It seems like everywhere we turn these days Artificial Intelligence, or AI as most of us know it, is the focal point of conversation. It has also become a topic as divisive as religion and politics, with strong and sometimes borderline irrational feelings on both sides of the aisle. From the potential benefits to society to all the ways it will steal jobs and threaten our future in shades of the Terminator movies and everything in between – there is no escaping the debate. And while it is too early to say with certainty which side is right or how governmental regulations will impact its continued expansion and adoption, there is one guarantee. AI, in and of itself, will not replace writers – at least not the good ones!
But what about ChatGPT, PerplexityAI, Jasper, and the countless other free and paid platforms multiplying daily? Well, from a professional standpoint, they are nothing more than tools. Even the best tools still require human input and oversight, so the reality is that AI is not where the threat lies. Writers who have learned to use AI better than you have are the real threat. If that sounds far-fetched, let’s look at some of the reasons AI in its current state should be an ally and not an enemy:
Generating Unique Ideas
For all of AI’s benefits, what it cannot do is think for itself. That may seem difficult to believe since it only takes a few seconds for AI to start spitting out answers to your questions and refining the information on demand. But it is quickly forgotten that this is only possible because the process began with a user-initiated input. AI does not take it upon itself to generate unrequested content, and if it did, then we would all have grounds to be concerned.
That’s not to say there aren’t those who think this new technology can take the work out of writing from scratch. If you asked AI to create an outline for a spy novel, it might generate content. But where did that content come from? Why, from the internet, of course! The likelihood of any “original” idea generated by AI actually being some form of plagiarism is just too great to take the risk. And, if you cannot create your own story and write it yourself, you might want to ask yourself why you want to write in the first place.
Listening & Understanding
AI is not a human persona as often depicted in movies and books. There is no holographic interface you can have a conversation with. You cannot ask clarifying questions or request an explanation as to why certain information was presented in a certain way. The only option you have is to refine the way in which you pose the questions or rearrange the order in which you present them. Vocabulary in all languages contains nuanced words and phrases, colloquial expressions, and regional dialects and speech patterns. A truly exceptional writer can capture all these components in a way AI is not currently capable of achieving.
Because there is no verbal communication on your end, and no ability to listen on the AI’s part, much can get lost in translation. Have you ever received a text message where you misunderstood the tone or mood of the sender? It happens all the time because reading is subject to interpretation. When capturing someone’s voice and positioning their message, there is no substitute for the spoken word. The same is true for understanding the needs and pain points of your audience. Without any type of careful verbal evaluation, the information can fall flat.
Tone & Delivery
We already covered the limited ways one can interact with AI, but the significance this has on tone and delivery cannot be understated. Typing words into a computer will not generate compelling content with the desired effect the majority of the time. Programs such as Grammarly have been trying to master this for years by letting users choose their tone and purpose. But simply choosing between informative and persuasive as the objective or formal versus casual for the tone will leave much to be desired.
AI will make you feel content-rich, there is no doubt about it. Once upon a time, Google was the go-to option for accomplishing the same goal. However, at least when manually searching Google, the user is able to sort through the content, choose what works best for them, and combine multiple sources to craft a cohesive message that resonates with their desired outcome. With the overlay of AI now doing the research and compilation, the author’s human element is removed, thus often causing the finished product to sound monotone and robotic.
Does your preferred AI platform have an advanced degree in research skills or journalism? Is it aware of the proper ways to verify information sourced from the web is factually correct and not just a conglomeration of random opinions? Nope, which means you are left with two options. On the one hand, you can assume the information is accurate and hope no one calls bullshit. If they do, you wind up in the uncomfortable position of admitting you used AI or swearing you wrote the content but look irresponsible and ineffective for publishing erroneous content. The other option would be to manually fact-check everything, which would defeat the point of using AI, to begin with.
Plagiarism is the other big concern surrounding accuracy, and while we mentioned it earlier regarding works of fiction, there is a much greater concern in the academic world. It can be easy to assume no one will dig deeper and question your thought leadership, but that is naive at best and reckless at worst. Countless educators and researchers who are experts in their fields don’t really need to go out of their way to prove something you wrote was plagiarized. By the nature of what they do day in and day out, your faux pax will stand out like a sore thumb.
Yes, free AI platforms are available in addition to paid options. As with anything in life though, you get what you pay for. We often find out the hard way that the less expensive option we choose, whether on technology, medical care, or clothing, winds up costing far more than the higher-priced option would have in the long run. Considering any AI-generated content will need further investment for verification of accuracy, proofreading, and editing before publishing, it will often be cheaper to pay a professional from the outset.
Time is also money. How much could you be earning by making better use of your time than endlessly waiting for an AI server not to be overloaded? The same question holds true for how much time you waste rephrasing your prompts to generate satisfactory output and the time needed to review and polish yourself when not hiring a professional. A skilled writer will generally only need a small window of your time to glean the subject matter and your position before being able to deliver a publish-ready finished product.
This last point encompasses just about all the earlier points to one degree or another. There are generally only two reasons someone outsources their writing: lack of skill or time. When working with a professional writer, there will be less of a time commitment, and the time you do spend will be much higher quality because the conversation will focus on the most important components of the project. The writer’s time is money as well, so it is in their best interest to gather everything they need from you in the shortest time to generate the best-finished product. And for those with a skill issue, AI may seem like an easy fix but the bigger problem is that the lack of skill fosters a false sense of security in believing the AI-generated content to be considered quality by the average person.
AI has already taken jobs across many industries and will continue to do so more aggressively in the coming years. Writing will not be an exception to this trend. As writing professionals, we are left with the simple choice of adapting or resisting. Blockbuster is an example of a company that chose resistance over adapting to the new digital trend, and we all know how that ended. Don’t be a blockbuster. Figure out how you can incorporate AI into your craft and adapt how you do business so that this technology enhances the experience for your clients instead of making them question whether it would be better to replace you entirely.