As developers continue to improve artificial intelligence, or AI, companies will no longer need humans to do certain writing and editing jobs. In 2017, one company predicted that it would only take a year for machines to become sophisticated enough to write 20% of all business content. Although it’s currently 2019 and plenty of businesses have not yet adopted AI writing, AI utilization continues to spread.
Current writers may find this trend alarming. But if there is one thing every man versus machine movie has taught the world, it’s that machines will never have the intuition or connection that human emotion provides. And businesses see this too.
Julia McCoy beautifully states, “This is exactly why human writers are irreplaceable. When writing is deeply human, it moves people much better than bare statements of facts. . . . We care about stories. To tell stories, you need a background of meaningful experiences.”
AI isn’t going away, but neither will all writing jobs. So what does this mean for writers? How can we expect to fit into this brave new world? The best way for writers to thrive is to understand how AI is currently being used to create written content and how writers might be expected to work with AI in the future.
Let’s look at how AI will affect writers in 3 specific genres: data-driven content, marketing, and fiction.
AI and Data-Focused Content
Writers are often told to “write what you know.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that AI’s signature move is creating data-driven content like internal reports and articles about sport or business statistics. It’s currently a pretty simple process. Companies can plug all of the data into a spreadsheet and then use AI algorithms to translate that data into prose.
The Associated Press, a major content-focused company and considered “the golden standard of journalism,” uses AI to write earnings reports. And during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, The Washington Post developed Heliograf to write and tweet updates on scores.
What job security can writers expect for producing this kind of content in the future? Editors might still have to perform a quick copyedit or proof to reports for the foreseeable future, but creating this kind of content is practically seamless for a computer already. With the groundwork already in place, AI will likely overtake data-focused content before any other genre.
Writing jobs for data-driven content will (probably) essentially disappear, but this shouldn’t be a disappointment. One of the singular advantages of AI is that as it continues to compose more mundane writing tasks, writers will be free to focus on more creative pursuits. (Cue your best freedom dance music.)
AI and Marketing
Marketing teams and companies often spend a lot of time researching the best marketing methods for a specific industry. In a fraction of the time, artificial intelligence can scan databases for current trends to provide insights on what topics and marketing approaches are successful.
Crayon is an AI tool that “analyzes more than 100 different types of online data from seven million sources.” Crayon can also search to let marketers know about and types of content that are missing from the industry, allowing them to be the first to focus on a fresh approach.
Writers will be blessed to write the actual articles here. AI will simply do the legwork to gather all (or most of) the information needed to create an article. The human writer will provide the emotion and empathy to make it worth reading. So if you’re interested in content marketing, this should be a safe field for writers.
Marketing pieces require more emotional involvement, connecting with human experience to form a persuasive message for a target audience. So they will likely need a human editor to check for trickier, isolated syntax and grammar issues (those that a spell checker wouldn’t catch) as well as to apply any specific rules for house style guides. Additionally, to stay competitive in their market, both writers and editors may need to become familiar with more content-related AI tools that check for proofreading errors and plagiarism and offer suggestions for general readability and SEO practices.
AI and Fiction
Grab your popcorn, because watching AI produce fiction is a real show. Currently, AI can produce some fiction, but not very well. The basic formula is down, but the software isn’t quite there yet.
Take a look at this Harry Potter fanfiction. Spoiler: it’s like a round of Harry Potter Mad Libs. Wildly, the AI actually mimics Rowling’s enchanting rhythm and tone, but the information is absurdly wrong. It’s delightful.
Because fiction requires so much personal experience to draw from, fiction writers are probably safe to breathe a sigh of relief. AI definitely won’t be replacing flesh-and-blood writers in the near future. While the possibility of AI fiction writers is not totally laughable — especially as robot writers get more sophisticated and become an option for cheaper installments — a robot’s ability to ever truly replicate the human experience is doubtful.
How Can Writers Prepare to Work with AI?
No matter what area of writing you work in, it will be helpful to keep in mind that AI “should be all about cooperation and not competition.” With AI taking care of the basics, economies will have a greater demand for creative writers, and writers will have more time to flex their creative muscles to compose higher-value content.
If writing more creatively complex pieces doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, editing could be a great area to focus on. Even data-focused articles will likely need a quick proof by a human eye to make sure the content is fluid and error-free.
It’s also likely that technical writing will continue to need human writers to simplify complex processes. Although, technical writers should at least be prepared for the idea of working with AI software that might partly prepare such content. Be flexible and ready to learn new systems that will help with the writing process.
AI, as with all technology, will continue to reshape business—including writing. But it doesn’t have to be scary. As long as we stay informed and prepared, AI will give writers the space to become more creative and more fulfilled. (Cue last round of freedom dance music.)
Do you have any questions or ideas about how AI will affect writing in the future? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!