The age of automation is here, a paradigm shift that also applies to writers. What to do?
As you probably know, the 21st of October this year marked the date when Marty McFly traveled to "the future" in Back to the Future Part II. The Internet seemingly overflowed with articles analyzing which of the movie's predictions had or hadn't been realized. Far from hover boards and whatnot, there's an imminent change just waiting to happen. Actually, it already has. I'm talking about automation.
You might've heard about the impact that advanced machines will have on the job market, whether it comes to transportation (such as driverless cars) or healthcare. It's not a matter of "if," but "when". We have to adapt to what might be one of the largest paradigm shifts since the industrial revolution. And this also applies to writers.
A while ago, I read this great article by Copyblogger's Demian Farnworth. Machines that write articles is already happening, and has been happening for quite some time. Demian details what kind of articles machines write, such as financial reports, product reviews and sport referrals.
Though this may seem like an unsettling and worrisome development, Demian points out that there's no cause for alarm – at least not if we know how to tackle and adapt to the situation. He writes that:
"A machine can’t report on the aftermath of a devastating hurricane, interview eye witnesses or experts, or live blog a conference (which involves decisions about what is meaningful and what is not meaningful). That takes brains on the ground. […] Machines can’t create a genre or writing style like gonzo journalism. They can only execute within a formula — a formula created by humans."
The important thing here is that machines are only able to operate within a formula created by humans, leaving work that requires decision-making and dealing with abstract ideas to us. There are certain things that machines aren't able to carry out – yet.
Is it just a matter of time before we develop the technology into something out of our control, or will we avoid radical changes as long as we keep artificial intelligence in check?
I think that the alarmists among us will object to these changes, while some might want to embrace technology and push the boundaries. Stephen Hawking has claimed that AI might become a threat to humanity if we're not mindful. I don't see us creating Skynet in the foreseeable future, but we'll be wise to take heed when we enter the exciting, yet unexplored, realms of tomorrow.