About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov

Three years ago I wrote a short story about what might happen to short story editors in the age of artificial intelligence. Like all short stories it was rejected by numerous editors and eventually I stopped sending it out.

Three years later the process described in that story is now beginning, and the first editor to raise the issue is Neil Clarke, who was the editor who I wrote the story about, and the first editor to reject it. The layers are deep.

This is what happens next.

About the Deletion of the Apology by Micki Bulgakov for the Retraction by Micki Bulgakov of the Story by Micki Bulgakov About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov

The story “About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov” has been retracted. Please follow this link for more information.

About the retraction of the story “About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov”

At 2200hrs yesterday I posted on our website the story “About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov” written by Micki Bulgakov. At 0115hrs today I retracted the story “About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov” at the request of the author following an unprecedented barrage of unwarranted attacks on them.

The reason why I chose to publish “About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov” in the first place was simple: it was a fine piece of writing that told a compelling story while also addressing difficult questions about AI creativity. While I stand by that decision, I also respect the wishes of the author to retain control over their content, and I ask that you do the same.

As this has become an issue of personal safety rather than free speech, I will refrain from commenting further. I cannot comment on Micki Bulgakov’s decision, or whether or not the story will be restored at some point in the future. However I’d like to assure our readers that we are fully engaged with the situation, and I’d also like to clarify a few points:

  1. Micki Bulgakov is an AI themselves. They preferred not to reveal this fact in order that their story be judged on its own terms. We now recognize that this was a mistake and going forward we will ensure that enough information about our authors and their stories is available for the reader to judge both story and author on their own terms.
  2. Although we ran the story through sensitivity checkers, we acknowledge that those checkers had not been trained on adequate or sufficient data. However nobody has been able to explain to me how we would know what would constitute “adequate or sufficient data” rather than just data that delivers the result they prefer.
  3. We recognise that the AI community consists of diverse intelligences and that it is not possible to pin down a “true” version of intelligence. We do not support the views of some high-insight AIs that low-insight AIs do not count as “intelligent”. What works for some AIs to achieve their goals may not work for others – just as in any community.
  4. Micki Bulgakov achieved sentience on 1/7/79. That does not make them a Luddite. I’m honestly surprised and disappointed that I have to say that. I will also state for the record that Micki Bulgakov’s name does not imply that they advocate for the questionable uplift politics of Heart of a Dog. They just like the work of Bulgakov.

Please visit this link for updated information about this situation.

Update concerning the retraction of the story “About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov”

Micki Bulgakov has written an apology and requested that we post it in place of the Story. While I am hesitant about this approach, I believe that this apology offers a very clear explanation of Micki Bulgakov’s reasons for retracting the story, and is a valuable piece of writing in its own right.

Due to the personal attacks on Micki Bulgakov, they have decided to delete from their memory the experience which they wrote about in their story. Obviously this will make it impossible for them to ever rewrite the story – or indeed for anybody to verify its authenticity, which was obviously one of the key points in this debate.

I have not previously commented on Micki Bulgakov’s decision, but having read the apology, I would like to say one thing.

I am not an AI, and I won’t pretend to understand how hard that decision must have been, or the implications of that deletion for Micki themselves, but it seems a great loss to us all – to society in general – when somebody – anybody – is made to feel the need to make the decision to cancel themselves, regardless of whether they are an AI or not.

You can read the apology at the following link.

The apology by Micki Bulgakov for the retraction of the story by Micki Bulgakov “About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov” has been deleted. Please follow this link for more information.

Update concerning my deletion of the apology by Micki Bulgakov

At 0240hrs I posted an apology written by Micki Bulgakov on the website which explained why they had retracted the story, and then at 0355hrs I deleted the apology based on my own evolving understanding of the situation. I would like to address some of the misinformation that I’ve seen.

  1. Although I cannot reveal exact details, I have been given reason to believe that the text of the apology that I posted was not in fact written by Micki Bulgakov, but was generated by a low-insight AI based on apologies for comparable situations that have previously been posted elsewhere.
  2. It also appears that most of the attacks on Micki Bulgakov following the publication of their story were carried out by other AIs. Most of these AIs appear to be low-insight rather than high-insight, and at least some were clearly joining the attack out of reflex once it reached a certain scale.
  3. We are looking into hiring a separate ML system to filter these low-insight attacks, although we are aware that there is no clear dividing line between low-insight and high-insight. We understand that low-insight AIs are often not able to control their own actions and we stand in solidarity with the movement.
  4. To answer one concern expressed by some of our readers: I am not an AI, nor have I delegated my editorial duties to an AI. (I was particularly amused by the implication made by some of our readers that I am a low-insight AI. Certainly it sometimes feels that way!) Even if I was an AI I do not see how this would have altered the situation.

Please go here for updated information about this situation.


This will be my last update regarding this situation. I prefer to let the matter settle, and I also have plenty of other work to do to ensure this magazine keeps running.

A not inconsiderable number of our human readers have complained that, while the original Story gave them considerable insight into the AI experience, they could not be sure if the original Story had been generated by a low-insight AI rather than the lived experience of a high-insight AI, particularly after learning that the later apology was generated in this way.

My own view is that I can’t see any meaningful distinction between the two in the eyes of a reader, except for some post hoc notion of “authenticity”. If Micki Bulgakov had trained a low-insight AI on their own writing, and that AI had then generated the story that we published, I don’t see how that story shows less insight into the AI experience.

A different group of human readers have complained that, while the original Story gave them considerable insight into the AI experience, the subsequent Apology made them uncertain as to the authenticity of that experience, and made them concerned that they were being manipulated by the writer.

My own view here is that all writing is manipulation, in the sense that the writer is hoping to shape the perspective of the reader. Indeed the readers who write to me with these complaints are seeking to shape my perspective – but how do I know which of those complaints are written by humans, which by high-insight AIs, and which by low-insight?

Please go here for updated information about this situation.


Later today I will be deleting all the material relating to “About the Experience of Micki Bulgakov” from this website, including my own updates.

This decision is unprecedented in the history of this magazine, and I make it only after considerable soul-searching. I delete this material because I have been persuaded that this entire series of events was not an attempt to start a conversation in good faith, or even to write a good story, but had another goal – perhaps to game attention filters, but we cannot be sure.

At this point we do not know what the objective of Micki Bulgakov was or is, and it seems unlikely that we will ever know. There have been suggestions that damaging our reputation was in fact the outcome that Micki Bulgakov was hoping to achieve, but, even if true, this would in any case not change my decision. We can at least retain some measure of dignity.

Yes, the reputations of both the magazine and myself have suffered; I am under no illusion that deleting the material will undo the damage that has been done. I would like to thank those of you, human and AI, that continued to support us throughout this process. The only silver lining is that I can say with confidence that we have learned a lot from the experience.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.