We’ve all heard about the onslaught of AI-written content on things like student essays and blog articles. But what about more complex writing, like technical documents, or creative writing like poetry? With the breakneck pace of AI developments, writers, authors and researchers alike have seen both the beneficial and harmful sides of this new technology. Here are some of the many impacts that AI writers have left on these fields, as well as a look at what may be to come.
Building on Human Creativity
AI writers are excellent for brainstorming new ideas. As a writer, you can pick the AI’s brain for potential story, poem or other types of writing and enjoy the strange and wonderful output that your digital muse creates. Although not every piece of generated text is going to be jaw-droppingly amazing, they’re still great for offering a new angle, an interesting perspective or for breaking through writer’s block.
“I’m Not Much of a Writer…”
How many times have friends or family confided that they’re “not much of a writer” as they share with you a short story or a piece they wrote? AI writers can help level the playing field in this regard. Now, even non-writers can leverage AI to come up with some creative ideas. Even students for whom English is their second language, or those who struggle with writing can input a sentence into AI and have it reorganize a simple thought into a more complex, flowery and unique result.
In addition to helping non-native English speakers, AI also works the other way as well, helping English speakers translate their works into other languages, further breaking down international barriers and borders so that their creative content can be enjoyed by more people around the world.
As with any far-reaching tool like AI, there are inevitably ethical considerations that need to be kept in mind. Since AI writers can create coherent content so quickly, how original is that content? Remember, the AI doesn’t specifically “understand” what it’s writing. It has just analyzed human-written texts to the point where it can guess the next word in the sequence and identify patterns.
With that in mind, is it really plagiarism if AI writes it? There is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and it’s likely a debate that writers, copyright lawyers and ethics professionals will be mulling over for quite some time.
Beyond concerns about plagiarism, there’s also the economic impact of AI writing. As the technology continues to develop and more and more high quality content is produced, there’s the very real concern that human writers will get slowly relegated to the sidelines. This is particularly evident among SEO and marketing companies that are focused heavily on quantity over quality and one’s ability to churn out thousand-word articles on every conceivable topic and sub-niche under the sun is what is valued most.
Can an AI Writer Feel?
Because AI looks for patterns and uses tools like natural language processing to create human-like stories it’s easy to think that the AI might actually understand emotion. Human-written content is rife with depth, nuance, subtlety and cultural awareness. Artificial intelligence writing has none of this, despite its attempts to try and replicate it. That concept in and of itself has opened a real can of worms in terms of what “storytelling” really means and how we define it.
What Might the Future Look Like for Creative Writers?
As AI writing becomes more and more commonplace in workplaces around the country and around the world, it’s becoming more and more likely that it won’t be writers, authors and researchers versus AI, but rather writers, authors and researchers working in tandem to AI. It’s not meant to be taken as a utopia or a dystopia but rather a complex evolution of the writing landscape.
Obviously there are very real and present concerns about the authenticity and originality of content, but there’s also the promise of the democratization, collaboration and expansion of how content is told, shared and learned from. Because AI can’t make its own rules, it’s up to us to determine how to regulate and integrate it.
What About Technical Writing?
Technical writing on the surface is an area where AI can quickly outpace its human counterparts. Rooted in user-centric clarity and precision, AI’s influence has been deeply felt in the industry. But at the same time, like with creative writing, there are still areas where a human touch is needed. Here are a few of the areas where AI has made the biggest impact on technical writing.
Automated Content Generation
With technical writing, particularly hardware and software programs, documentation needs to be updated frequently to be accurate and easy to use for the end-user. AI writers that are integrated into the development environments for these programs and tools can differentiate between new features and create documentation that’s more precise in real-time.
Standardization and Consistency
Beyond keeping documentation up-to-date, AI writers can also keep information structured and consistent by adhering to a specific standard. This gives users a sense of knowing what to expect each time they upgrade or repurchase an item.
AI enables for more customizable content. For example, a beginner learning a specific software program might need a more detailed illustrated guide, whereas a veteran would opt for less step-by-step guidance and more advanced tips.
The Drawbacks of Using AI Writers for Technical Writing
The ability to rapidly create content to scale, minimize overhead and create information more efficiently in a way that’s standardized and personalized offers a number of benefits. However, these benefits come at a loss of human oversight. AI writing can’t replicate the nuances and subtle differences in language that reflect the human experience.
For example, let’s say you were in charge of writing the documentation for a smart refrigerator. An AI might write something like:
“"The smart refrigerator is equipped with an advanced temperature control system. To adjust the temperature, navigate to the 'Settings' panel on the fridge's touchscreen interface and input your desired temperature."
However, a more human-version would be more customer-centric and aligned with their preferences and expectations, such as this:
"We understand that maintaining the freshness of your produce is crucial. Based on feedback from several users like yourself, we've found that vegetables like lettuce and spinach thrive at slightly cooler temperatures, while fruits like bananas and apples prefer slightly warmer settings. To cater to this, navigate to the 'Settings' panel on the fridge's touchscreen interface. Here, you can not only set your desired temperature but also find recommended settings for different produce types."
You can see how the human-written content taps into the shared wishes of any customer wanting to keep their fruits and vegetables in top notch condition, a feeling that AI cannot accurately replicate without considerable prompting and direction. .
What Might the Future Look Like for Technical Writers?
AI needs time and training to understand specific industries and the terminology they use, so it won’t be gunning for your job right away. In addition, depending on the type of product or service being sold, it will take time to integrate an AI within a specific development environment so that it can learn accordingly.
Humans are still needed though, to verify and fact-check what the AI puts out, as well as refine the content. This can be a good thing though, as it lets the technical writer “humanize” the content to be more helpful to the end user while giving them the opportunity to delve into even more detailed or specific areas.
In short, there are some areas in technical writing that AI simply isn’t equipped for, and won’t be for a while. That being said, the technical writing landscape, just like with creative writing, is in the midst of an evolution. In the end, it’s up to us to determine how much we truly value originality in writing, and ensure that the things that make our content uniquely human aren’t lost in the waves of agile adaptation.