Take the Notepad, Take the Pencil, and Take the Keyboard, Just Don’t Touch My Coffee: The Future of Writing and Creative Contents in the Age of AIs
May. 29, 2023. 6 min. read.
Hruy Tsegaye examines the Age of AI: Writers, Chatbots, and the Future of Creativity. Controversies, pros and cons, and the necessity to adapt in an AI-dominated world.
When did the world enter the age of AI? Was it in 1956: through the gates of Dartmouth College? Was it in 1996: when IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov? Or was it in March 2023: when the world got scared of GPT-4 and started to pause or ban AI developments? We might even be in it since the beginning of time; despite its lack of falsifiability, the Simulation Hypothesis gives a 50% chance to the fancy idea that we live in an AI-simulated world.
What matters is not the ‘when’ but the ‘how’: how to live in the new age? A new age means lots of changes. Unfortunately, despite our claim to be a species that builds complex systems, handling changes is not our strong suit. Handling the truth isn’t either.
The AIs are coming, and they are coming strong! Many walks of life will be affected. For now, l will stick with the recent developments in the content-generating industry (writers, illustrators, designers etc.)
Recently, a Life Wire’s senior reporter quoted me in an article about generative AI. The reporter asked me to reflect on three questions (we’ll get to them), but unfortunately, only quoted one of my scenarios – the controversial one.
A couple of weeks later, I was contacted by another media outlet to comment on what people in creative professions should do to mitigate the impact of AI. AI is going to change their careers. Are there any steps they should take now to reduce the risks?
They don’t seem to have published my comment: perhaps it wasn’t controversial enough for today’s media trend.
Anyway, I am sharing my full comment here and hope to receive your outrage. What writer doesn’t love a little attention?
The reporter’s three questions were:
- Why are writers using chatbots to publish writing?
- What are the pros and cons for readers of this approach?
- Will AI supplant human writers?
Why are writers using chatbots to publish writing? Three explanations can answer the question. The first is the ‘laziness’ answer: “authors” use chatbots as a shortcut to avoid work. Explanation two is about recent breakthroughs in the field of AI, which have brought very powerful and reliable chatbots that can generate content with human-like quality. Explanation number three is controversial: the grimmer possibility is that writing standards are decreasing as readers’ attention spans get shorter and video becomes more prevalent. Even the writing in recent TV and movies sucks; a semi-intelligent ape can write a better script while fighting a lion, so sue me!
What are the pros and cons for readers of AIs generating content?: If the cause is lazy writers, there are no pros – it’s cons all the way down to the last tortoise! Readers are getting information that is created with slapdash research, shallow at best, and misleading at worst.
If it’s scenario number two (chatbots with human-like quality), then the cons are temporary: readers will put up with a lack of depth, intuition, and the human touch that can stir their souls until the technology moves beyond the current era. On the other hand, the pros in the same short period will mainly be the speed of information generation. The readers can and will get content quickly.
During this period, the world should consider adding two key features for chatbots or content-generating AIs. 1) Transparency markers that will clearly identify the content as generated by AI, and 2) reputation markers which can enable the readers to teach and reshape the AIs. Perhaps, Let me add a bonus and say, 3) let the readers control their recommendation parameters and own the content ranking model.
The long-term pros will be accuracy, breadth, detail, and impartiality, as the chatbots learn to accurately digest and process facts before sharing their content.
If the case is scenario number three (readers are lowering their standards), there are no pros and cons; these will lead us into uncharted territory and might fundamentally change the nature of writing.
Will AI supplant human writers? Again, the answer depends on the scenarios. If the writers are getting lazy, AI will supplant humans. If the chatbots are getting better (better here means true AI that understands the concept), there is a reasonable ground to say yes, AI will replace human writers. If readers are getting dumber, we will get to a point where we can’t comprehend the difference because we are too ignorant to identify good writing from bad. If that is the case, asking, “Which is better?” will be out of the question.
Another possibility is that we might end up in a world where we can’t even compare the two (human vs AI writers). Why? Well, it is all about culture and the collective psyche: what is a great writer? One who creates a culture and a trend! If AI can find its way and create a different and unique culture and attitude (hopefully a generally good one), we will have no reason to not go with the new flow.
What about the other question: what should people involved in creative professions do to mitigate the impact of AI? Ah, where is this damn GPT-4? I am getting tired, and why can’t it fill this in for me? Do you guys know the owners of ChatGPT, in their absolute wisdom, have made sure the majority of Africans are blocked from all and every access to their troublemaker Chat GPT-4? Yep, we can’t access it. If I tell you what their platform tells us when we try to access it via an African IP address, I will have to clean my keyboard. It is dirty!
So what can creative people do, especially the novice ones that are starting their creative careers? I am so tempted to say ‘pray’! Ironically, surrendering is the best defense: work with the new AIs! Start mastering the AI tools today. Creative professions are creative mixing. Learn and master mixing the AI with the human touch.
The future will see the rise of more powerful, and more human-like, AI tools that will undoubtedly match or even surpass humans’ output in creative professions. Moreover, access to these tools will be easier and more widespread: this will decrease the demand for jobs. Mass unemployment in the industry is an inevitable fate hidden in the light of progress!
Yet, on the plus side, when these tools become accessible to the average Joe like me, creative art will stagnate: a mediocre work will be the new masterpiece. Why is this a plus? After a coffee break, I am counting three reasons.
As the adage goes, Know thy enemy and know yourself. Those in creative professions today should begin working with AI tools to secure their positions in the future. It is futile to fight against the adoption of AI, and mastering these tools will enable real talented professionals to set the standards and maintain quality in their field, preventing creative stagnation and mediocrity. Yep, I am back after the coffee.
Soon or even sooner, AI will evolve into AGI. That is the game-over point: there will be no question of competing with them. However, during the transition, it is crucial to prepare for potential threats of mass unemployment, inequality, and other existential crises.
I will make the recommendation for the preparation in the transition period short. If you remember, I told you that you can’t handle the truth. Well, handle it before it handles you! Our current value system must go away: a system that creates financial inequality is a system that creates monsters! Our value system is poisoned: if the future AGI destroys you, the present me says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!