Are we likely to see computers writing the following Great American Novel?
Most likely not … at the least, not anytime soon.
Throughout the last decade or so, though, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is now increasingly sophisticated … and it's influencing the planet of writing in a number of interesting ways.
What is AI, a DefinitionAI is about machines learning and adapting. Instead of simply being programmed in minute detail with everything they need to know to complete a specific task, they're programmed with instructions that enable them to understand from their experience (just as people do).
There's no body standard definition of AI, but ZDnet suggests some common features:
AI systems will typically demonstrate at the least a number of the following behaviors connected with human intelligence: planning, learning, reasoning, problem solving, knowledge representation, perception, motion, and manipulation and, to an inferior extent, social intelligence and creativity.Listed below are six key ways by which AI is changing the facial skin of writing … and reading.
1: Translation from One Language to AnotherBefore, if you wanted to translate a verse of text from one language to a different – say from English to Spanish – you needed to locate an individual who spoke both languages.
10 years ago, you could utilize something like Google Translate, which essentially ran all the language via an English-Spanish (etc.) dictionary … with questionable and sometimes hilarious results.
In 2016 Google Translate had an important upgrade. Instead of translating word by word, it now translates more accurately by phrase or sentence – via an AI system. It even invented a unique language to help.
Writers could potentially use Google Translate to translate their whole book into another language for free. (Note: I'm not recommending you do this, if you don't have an indigenous translator arranged to complete some extensive editing!) As the technology develops further over time in the future, this might be great news for publishers and self-publishing authors … but worrying for professional translators.
2: Automatic Editing and ProofreadingYou're probably very acquainted with the red squiggly line in Microsoft Word (and other word processing programs) that marks spelling mistakes. There are lots of tools available, though, that can go far beyond helping you spot typos.
Software like Grammarly, for instance, uses AI to identify overly wordy phrases, vague language, instances of the passive voice, stylistic issues, and much more.
That is great news for writers, particularly non-native speakers, who might need an extra helping hand using what they're taking care of – whether it's a composition, a post, or just an essential email. It's potentially less great news for professional editors – but up to now, no tool is able to provide the big-picture substantive editing that the good editor can offer.
3: Checking for PlagiarismOne problem that universities and publishers deal with is the possibility of plagiarism. While an instant Google look for a few lines from a file can be adequate to identify egregious kinds of plagiarism, if your student or writer has changed, say, one in most five words, it is a lot tougher to spot.
When it comes to students'essays, they may be plagiarising from another student's (unpublished) work, rather than a published source. This could be easy to identify within one institution – however not if the student has borrowed, or even bought, a composition from a pal at another university.
You can find solutions out there, like Turnitin, that check submitted work against their vast database, flagging up cases when there's a match between the submitted work and existing sources.
But AI can also be increasingly being used in this area, having an AI bot called Emma Identity (reported on here by LifeHacker) being used to find out the authorship of an item of text. While this is essentially just a fun tool for the time being, it might eventually be properly used to combat plagiarism.
More worryingly, though, this type of technology could potentially be properly used to unmask authors writing under a pencil name, if they've also written under their own name – or even to uncover the authorship of anonymous posts on internet forums.
4: Searching Through Audio FilesAlthough more and more content has been manufactured in video and audio format in the last decade, YouTube channels and podcasts haven't diminished the quantity of text online.
One huge advantage to text has long been that it's searchable – and video and audio aren't. If you intend to learn a specific fact or dig into on a particular point of interest, text is the easiest medium to work with.
However, audio search has become a fact – through the energy of AI. Computers can increasingly decode sound – consider Siri, for example, or Alexa – and audio search takes this further. Apps already are available: Castbox.fm, for example, bills itself as “the internet search engine for spoken audio&rdquo ;.
What does this mean for writers? It's definitely not bad news. Newer kinds of text, like scripts for videos or outlines for podcasts, might become increasingly important. But as well as helping with audio search, AI could lead to better still dictation apps – potentially rendering it considerably faster to create written content, too.
5: Crafting Breaking News StoriesYou might be wondering by this aspect if AI can be utilized to truly write. Yes … but it's not planning to be producing works of literary wonder just yet.
Within the last couple of years, some breaking news stories have been written by AI, and there's a great account of that in Wired here, explaining that a particular story was created by AI:
The dispatch included the clarity and verve for which Post reporters are known, with one key difference: It absolutely was generated by Heliograf, a bot that made its debut on the Post's website a year ago and marked the most sophisticated utilization of artificial intelligence in journalism to date.The advantages for newspapers and websites are obvious: if AI can report on breaking stories, it makes it possible to have an article published almost instantly. No human needs to type a single word.
There's a darker side to the utilization of AI, though: it might not only put journalists out of work, but it might also lead to a lot of poor, derivative content – similar to content produced by low-paid “content spinners&rdquo ;.
6: Influencing Readers'Book BuyingMajor online book retailers, like Amazon, depend on complicated algorithms to predict what books someone might be interested in, based on which they've already bought. If you've ever bought a guide on Amazon, I'm sure you'll have seen this in action!
That is generally regarded as an optimistic utilization of AI: it helps readers to discover books that they'll hopefully enjoy, and it helps authors to be discovered by readers who mightn't otherwise attended across their work.
However, it might be a drawback for, say, independent book stores and librarians: why consult a professional in what to learn if an algorithm can suggest books for you automatically?
Whatever you write, there's a good chance that AI will be and more an integral part of your writing experience as time goes by – even though you barely notice it. Perhaps you're already utilizing a tool like Grammarly, for example, or perhaps you depend on dictation software to create content quickly.
How will you think AI is changing writing? Do you consider it is a net positive or negative for working writers, editors, publishers and journalists? Share your thoughts around in the comments below.