Computers have come for the wordsmiths. Randy Ginsburg gives the inside view on how writers, content marketers, and AI writing founders view the AI boom, and where they think the industry is going next.
Artificial intelligence is transforming creativity as we know it. Writing is no exception. Cutting-edge software and large language models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and Meta’s LLaMa model, are already showcasing AI’s remarkable ability to analyse data, identify patterns, and produce human-like written content. In a few short years, these programmes have taken writing to new heights, leaving many to wonder how AI will impact the future livelihoods of writers, journalists, and marketers across the globe.
AI writing generators are called ‘tools’ for a reason. For those willing to use them, they can aid writers in a variety of ways. One writer who has embraced their utility is my fellow Culture3 writer Nina Knaack, who encourages writers to use the software to improve their craft, enhance their productivity, and cross language barriers.
“Workflows will be smoother and faster, for sure. If you’re stuck, you can start a chat with the AI, to see if it has any suggestions. Because of that, you can produce more pieces and have more time for leisure,” Nina says, who has also found that AI tools can help her write more like a native in languages that are not her native tongue. “As a writer, I’d love to read more. If you want to generate more income, you can also take on more jobs. It’s just a win-win.”
Jason Kuperberg, Co-Founder of the AI writing tool Otherside AI, echoes a similar sentiment. In a fast-paced industry where writers must produce high-quality content under tight deadlines, delegating tedious tasks to AI can help writers delve deeper into what they are uniquely good at: writing great content.
“AI will take over many routine tasks in content production, such as summarisation, fact-checking, editing, and formatting,” he says, emphasising that “this will allow writers and journalists to focus on the more creative, analytical, and strategic aspects of their work, such as finding original angles, developing compelling narratives, providing context and insight, and engaging with the readers.”
But every rose has its thorn. Despite the productivity gains, AI writing tools are far from perfect. In particular, AI-generated content can often take on a robotic tone, packed with filler words and inaccurate information. While the technology continues to evolve, some believe that much of the current excitement around AI writing is based more on hype than substance.
“Today’s models can’t do anything meaningful for good writing,” stresses Michael Keenan, Co-Founder of Peak Freelance, a freelance writing community. He says that, for writers with specific goals to hit, like marketing, even basic, top-of-funnel posts designed by AI still require a lot of human editing and manipulation.
“Right now, it feels like AI writing is still very generic, but I do see a strong future where companies can train an AI model on their past work to build a more focused, on-brand content marketing assistant trained on past content, company values, and style guides,” he says, alluding to how AI startups like Writer will rise to fill different writing niches. For example, their language model tool, Palmyra, offers “enterprise-grade generative AI” that can be fine-tuned with a brand’s own data and style guidelines.
Quality aside, AI-generated texts also present several ethical concerns. GPT-3, the model upon which many popular AI writing tools are built, is trained by massive sets of text data from multiple sources, raising important questions about ownership and copyright: does this infringe on the rights of content creators? Should writers have the right to opt out of having their work used to train AI writing tools?
OpenAI’s ChatGPT was banned in Italy by the nation’s privacy regulator, whilst musician Holly Herndon recently persuaded AI image company Stable Diffusion to exclude 80 million images, all created by artists who completed an opt-out from their training data.
“AI will take over many routine tasks in content production, such as summarisation, fact-checking, editing, and formatting.”
— Jason Kuperberg, Co-Founder, Otherside AI
Michael is less concerned. “People can also scrape anything they want off the Internet anyway,” he says. Nina shares the same conclusion, and is unfazed by the idea of her work being plagiarised. “I don’t think we should fight it,” she suggests. “AI comes with different outputs even if you give the same input. Even then, there’s still much to tweak and make it your own.”
GPT-3, which started today’s AI boom, was released as recently as 2020, and it took only two years to produce the wildly impressive GPT-4. It’s unclear just how far, nor how fast, AI can progress. But what is obvious is that it represents a paradigm shift that is here to stay.
“A good way for writers to future-proof themselves is to be aware of what the tools can do, build topical expertise, and come up with unique strategies that can help companies reach their goals,” Michael tells Culture3. “As we continue to pump out more generic garbage, scraped, plagiarised content, what will matter is experience. And Google is starting to reward that in the search rankings.”
“With AI being a part of our lives, we can all profit together as writers.”
— Nina Knaack, Writer, Culture3
How to do that, according to Jason, is human empathy and creativity. “Writers should focus on quality, originality, and meaning,” argues the Otherside AI Founder. “They should also use their human skills and values, such as storytelling, critical thinking, ethical judgement, empathy, and humour to connect with their audience on a deeper emotional and intellectual level.”
For content strategist Jason Levin, humour has been a defining factor throughout his career, and one which he hasn’t found threatened by the newfound proliferation of AI tools. “AI writing apps can’t do funny writing. They are terrible at humour and satire,” says the author. “I write funny tweets for startups’ social media accounts, sarcastic pieces for their blogs, and am currently writing a satirical book about memes. I feel as safe as ever — probably even safer than before the AI boom.”
The threat of writers being replaced by AI altogether seems far-fetched, suggests Nina. “With AI being a part of our lives, we can all profit together as writers. We live in such an individualistic world, but, this way, we at least all help each other. And the end goal should be the same for everyone: to provide beautiful prose that people enjoy reading.“
Driven by powerful models like ChatGPT, autonomous agents have recently emerged as AI’s next remarkable development. Randy Ginsburg explores their current applications, functionality, and future implications on society at large.
AI and other frontier technologies will help the world feed the world’s rapidly expanding population. But how will technology affect the 1 billion people who earn their livelihood as farmers? If AI can really feed the world, what is the right price to pay?
When a Harvard Senior Fellow told Mark Fielding that every university dean was a fan of the metaverse, he had to find out how they're using extended reality to reinvent university education. What he learnt was how classrooms without walls can transform the university experience.