You can hardly have missed the debate about recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI). It’s been described as everything from the next major leap forward in human culture to potentially the end of the human race.
However, much of the debate has actually been more to do with the moral and legal implications of AI use, as well as issues around the quality of what’s produced. This has ranged from artwork to music, and even reproducing both the image and voice of actors, but of course the part of the debate that’s concerned me most revolves around AI used for producing written content.
The best-known writing AI is ChatGPT, but both Google and Microsoft have moved quickly to claim a share of the market, and no doubt more will join in the race. So what are the pros and cons of writing AI?
What Are the Advantages of Writing AI?
The obvious plus for using AI to write is the time and effort it saves. Just like time-saving devices through the ages, it gives you back time to do the things you’d rather be spending your time on — like growing your business, for instance.
You may not see that much time saved initially, though, because the current writing AI technology involves a steep learning curve — on both sides. The quality of what you get out of the AI depends heavily on the accuracy of your input, while you also need to “train” the AI to understand what you want. However, the time saving will definitely come as you get used to the process.
It’s no accident that most of the current writing AIs are closely connected with the major search engines. This is because they work by searching the internet and assembling the information required into text, written in the style you specify.
What Are the Disadvantages of Writing AI?
The advantages of writing AI might seem too good to be true — and, in some ways, they are. While AI can do a great deal, there are still many crucial doubts about it.
Although it’s a strength of writing AI that it trawls the internet for information, it’s only as good as what’s available. And, as we know, not all information on the internet is to be trusted. An individual researching can judge whether one website is more reliable than another (for example, is it an academic site or a trustworthy news source?) or get a consensus. So far, AIs aren’t great at these processes, although it’s likely that they’ll improve in the future.
More disturbingly, a recent incident involved a legal team using ChatGPT to prepare a case. Unable to find any precedents to cite, the AI simply invented them, with the result that the lawyers are now facing disbarment. No doubt OpenAI, the developers of ChatGPT, are working on a fix for this, but there may still be similar bugs.
2. Plagiarism Issues
Issues have been raised in relation to AI in general about the risks of plagiarism and copyright violations. For example, music tracks have appeared that sound exactly like well-known artists.
In terms of business writing, the potential problems seem to be more related to how much or little the AI paraphrases the source material. A good copywriter will extract the relevant information from research and then write unique copy, but the jury still seems to be out over the extent to which ChatGPT and its competitors will avoid using the same wording as the source.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to using writing AI is that the “voice” comes over as rather… well, mechanical. It tends to produce sentences of the same length and without much variation in tone. Put simply, it’s not very exciting.
That’s not to say it can’t vary its tone, according to your instructions. However, it can’t capture a unique voice (whether the writer’s own or one they’re recreating), and it can’t generate the passion and excitement through writing that the best copywriters can.
At least, they can’t do any of this yet. Maybe one day they will be able to do some or all of it — and that will be the day for another conversion.
What Is Writing AI Good For?
I can see two main areas where I could certainly find a use for writing AI. One is for generating very factual content — “how to” guides, for instance, or product descriptions. Though the driest product description also needs some emotional content to secure the sale.
The other is the research aspect. At present, I research the facts of a topic by googling it and skim-reading the top half-dozen articles to get a consensus, or else picking prestigious websites. I can certainly see the benefits of having one summary piece to read, generated within seconds, that would do the same job.
And then, just as I do at the moment, I’d write a completely different version, organised and expressed to bring out the humanity, individuality and passion. It takes a human to do that.
Of course, maybe we’ll eventually get to the point where an AI can duplicate all of this — but I hope not. Machines are great tools but bad masters, and when we start handing over our humanity to AIs, we could well be on the path to living in a Matrix.