The depictions of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that once prompted fanciful imaginings of robots and digital life in science fiction have now manifested in real possibilities. Their first iterations are entering mainstream accessibility: ChatGPT and other AI-powered tools have burst onto the scene and caused a stir across tech, corporate, education, and government communities. Their capabilities are quickly advancing, and no one knows just how far-reaching their uses might become.
Could AI mean the end of white collar workforces? Could AI software and machines replace all of us?
While these questions have whipped up a bit of a media frenzy, we don’t need to panic just yet. AI will arguably never be able to fully replace human ingenuity and creativity. Though philosophical and esoteric discussions about AI will continue to provide interesting fodder for the foreseeable future, more practical questions surrounding its applications in today’s economies deserve some attention.
One such question is how ChatGPT (and similar AI applications) will likely interact with writing careers in the near future.
What is ChatGPT?
The writing career landscape stretches across multiple industries, from corporate settings to journalism to academia. Digital advancements have formatively changed the professional writing world over the last 50 years and have upended many of the industry’s age-old assumptions and processes. And with the evolution of AI, more adaptation will be needed.
ChatGPT is an AI software tool — a “chatbot” — that is currently accessible online. It functions like a message thread you might find in any version of social media. You can enter questions or statements in a text box, and the software responds as if you are chatting with a human over a messaging platform.
ChatGPT has thus far proven itself to be highly capable. Over 100 million users have accessed the platform as of January 2023, and individuals have prompted ChatGPT to do everything from providing historical facts, to rewriting passages of text, to composing poetry, to producing academic essays on specific subjects. Because of its wide scope and impressive capabilities, the power of ChatGPT has quickly been harnessed to produce everything from benign to unethical creations.
It’s fun and games when someone asks an AI tool to write a new piece of music, but students using ChatGPT to write their college papers for them has understandably instigated a frenzy of concern.
How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Software Might Change the Game for Writers
Because the software is so new, many of its uses and capabilities are still being explored and tested. The industry is creaking and shifting a little bit as it tries to understand what this new unknown quantity might present. Professional writers are sharing on social media or in news releases how ChatGPT has allowed them to dictate their pieces or, even more groundbreakingly, feed ChatGPT a rough outline or draft and have it produce a polished work.
Many who are a bit more skeptical about ChatGPT’s quality or proficiencies raise their eyebrows at the thought of turning over a writer’s work to a piece of software. However, it is quite likely that the way ChatGPT enables different workflows and, in some cases, huge amounts of saved time will shift how the entire industry operates.
However – Writers Don’t Need to Panic Yet
There are plenty of pessimistic ideas and theories floating around about how writers will quickly be ousted out of their jobs by artificial intelligence. However, these can be quite far-reaching. Being able to perform writing functions — to string English words together in a grammatically correct, legible way — is not the hardest part of writing.
The elements of writing that good (human) writers do very well include having original and creative ideas; understanding the nuances and ethicalities of what they communicate; and applying the principles of storytelling, drama, and narrative to the pieces they create.
The distance between those two distinct parts of the writing process is incredibly wide. AI softwares can quickly and efficiently perform rote writing tasks, for instance transforming an outline into full sentences. In fact, they can often complete these functions as well as or better than their human counterparts. However, though ChatGPT has proven that AI can perform certain synthesizing tasks that appear to be “creative” (like when someone asks it to write a poem), the software is drawing from language patterns and examples of similar creative works to provide an algorithmic compilation.
AI softwares are not capable of “original thought” in the way that humans are. Human writers possess skills that will not quickly be replicable by AI tools.
Tips for Keeping Sharp (and Competing with the AI Chatbots) in Your Writing Career
Though AI won’t replace human originality and writing skill, it will probably change some of the dynamics of the writing industry. It is important to be aware of this as a writer or prospective writing professional. It’s important for writers to understand this new dynamic in the industry and make sure they are prepared to weather whatever turbulence it causes as everyone figures out what AI can be best used to do. Here are some ways to safeguard your career and better navigate the evolution of AI:
Your biggest asset is your cognitive skill set: AI may eventually replace some of the rote writing roles that don’t require much creative thought to do. Therefore, your biggest value as a human writer is, and will continue to be, your own innovative and creative thinking. There are a number of strategies available to improve your cognition and thinking skills. These are a good idea to implement in your normal routines. They’ll help you improve your quality and value as a writer.
Explore how AI tools can help you: As a writer, you may benefit from investigating how AI platforms can expedite your turnaround times or help you take some of the drudgery out of your writing. These advantages can keep you competitive.
Don’t panic: Your writing career won’t be stolen away by AI tools. Focus on creating high-quality, emotionally provocative, appealing content. That won’t go out of style.