Why AI won’t replace writers in the future

The pivot to digital is shaping and influencing how people consume information and companies are responding accordingly

Close-up portrait of a man's hands working on computer. A busy workplace. (iStockphoto.com)
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Writing is the foundation of communication. Not too long ago, we hand-wrote messages to friends, wrote our homework for school, our to-do lists on paper and announced our personal news the same way.

Though we may not use a pen or paper as we once did, we communicate today by typing, be it messages to friends, posts on social media, preparing a PowerPoint presentation, messaging on our phones or laptops. Written communication remains a huge part of our everyday life.

How we communicate in writing has evolved. It went from us using tools such as pens and pencils, to laptops, evolved to speech to text software, and the use of voice notes. In the advent of the digital age, we increasingly hear about the prospect of how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be take over; and how it is already impacting some industries.

AI will replace 16 per cent of jobs in the US by 2025, according to the projections of Forrester, a research company that analyses technology trends and their impact. About 60 per cent of Wall Street trades are conducted by AI with as little to no supervision from humans, according to American author Christopher Steiner in his book Automate This. This may sound alarming to some but a few years ago a Japanese AI Program wrote a short novel called The Day A Computer Writes A Novel which almost won a literary prize.

As a social media user I switch from reading short text on Twitter, to watching videos and photo dominant content on Instagram, to short clips on SnapChat. The most desirable of these platforms, especially for millennials, are videos. Marketers favour that visual medium of communication to reach their audience especially on social media. As a result, more businesses ask for video-heavy marketing campaigns to reach their target audience. The pivot to visual consumption of information, underpins the shift in strategy by media publications that today rely on video, and animated text clips to share information on social media to appeal to younger audiences.

The role, if one can use that term, of a traditional writer or a content creator has changed. Writers now have to look for ways to make text appealing and palatable on an animated video. They need to explore how to produce bite-size information, how to catch a reader’s attention within seven seconds, and how to compete with AI.

We watch more Netflix and probably read fewer books today. Many predict book stores will cease to exist in a few years. Audio books have caught on leading some to ask who has time to read? Blinkist is an app and a mobile-learning company that summarises key points from non-fiction books in 15 minutes or less with an option of reading or listening to the summary.

The creative communication space will continue to evolve. We will never go back to how things used to be. Humans will learn to adapt as they did with computers in 1980s, and with mobile phones in the 1990s. Many users use Instagram to blog in the form of text under the photos posted. Marketers know that adding subtitles to videos is crucial as many watch videos with no sound, and the number of writers on platforms such as medium is increasing.

Though AI will aid in collecting and analysing data, and possibly create non-fiction articles, and possibly novels, I believe that it cannot fully replace genuine, unique emotions or create thought-provoking opinion and subjective pieces. And though video consumption continues to grow, we will always need written work.

Fiction stories and opinion articles are made for the written word even though they have been adapted to different forms.

Written work is the basis for those other forms of channels. With ground-breaking AI technologies, there are certain emotions that I believe are best conveyed through writing, which can never be fully translated as they are by a human.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.