Artificial intelligence (AI) is suddenly everywhere in my professional writing life. I remain unsure if that’s a good thing or not. My goal is to never reference myself as an AI expert, much less an AI enthusiast, in my LinkedIn headline.
AI will help and hurt workers and organizations regarding content creation and writing. Tools such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid are already assisting commercial writers in improving their work. AI as an editor is a big help to solo writers who don’t have ready access to an editor or even a proofreader to review their work. Editors on staff went out years before AI became an option.
Since the holidays, I’ve tried AI tools, including ChatGPT, Writer, Notion AI, and others. As an early adopter, I see how the tools work for me. I’ve had success using ChatGPT to create Twitter streams. My experience writing blog posts using AI seems consistent with other accounts I’ve read. The drafts would require extensive edits and fact-checking and seemingly lacked detail. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the tools won’t improve. I noticed slight improvements over the months I was trialing these tools to know that the gap will close dramatically with human writers in a few years. Entry-level technical writers and journalists would feel it first. I’m sure some already are.
There’s much pragmatism out there in the writing community. Part of me understands it. I keep reading variations of the following quote on LinkedIn and social media:
AI won’t replace you as a writer. A writer using AI will replace you as a writer.
I’m a bit more skeptical of Generative AI and the future of writing. I would rewrite the quote this way.
AI won’t replace you as a writer. A short-sighted manager with AI will replace you as a writer.
There’s too much temptation with AI for a short-sighted manager or executive to cut writer headcount by substituting AI. Take, for example, HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) cultures. For instance, VPs and directors fighting for participation trophies and clawing at corporate relevance already try to involve themselves too much in content creation to satisfy their selfish me vs. we thought leadership. They lack the technical and industry knowledge to contribute to technical content but usually win by throwing around their titles. Unfortunately, too often, the Western culture sees people who keep talking and talking as smart, even if they’re saying nothing. For years, writers in these corporate environments have had to put up with micromanagement and unnecessary changes to content so these managers could show their relevance. The situation usually compounds itself because quality content often isn’t valued in their organizations.
Generative AI in the hands of such toxic managers is what will replace writers. It’s not going to be just the technology. AI replacing writers will be too irresistible to a certain breed of short-thinking toxic managers.
I do see the benefits of Generative AI. Don’t get me wrong. However, like many things in corporate America, bad managers will be the ones who hurt Generative AI adoption.
Will Kelly is a writer and keen observer of the IT industry. Medium is his personal publishing platform. He has worked as a technical writer, technical marketing manager, product marketer, and freelance technology writer. Will has written about the cloud, DevOps, and enterprise mobility, most recently for TechTarget. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.