At some point last year, I wrote about writing assisted by technology, but what happens when the technology is writing everything?
I read something recently on Forbes about AI starting to write content. Apparently, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and a few other online publications are using AI to write some of their content for them. Before you starting ringing the alarms bells and deciding nothing is safe from automation, take a deep breath and read on.
The trouble with the headline is it was written like this: “Artificial Intelligence Can Now Write Amazing Content.” That’s a big “yeah, right” from me. Science and tech journalism is never great, but this was one of the more overstated pieces I’ve seen in a while.
What the headline leaves out is that AI can currently write sports content, can compile financial reports, and can write local news stories. All of these follow a who, what, when kind of formula, so yeah, AI can easily write that stuff. The thing is that’s not “amazing content.” If anything, that’s the kind of content that gets churned out for no other purpose than to have content. It’s not written for thinkers, for readers, or for anyone really interested in learning anything new.
There’s nothing wrong with that kind of content, but let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a far cry from amazing. What really characterizes amazing content is not whether it can get the facts straight. That’s an important part of it, but amazing content is far more about the ideas that are presented and the effect they will have on the reader. To put it simply amazing content is content that reads like one person talking to another.
But that’s just my take on things, so let’s take a look at the actual amazing content that this kind of AI can supposedly write. AI-Writer.com lets you actually take their bot for a test drive, so I gave it the headline “how to write a good blog post” just to see what it came up with. Oh boy. Here we go.
The contours are very useful and probably your life story number 1 when you master how to write a good blog.
Here’s how to build trust and ultimately how to write a good blog.
To keep your efforts more consistent as you learn how to write a good blog, it is a great idea to create an editorial calendar.
Generally speaking, your job when creating a blog is to share information that no one else shares or information that people would like to pay for, but you give them for free.
And that’s not even the most egregious part. Nope, that goes to this one that formed the conclusion:
You can decide on your final title before writing the rest of your message ( and use your header to structure your outline ), or you can write your blog with a working title and see what fits when you’re done.
Writing headers for blog entries is an art as well as a science, and probably it justifies its own post, but for now all I would recommend is to experiment with what works for your audience.
So, you have done your research, set up a headline ( or at least a working title ), and now you are ready to write a blog.
Often, people simply don’t have the time, willingness or ability to concentrate on long blog entries without visual stimulation.
But if you need a little help to break the blank page or invent blogging topics, we have created a handy set of tools to make your creative juices flow.
Zero coherence, awkward phrasing, nothing connects. Sure, the sentences are grammatical, but there is SO much more than that to be an effective writer. Amazing? I don’t think so.
And the worst part of all of this is that the bot is really just scraping content from other sites. It’s pulling originally written content, and changing a few words here and there. I’m not sure how other AI writers work, but if that’s what all of them do, that sounds like plagiarism to me. Maybe that’s a philosophical question for another day, but it doesn’t seem right or ethical to me.
I said it the last time I wrote about robots trying (and failing) to write, and I will say it again. There will never be a tool, a hack, or an AI that will come along that will help you write better. Good content is just work, practice, and a person who’s put in the hours, and no AI is going to be better at content creation than a person.
But there’s another question waiting behind this one: why would you want the kind of content that an AI can churn out? Unfortunately, everything from major news publications to professional industries have this bad idea that content is an end in itself. It constantly needs to be there and constantly needs to be refreshed.
The result is tons and tons of mediocre content that serves the SEO bots on Google but doesn’t take into account the human being on the opposite end of the screen. That person (bless their heart) who is unfortunate to be on the receiving end of content for content’s sake is not having a good time and will probably leave with a negative impression—especially if they came across that content trying to answer a real question.
In general, I think you should put your reader’s needs above everything. Ann Hadley even calls this “relentless empathy” for a reader, and I honestly don’t know if there’s a better way to say it. The point is, AI can produce more content and it can constantly refresh a webpage, but that content will never rise above mediocrity. It can’t empathize with a reader, it can’t know what they need, and above all, it can’t care about any of that.
So no, Forbes, AI cannot write amazing content because amazing content shares complex ideas and connects to people. It can produce marginally readable content that no one wants to read. No one needs more of that around.