Breakthrough AI is uncannily good at content, maybe too good!
It’s the year 2027. You’re an augmented consultant for a micro-agency in Seattle. Late on a Friday afternoon your customized AI assistant “Tim” sends an urgent request. A client needs an e-book draft on the cost benefits of new enterprise 6G broadband first thing Monday. Turning to your company’s language generator, you promptly feed in a couple sentences of instructions. Thirty seconds later, like magic, it spits back a 1000-word finely crafted document including call-out quotes, sidebars, and images – within an impressive 3D binder. You give the draft a quick proofread and send it back to Tim. Total human effort: 32 minutes.
Speculative, fanciful, far-fetched? The recent release of OpenAI’s GPT-3 language generator suggests otherwise. Robots have gotten eerily good at producing almost anything from op-ed pieces to science fiction to songs and even movie scripts. One college student, in fact, used AI to produce a fake blog that ultimately went viral; out of 26,000 readers only one individual thought to ask if AI was used.
A debate has kicked up in recent years about AI replacing human writers. Many seem certain it won’t because, as the argument goes, AI is assumed to be very bad at creative stuff. But like every area of technology today, things are moving at blazing speed. Emotion AI, or affective computing, is no exception. A couple years ago, Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner declared: “By 2022, your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family.”
So, will AI take your writing job (and mine)? The jury is still out on this question. I assume robots are bad at metaphors. But here are a few practical tips for how to keep one step ahead of them.
Learn conversational writing
Humans are really good at showing emotions. Robots are notoriously bad at it. But the fact that we’re seeing debates emerge about whether machines will take over fiction is just too uncanny. So, what can writers, or those who love working with words, do to keep their day jobs? Start by mastering the art of conversational writing. This doesn’t mean to simply write like you talk, but it does imply a few ground rules. Break long sentences in half. Then get rid of difficult words. And don’t forget to use the active voice. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it, but you get the gist. Making your writing as “human” as possible will hopefully keep you ahead of any budding “robovelists” – at least for the next five years.
“Become the algorithm” you fear will displace you
Okay, so this slogan probably sounds weird. But truthfully it might be the best writing advice for the year 2025, or whenever the next version of OpenAI’s GPT is released. The real point is to take the higher intellectual ground, skill up, or do whatever it takes to machine-proof your job. Demian Farnworth probably sums it up best: “In essence, have computers do the grunt work while you focus on strategy.”
Accept disruption as inevitable
If technology has taught us one thing, it is to “never say never.” The execs at Borders and Kodak ignored the disruption tsunami that transformed book-selling and digital photography, and it cost their business. Given current trends, and ultimate economic realities, it’s highly plausible if not probable that algorithmic writing will disrupt everything from TV screenwriting to news headlines to B2B marketing. Be prepared for this reality and take actions now that will keep you relevant in the job market 3-5 years down the road.
Writing robots are here to stay, but what kind of future that looks like is hard to say. If we read the tea leaves correctly, more and more writing responsibilities will be outsourced to machines in the not-too-distant future. Following these few tips can help you stay mindful of the trends and help you become a more conversational and emotive writer.