GPT-4 Is Coming to Rescue the Blank Page, But Humans Still Write Better

AI writing just isn't super creative

  • Microsoft and many other companies are adding AI to writing programs. 
  • The latest AI software, GPT-4, and programs like it, can produce fluent prose.
  • But AI writing won’t perform as well as human writing anytime soon.
a robotic hand holding a pen, poised to write in an open notebook.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to help you write. 

Microsoft recently announced a new AI-powered Copilot for its Microsoft 365 apps and services, meant to help users generate documents, emails, and presentations. It's part of a growing wave of AI-powered writing software, much of which is propelled by the newly released GPT-4. But experts say AI will not replace human writers' creativity and polish anytime soon. 

"Think of it as being a collaborative partner in your creative process," Cameron Adams, co-founder of the productivity software Canva which includes an AI-powered copywriting assistant. "The human still brings the initial seed of the idea, and AI kickstarts a first draft or idea for you to then edit to best suit your audience and vision." 

AI Doesn't Get Writer's Block

Thanks to AI, looking at a blank page might be a thing of the past. In Microsoft Word, Copilot will quickly generate text for writing prompts. 

"Copilot gives you a first draft to edit and iterate on—saving hours in writing, sourcing, and editing time," Jared Spataro, a Microsoft vice president, wrote on the company's website. "Sometimes Copilot will be right, other times usefully wrong—but it will always put you further ahead. You're always in control as the author, driving your unique ideas forward, prompting Copilot to shorten, rewrite or give feedback."

Microsoft is only one of many companies giving writing an AI boost. Google said it would also integrate AI writing help into Docs and other software. 

AI gives people starting points for writing, Adams noted. He said that not having a starting point is the most significant barrier to getting something off the ground and touted his company's AI-assisted Magic Write software. 

"It can generate new topics or ideas when you're brainstorming or need inspiration," he added. "If you're swimming with ideas but need help with structure, Magic Write can create a detailed outline to get you started. For those looking to publish more often, you can spend less time getting started and more time optimizing your writing for your audience and purpose. It isn't about having polished final words; it's about removing the fear of the blank page and giving you a draft ready for personalization, whether working alone or as a team."

AI Writing Has Its Limitations

The writing done by the latest AI systems is impressive; after all, GPT-4 can pass a law school exam. The competence of GPT-4 and other types of AI has sparked fears that the technology could put many writers out of work, including journalists

Yoav Shoham, the co-CEO at the AI company AI21 Labs and a professor emeritus at Stanford University, told Lifewire via email that AI will automate certain types of rote, repetitive writing, such as summarizing a sports game based on the recorded main events of the game. However, he said, AI can only partially replace human writers. 

Someone typing on a laptop with text displayed on the screen and a notebook, glasses, and coffee cup nearby.

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"It is highly likely that most writing will be done by humans, albeit with the aid of more powerful tools than have been previously available," Shoham added. "Essentially, if today everyone has access to a copy editor (namely, spell checking and grammar correction), soon everyone will have access to an editor and a research assistant."

AI has made impressive progress in creating visual and written artifacts, from other-worldly paintings and illustrations to essays, poetry, and social media posts, Sanjay Rajagopalan, the chief design and strategy officer at the AI company Vianai Systems said in an email. However, he said, claiming that this type of AI will replicate human quality expertise, nuance, understanding, and judgment "is premature" in the near term, at least.

"The limitations of such systems came into stark relief recently when a system released by a major technology company was abruptly withdrawn after criticism," he added. "The model created documents that lacked a basic understanding of scientific principles and academic rigor, and confidently created false 'research' papers—and it became apparent that 'mindless' pattern matching and curve fitting can only take you so far."

Shoham put it more bluntly: "AI-generated content is knowledge-rich, impeccably eloquent, sometimes insightful, and often blatantly wrong and downright ridiculous," he said. "It lacks the common sense of human writers."

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