Prediction: A Dystopian Future with More Editors and Fewer Writers
How will content careers change as AI improves? The outlook isn't so good for creators, but a future with no writers isn't an inevitability.
'Will AI replace writers?' is the question on everyone's lips in the content world, and after seeing some of what GPT Plus can do—and playing with it myself—I'm starting to wonder. GPT-4 is worlds better than GPT 3.5, and regardless of how many petitions folks like Elon Musk send to OpenAI asking for a research pause, I expect GPT-5 is just months away.
This morning, I asked OpenAI's chatbot to write a 150-word description of a new fashion trend that I didn't name but described. It developed and waxed poetic about Glam Prairie, going so far as to build and name specific outfits created by the designer who pioneered the aesthetic—a designer I asked it to make up. If I wanted to, I could prompt Midjourney to put those outfits on models if I wanted to, and then ask another AI to generate ad copy.
What a world for content creators to be living in, am I right? Writers, specifically, are facing an uncertain future, and junior writers will probably be the first ones on the chopping block. What CEO is going to want to pay a junior writer's salary when they could pay a small monthly fee for some capable-enough AI content generator overseen by a single writer-turned-prompt-engineer?
Who Will Oversee the Prompt Engineers?
That's where editors come in. Note: Just a handful of editors. Probably not as many editors as there once were because, hey, Grammarly is also powered by AI. But still, someone needs to do the last round of copy cleaning and fact-checking because the prompt engineer will be busy prompt engineering.
Imagine a newsroom staffed by one harried prompt engineer tuning GPT Plus to rewrite breaking news at breakneck speeds and one frazzled editor trying to maintain some semblance of professional dignity. Or a marketing "department" of one copywriter whose only collaborators are the latest generation chatbot and Midjourney.
Once upon a time, I groused about the fact that free blogging platforms created a world in which everyone considered themselves a writer. Now I look back at those days and think, "How innocent we were!" In that landscape, there were still good writers and bad writers. Now there are robot writers that can mimic good writers in whatever style they're prompted to mimic. Write about Glam Prairie in the style of a Vogue editor… in the style of a New York Times reporter… in the style of a Sabado Gigante presenter… in the style of Chris Terry. You name it, AI can write it.
But Is Your Job REALLY at Risk?
Is the ugly picture I painted above the future of content careers? I can't say for certain, because it all comes down to the whims of the shareholders. Do they believe in people's creativity and nuance and discernment—all the things we've been told will never be replaced by AI? Or do they believe in the bottom line? I think we all know the answer to that.
Some analysts are predicting that close to 50% of jobs in the US could be automated by AI in the next 20 years. Other reports paint a more dire picture, with two-thirds of white-collar jobs succumbing to automation while more than 80% of jobs paying $20 or less per hour will go to AI. What it comes down to is that executives are SUPER excited about these tools—specifically, their potential to replace expensive human workers.
But what is so damn frustrating is that it actually doesn't have to be this way. If corporations and their shareholders would settle for profitability instead of continuous growth, we could probably all keep our jobs. Would our writing jobs and editing jobs change? Yes, but that's the norm in media and marketing, and we're used to it. Maybe, with AI, we can do what normally takes us 8 hours in 4 hours, so we bump up our productivity working a 5-hour day. Or a 3-day work week. Delivering the same value to the bossman—or more value! That means there's literally no reason beyond the rich wanting to get richer that AI has to cost us our jobs, but I think we all know how this story is going to end.
What You Can Do About AI Right Now
You want to keep your job? You want to be the writer who stays on the payroll or that lone human editor? Then LEARN TO WRITE PROMPTS FOR GPT PLUS. I know that stinks—you didn't get into writing to teach robots how to compose sonnets—but hold your nose and take it out for a spin. Pretend you're someone else if you have to. A mad scientist, maybe. Try to break GPT (or Bard or Bing or whatever AI content tool you're working with) to prove that humans are superior. Do whatever you have to do to feel comfortable learning to use the artificial intelligence tools out now and the artificial intelligence tools that are released tomorrow and the next day and the next day.
I put it like that because the rate at which developers are integrating OpenAI's tech into their products is astounding. Whenever I think about writing reviews of AI writing tools, I actually get a little overwhelmed because there are just so damn many of them at this point. A short list would include not only Writesonic and Jasper, but also Anyword, Ryty, Simplified, Notion, Peppertype.ai, Frase, Article Forge, Sudowrite, Quillbot, Hyperwrite AI, etc. The bottom line is there a lot of tools you need to learn to use before your boss hears about them.
Better get started.