AI-authored mushroom foraging guides cause concern among experts
Amazon has become a hub for AI-generated book sales, including books on foraging; an alarming trend that has raised concerns about potential fatal consequences.
Amateur mushroom enthusiasts are being warned against relying on mushroom foraging guides available on Amazon -- suspected to be written by artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots.
Amazon has recently become a hub for AI-generated publications masquerading as human-authored works, with travel books emerging as a favored genre for these deceptive materials.
A series of books claiming to offer insights into wild mushroom foraging have surfaced on Amazon, and there is growing suspicion that these guides are the product of chatbots. Among the titles drawing attention are "Wild Mushroom Cookbook: From Forest to Gourmet Plate, A Complete Guide to Wild Mushroom Cookery" and "The Supreme Mushrooms Books Field Guide of the South-West."
To verify the authenticity of these books, Originality.ai, a US-based company specializing in identifying AI-generated content, conducted an examination of four book samples on behalf of The Guardian. As suspected, each sample received a 100% rating on its AI detection score, strongly suggesting that chatbots, like ChatGPT, were responsible for writing the book's content.
Deceptive excerpts from AI-crafted books
Excerpts from these AI-authored guides contain phrases like "the sweet smell of freshly cooked mushrooms wafted through the air, bringing back fond memories of my mother" and "foraging for wild mushrooms is a deeply rewarding experience that connects us with nature’s abundance and the rich tapestry of flowers that the Earth provides."
For Leon Frey, a foraging guide and field mycologist at Cornwall-based Family Foraging Kitchen, such phrases must not be used so lightly as they suggest that the "smell and taste" of wild mushrooms could be used as identifying features, which might lead to unforeseen consequences. Frey emphasized the critical importance of choosing books from reputable and trusted sources.
Frey said one book discussed the lion’s mane fungus in one of its recipes. Although the mushroom is edible, Frey pointed out that it is also a protected species in the UK, saying readers should choose their information from "reputable sources".
Professor Myron Smith, a fungi specialist at Carleton University in Canada, strongly criticized these AI-authored guides, branding them as "totally irresponsible". He highlighted that distinguishing between edible and non-edible mushrooms often requires a high level of expertise due to subtle differences that could lead to life-threatening consequences.
Widespread concerns spur Amazon investigation
The initial discovery of AI-generated mushroom guides was reported by the 404 Media site and later shared by the New York Mycological Society on social media platforms. The society issued a cautionary statement, advising consumers to purchase books authored by recognized experts to prevent potentially dangerous mistakes.
Amazon has responded to the growing concerns, confirming that it is reviewing the books brought to its attention by The Guardian. An Amazon spokesperson stated, "We take matters like this seriously and are committed to providing a safe shopping and reading experience. We’re looking into this."