Is AI a threat to the jobs and careers of writers?
To provide some historical perspective let’s look at the impact of spreadsheets for the accounting profession as a comparison.
In 1979 the electronic spreadsheet VISICALC was invented for Apple ll computer. Suddenly professional bean counters (accountants) were all having an existential crisis. The machine threatened to replace the humans. Would the PC spreadsheet software move the accountants to the edge of extinction?
According to the BBC News, the number of accounting clerks have lost 400,000 jobs and the accountants have gained 600,000 jobs since the 1980s. AI will impact the writing industry in the same way. Some jobs will be lost and some will grow.
Why it matters
AI can create content at a scale never seen before. What was done in hours can now be done in minutes.
It threatens to overwhelm the web with so much information that quantity will explode and the quality will suffer. But behind the quantity versus quality debate there is more to the writing story.
It’s about the tension between industrial scale media information production and the writers’ inspiration. It is also about man versus machine.
Why do writers write?
When I was writing at school and college I wrote to pass exams and assignments. An essay was a chore. When I started writing for my social media blog in 2009 I was writing out of drive, passion and an intense curiosity about social media and its impact on humans and business.
It was no longer a job to be done but an education to be pursued that came from the heart and not the head. I wrote to learn about a technology trend that I sensed would change the world. And it did. I was riding the wave and learned along the way.
But AI has raised questions for me that I’ve been struggling with. AI can create well structured information so quickly that the writer can feel inadequate.
Some of the questions I’ve been contemplating:
- How can a mere human compete with AI’s computer, machine learning, algorithms and data collection superpowers?
- How can I find a way to use AI that empowers me rather than leaves me feeling like a cut and paste machine.
- Have I lost the spirit and soul as a writer?
But there is a lot more to writing than information gathering and publishing.
8 reasons writers write
People write for a multitude of reasons, driven by various motivations and purposes. Here are some common reasons why people engage in writing:
Writing is a powerful tool for communication. People write to express their thoughts, ideas, and opinions to others in a clear and structured manner. It allows them to share information, convey messages, and engage in meaningful dialogue.
Writing provides an outlet for self-expression. It allows individuals to explore their emotions, articulate their inner thoughts, and reflect on personal experiences. Writing can be a cathartic process that helps people understand themselves better and communicate their unique perspectives to the world.
Creativity and Artistic Expression
Many people write as a form of creative expression. Writing allows them to unleash their imagination, construct stories, poems, or prose, and craft vibrant worlds and characters. It is a means to showcase their creativity and contribute to the realm of literature and the arts.
Documentation and Record-Keeping
Writing serves as a method of documentation and record-keeping. People write to chronicle events, maintain journals or diaries, and preserve personal or historical narratives. Writing helps capture moments, experiences, and insights that can be revisited or shared with others.
Information Sharing and Education
Writing plays a vital role in sharing knowledge and educating others. People write textbooks, academic papers, articles, and informative content to disseminate information, contribute to research, or provide instruction on various subjects. Writing serves as a means of intellectual exchange and learning.
Persuasion and Advocacy
Writing can be a persuasive tool used to influence opinions, advocate for causes, or bring about change. People write persuasive essays, speeches, articles, or manifestos to convince others of a particular viewpoint, raise awareness about social issues, or rally support for a specific cause.
Entertainment and Storytelling
Writing is a way to entertain and captivate audiences. People write novels, short stories, plays, and scripts to weave compelling narratives, create memorable characters, and transport readers or viewers into different worlds. Writing is a means of storytelling that engages and entertains.
Professional and Business Purposes
Writing plays a crucial role in various professional and business contexts. People write reports, emails, memos, proposals, and other forms of business communication to convey information, make decisions, or negotiate agreements. Writing is essential for effective workplace communication.
These reasons for writing are not exhaustive, and individuals may have unique personal motivations that drive them to write.
Writing is a versatile and powerful medium that fulfills multiple purposes, allowing individuals to express themselves, communicate with others, and contribute to the vast tapestry of human expression.
Why do I write?
I have had to ask this question for the last 6 months. ChatGPT seemed to offer an alternative that promised a quick fix to writing SEO-optimized content and publishing information that served my blog, feeding my marketing machine.
But I think I have found an answer to my existential crisis.
It is embraced by this quote from Joseph Campbell.
“The important thing about information and the way that I got it is not the information but the experience of the information. It’s a love affair, really, of getting in touch with a world of thinking and experiencing that you can’t get from just the supply of information. In writing, of course, I need the information that I already know, and yet I want to know exactly what the page is and the book I got it from.” — The Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell
For me it is simple. At my core, I write to learn.
I enjoy the process and the journey of discovery and where the information came from. The experience of gathering insights, finding inspiration, word wrangling and its creativity is bliss for me. I need to make sense of the noise and content chaos that sometimes overwhelms me.
Also the yearning creator that sits within is not fed by a destination but the journey of learning and discovery.
ChatGPT scrapes information and doesn’t disclose its source. I am sure AI and its algorithms will evolve but it doesn’t provide the “love affair” of discovery and learning as I hunt and wrangle information into something that has clarity for me and for other mere mortals.
I am trying to distill the complexity of a noisy crazy world into simplicity that touches my soul and hopefully other people. For me AI will be a tool that will transform and evolve the art of writing.
Extinction of the writer is still a dystopian threat that is more myth than truth.