more about Donna Jo Napoli on:

Her linguist website:

Her author website:

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Gabriel Fairman

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Gabriel Fairman, CEO of Bureau Works and father of three, grew up in a multilingual home. Driven by his passion for languages and their role in defining us, he enjoys cooking, playing guitar, and sports. Recognized for his innovation, Gabriel was honored with the 2023 Innovator of the Year Award at LocWorld Silicon Valley.

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