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AI generated mushroom books (from NYMS)

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After reading an original tweet and comment thread on reddit, I ran my own search on amazon and found several books that appeared to be written by AI. It was pretty easy to find a slew of books that appeared to be generated by Artificial Intelligence(AI). A few common traits that will indicate an AI written book, are ones written by unknown authors & the use of Latin names that just don’t exist in today’s taxonomy, are only some dead giveaways.

The reason I orginially posted about generative AI in mycology,  is to raise awareness within our broader community. AI does not know the subtle differences between a mushroom that is poisonous such as the Death cap (Amanita bisporigera) vs one that is not, Wood Mushroom (Agaricus silvicola). True story, NYMS members have stopped people who were found foraging in Harriman state park, NY, who before AI books, were foraging for the Amanita bisporigera. Luckily our members saw them and were able to not only explain to them the differences but team them about this deadly mushroom. With regards to Amanita bisporigera, one way we do so on our walks, is with the use of KOH (Potassium Hydroxide) to see the color change on the cap itself.

As a result of our member’s encounters with numerous foraging groups, a twitter post and campaign was spawned as a direct result of those interactions we have had in the past.

Why is this happening you might ask, the answer is simple: Money. I am merely exposing and discussing one vector in which bad actors are leveraging the ease in which one can create a book, complete with art, and sell it for money. All they have to do is generate a 2-3 sentence prompt.  Mushrooms are an easy target, and we are in a shroom boom. Many people, during the pandemic, took to the outdoors, part of that inquisitiviness, which we have all felt, is foraging, and being able to identify edible fungi. With a rise in popularity, lack of resources and cheap price point, there are many folks who are willing to buy, on a whim, a $9.99 field guide versus paying the steep prices for academic quality books. Its because of the niche market, publishers do not print lots of books, as such, simple supply and demand can also factor in to the steep prices of high end, high quality books.

Our original tweet, back in August, garnered a lot of attention. We had numerous media outlets reach out to the club for comment. You may read some of the articles published on:

After all the above articles were written, Sigrid Jakob, the current President of New York Mycological society sent me an Instagram story post by a well known west coast mycologist, Damon Tighe.

His story speaks to the increasing urgency, in which members of mycology clubs need to be judicious, in calling out books that are AI Generated. Please make sure, before you ever eat a mushroom that you found, that you yourself may positively identify it with 100% accurracy. Before then, joining a local mycology club and learn from those who can.

We look forward to seeing you in the woods!


-Elan Trybuch, Secretary of the New York Mycological Society