AI-bots vs human writers: Who reigns supreme? | Sunday Observer
Artificial Intelligence strengthens itself against Human Intelligence

AI-bots vs human writers: Who reigns supreme?

20 November, 2022

The digital sphere has been going through a stormy phase for quite some time now. As the industry becomes more globalised and sophisticated, the number of options available to consumers has multiplied exponentially. There is now a plethora of platforms to entertain, discuss and consume content from. In fact, it will be challenging for anyone to still keep track of what’s happening with all these new entities over there. Nobody can exactly date the genesis of this digital revolution we are savouring right now.

It was not so long ago that we familiarised ourselves with the expert concerns over traditional professions that would go off the rail in the wake of the digital revolution. Writing has been one such traditional profession. Writers have been in the profession ever since civilisation had the aha moment with letters (since the 1440s when Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press up to this age when Amazon has kindled our reading practice on their device).

But that civilisation took a crossroads as the keyboard gradually took over from the pencraft and the screens replaced the print paper. And now the attention is shifting to the writer’s forte. It is the newest concern that has come to stay with us: would artificial intelligence writing tools replace human intelligence writing? Not really the newest, the worry has been in existence for some time. But it is taking more and more new shapes than it did in the days of yore.

Now with more and more digital tools introduced to the market, the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is strengthening. When Microsoft first had their proofreading tools in their word processor it paved the way for growing worries about human proofreaders losing their job. But it had a long way to go and could not yet properly shaken the proper proofreaders.

The word processor could not still differentiate between bear and bare, effect and affect to that effect. Over time, the word processor improved and was better at the task of differentiating between commonly confused words. Then came Grammarly where spellcheck was far more advanced than MS Word could ever think of. Its premium version even offers rewriting suggestions and word replacements. The advent of all these tools indicated one thing: writing is still a requirement no matter how technologically superior we claim to be or we are.

Beyond MS Word and Grammarly

The world has moved far ahead since the introduction of MS word and Grammarly. It has produced quite a few copy/content writing tools. It is now simply a matter of keying in the keywords and the essential terms and the tool will do the job of writing a whole script for you – whether it is a product description, blog post, website article or whatever. With this being the case, the discussion has taken on some gravity.

Will AI replace real human writers?

Let me digress a bit.

Before writing this article, I WhatsApped a single-sentence question to Daya Dissanayake: “Do you think AI can replace human writers?” I have my reasons to single out Dissanayake of all my writer friends. Dissanayake had the gumption to publish the first e-novel in Asia. Since then, my senior writer friend has published e-novels in both English and Sinhala. The fact that he is an award-winning author is secondary. The fact that he was an e-author when the rest of us were dangling with the computer only for print purposes is a primary factor.

And here came the response: “Some day yes, but it will be controlled by business and/or politics, just as with human writers.”

My second question was to follow: “What do you think about that novel writing app?”

I was referring to a particular novel-generating AI app which has now escaped my memory. Now you can come across a dozen of apps to generate any novel you fancy.

“Even a monkey could write with an app,” came the response, with a link directing me to the ‘infinite monkey theorem’.

I went on to read the first description, which was interesting:

“The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type any given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. In fact, the monkey would almost surely type every possible finite text an infinite number of times. However, the probability that monkeys filling the entire observable universe would type a single complete work, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time hundreds of thousands of orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe is extremely low (but technically not zero). The theorem can be generalized to state that any sequence of events which has a non-zero probability of happening will almost certainly eventually occur, given enough time.”

This digression about my correspondence with Dissanayake was to make myself comfortable to return to the subject at hand.

Ori Goshen, the Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer at AI21 Labs, in his article titled ‘Why AI Will Assist Rather Than Replace Writers’, extracts this quote from ‘Forbes’:

“AI is not going to replace writers anytime soon. But the future might be closer than you think.”

