My Short Career As a Writer Is Coming to an End I Fear

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Robots, Artificial Intelligence, and Computers are taking over the world. We all know this to be true, and eventually it is going to happen. We’ve even been told resistance is futile. Well, I somewhat agree, and being up on all this stuff gives me a little bit more insight than the average Wifi’er Starbuck’s Groupie, or SmartPhone App’er. Let me tell you what I am witnessing.

First off, it appears to me that as a hobbyist writer, I can see I am no longer needed anymore. Why you ask? Well, it’s simple, AI computers are taking the ball from here, and they are already running down the field with it, a few more defenders are all they need to break through on their way to that goal-line.

There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently titled; “In Case You Wondered, A Real Human Wrote This Column,” by Steve Lohr, published on September 10, 2011. Here is what they had to say about AI writing software, and the state of this technology:

“The quality of the narrative produced was quite good,” as if written by a human, if not an accomplished wordsmith. Narrative Science Corp noted a larger trend in computing of “increasing sophistication in automatic language understanding &, now, language generation. This raises the broader issue of whether such applications of AI will mainly assist human workers or replace them. Technology is already undermining the economics of traditional journalism. Online advertising, while on the rise, has not offset the decline in print advertising. But will “robot journalists” replace flesh-and-blood journalists in newsrooms?”

Okay so, the writing is on the wall, or rather in the software, no humans need apply. Basically, what this means to me is that we are in the fourth quarter, and the AI software systems are winning, formidable competitors, just a IBMs Artificial Intelligent “Watson” Supercomputer beat the top human “Jeopardy” players and the top world chess players got beaten by machines – human journalists and writers are next.

Most writers, which I never actually took as a title or claimed to be, are probably in denial right about now. “How can a computer compose fine works of literature, journalistic nirvana, or even make any sense to a reader – computers will never be able to do that,” yes, I can hear the writers pushing those keyboards or voice dictating into their word processors now, but rest assured that reality is coming, in fact, it’s already here. It’s time for the writers and authors of this world to start looking for a new career, or pony-up to compete against the machines, at least for now anyway.

Should we feel sorry for journalists or writers?

Well, yes, and no. No because they’ve really made it difficult for new folks to break into the field, and some, no not all, have abused their privileges in reporting or writing less than stellar stuff, but as human beings losing their jobs and careers go, yes, we should feel sorry for them, as they get replaced by the Replicants. We shouldn’t feel any sorrier for writers than any other human that has lost their job to a machine or robot, and perhaps, taking some of the more arrogant writers down a notch is a good thing.

Still, it is rather unfortunate, as everyone needs to make a living and provide for their families, and many writers don’t make all that much money anyway. We’ve all heard stories of the starving artistic writers, and lately the newspaper and magazine type journalistic writers have gone through lots of downsizing due to the abundance and deluge of Internet content, and the instantaneous nature of such information flows.

Does all this mean that we ought to dissuade our college bound kids from a degree in journalism? Well, yes, that thought also came to my mind, after all, if the number of jobs is causing massive layoffs for journalists, writers, and reporters it might make things nearly impossible for a new-comer even with a degree in literature, writing, or journalism to find relevant work. What about the online writing venue you ask? Well, if the information deluge from computer generated content is exponentially increasing, it will of course show up in the online venues first right.

One of most demoralizing findings for me has been watching my own writing being taken and run through poorly designed derivative software which switches around the sentences, uses synonyms, and then claims it as unique, even though it was basically stolen from me, violating common copyright law. To see such works posted online under someone else’s name, or posted to a no-name, no-contact, website is a little unnerving. Worse, the individual running such a website posts online advertisements and is making money of my work.

To add insult to injury, now we have news items online which take bits and pieces of other news articles, tweets, Facebook postings, etc. all in real-time, and then the AI software re-arranges the information into a who, what, when, where, how, why format. How do you know the article you are reading is real, the information is authentic, or that an actual human actually took the care to write it, verify the information, and check the sources? You don’t and thus, you just cannot trust it.

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