Some Human Authors Worry AI Will Take Their Jobs—Here's Why

Computers are getting better at writing

  • A human recently used AI to write a book, raising questions about whether computers might do more writing than their creators. 
  • GPT-3, a language model that uses deep learning, is growing more popular as an AI writing tool. 
  • Experts say there are no signs humans will soon be replaced for creative writing.
Close up on someone writing in a notebook while a robotic hand types on a laptop in the background.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting so good at writing that it's now helping to create books, igniting a debate over whether humans will one day be replaced as authors. 

Tech worker Ammaar Reshi recently used an AI program to make a children's book. Reshi used software to create the story of Alice, a young girl who wants to learn about the tech world, and her companion robot, Sparkle. It's part of a growing wave of AI-generated "creative" works, but many experts say it's too soon to be concerned that humans will be out of a job. 

"While there are certain areas in which a large portion of writing can be automated, typically rote, repetitive writing, such as summarizing a sports game based on the recorded main events of the game, AI cannot fully replace human writers," Yoav Shoham, the co-CEO at AI21 Labs, which is working on computer-assisted writing, told Life wire in an email interview. "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."

Robo Authors

AI software that can create sensible-sounded text with few human prompts has taken off in the last year. The most popular current AI software for writing text is Open AI's GPT-3, a language model that uses deep learning. 

"To the creators of these tools at OpenAI & MidJourney: how do we ensure protections for artists/train models on consent?" Reshi said on Twitter. "Their talent, skill, [and] hard work to get there needs to be respected. In fact, we should involve them in the creation of these tools so they're heard."

Joshua Gans, a professor at the University of Toronto and co-author of the book "Power and Prediction: The Disruptive Economics of Artificial Intelligence" told Lifewire in an email that AI will likely replace humans for some writing tasks like routine letters or press releases. 

"But not if we are talking about writing tasks that are complex and require some creativity," he added. "An AI may be able to write a passable book one day, but it will be more like a "monkey given enough time produces Shakespeare" type thing than something reliable. An AI might write, but a person is going to choose what is published."

Humans Win on Creativity

AI and human authors have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing, Gans said. Human authors are typically more creative than AI when it comes to generating original ideas and expressing them in a unique and compelling way. AI can generate coherent text that follows certain rules, but it can be more challenging to come up with fresh and innovative ideas.

"AI can replicate certain writing styles or patterns, but it may not have the same level of nuance and variation as a human author," he added. "AI may struggle to capture the subtleties of language and convey emotion in the same way that a human can."

Philip L. Frana, a professor of interdisciplinary liberal studies at James Madison University, said in an email that GPT-3 forever changes how authors must think about their craft. 

A rusty old antique typewriter sitting on a grungy desktop.

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"Storytellers are collaborating with GPT, Jasper, and other machine learning tools in all sorts of new and interesting ways," he added. For example, he said,  interactive literary narratives have become automagically produced text adventures at AI Dungeon. AIs have also joined forces with humans to tell prize-worthy stories like "The Day a Computer Writes a Novel."

Even novel writing contests are embracing AI. Fana pointed to the annual National Novel Generation Month challenge as an example of how AI pushes the boundaries of writing. All the contest submissions are procedurally generated narratives composed by computers. 

"Contests like these allow us to contemplate such things as human authors as simultaneous readers; readers as authors (where each reader generates their own textual performance), as well as other combinations of readers, authors, and texts," he added. "All sorts of new possibilities are being explored."

Shoham said authors don't need to be concerned about being replaced with the software, but they should become familiar with AI writing technology. He added, "As the saying goes, AI won't replace writers, but writers who use AI will replace writers who don't."

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