Before we come to the paradoxical context dealt with in this quote, let us talk about AI a bit further. Who on earth is this AI writer? AI writers are like robotic writers. They can create content for your website or social media page, a blog post, or even a full blog post. It can create marketing copy, landing pages, and other content based on what you need. You simply input the information and let the AI generate the text you want.

AI tool disclaimer

Interestingly, most copywriting AI tools have a disclaimer. In between their catchy and luring taglines, they emphasise that they are not meant to replace the writers. They can simply minimise the writer’s task, period! As Goshen observes, these tools assist the writer. Further down in his article Goshen makes an even more interesting find: the writers who use AI would more probably replace their counterparts who don’t. Now that makes some sense rather than that outright conclusion that AI would replace human intelligence one day.

AI represents machine learning. The machine depends on data. Data, of course, have to be fed by humans. The humans feed data, and the machine learns and outputs them. But the analysis and implementation must undergo human supervision. It is quite common among content writers whose business is to generate SEO-friendly content to rely on copywriting tools to generate entire copies. Yet, they cannot just key in some technical word or a few more words and chill. No, the machine is not that superior yet.

Nor would it be in future. Will it be superior to a level that it can replace humans one day so that humans can rest, jobless? As Goshen and a few other authorities specialising in AI systems point out, such an outcome is possible but with limitations. We need AI, but we cannot entrust the task fully to them.

There is no doubt that AI can help us enhance our content generation and increase the quality of articles. One thing we can be sure about, however, is that humans are still on top of the game when it comes to creative content. The biggest reason why we cannot entrust AI completely with our content management is that there will likely be errors in writing some sentences or paragraphs eventually. Machines may learn from human knowledge or experiences but they don’t have the same capabilities as humans. To produce high-quality writing, people are needed to write the content with utmost care and precision in order to ensure that everything is consistent with one another. The machine won’t still be able to differentiate the contextual meaning between ‘rinse with water’ and ‘rise with water’. Both are correct but heavily dependent on the context; one formal, the other, figurative.

Most interestingly, AI techniques enable writers to write better articles. Writers have been using this technique for some time now, but it is even more popular these days and most people are aware of its power and capability. If you have reviewed similar articles written by different writers across the web, you’ll see that they are quite similar. This happens because they use the same tools such as copywriting instruments that help them improve their writing skills in order to achieve better results.

Blend of AI and human writers

Writing any copy could be a tough job. It needs expertise, planning, and a lot of time to write. But the truth is that millions of content pieces are generated every year but very few are read by internet users. That is why content writing today is an issue for businesses and websites across the world. Most people require content that not only converts well but also attracts more and more traffic to their website. To achieve this, you need to attract search engine crawlers, drive traffic from other websites or social media platforms, convert visitors into customers as well as keep them on your site for longer. With all these factors in mind, businesses must take care of their blogs and website posts to ensure that they deliver positive results for themselves.

That is where AI writer fits in.

As I have already mentioned above, AI copywriters are terrible at understanding context or flow. They may seem to start with a good sentence but will follow the same pattern and end up rambling on about something entirely different. Human intervention is needed to help them see their way clearly again.

Now to the most important question: will AI replace the writers? There is a general feeling that AI will not replace most creative writers. At least not for a very long time. AI can help with certain writing tasks. Editing, SEO copywriting research, headline testing, product descriptions etc. But AI writers are not likely to be good at rule-bending writing or inspirational writing any time soon. The rules are far too nuanced for current AI copywriters to understand.

What AI writers will do is confined to reducing the time needed to research and plan out content. It is also a good assistant offering a helping hand with developing a small brainwave into a lengthy copy. AI tools have improved to the point where they can generate useful—though not fantastic—writing. Add in some human editing, and you have a useful (if not outstanding) content marketing asset.

AI copywriters are here to stay with us. Let the writers exult in its comfort and convenience. Yet let us not fail to remember the inevitable bottomline: human precision is still a very much involved factor.