Eventually, AI Agents Will Put Even Authors Out of Work

5 minute read
| Columns & Opinions

Computers play better chess than humans. They can be instructed on how to do detailed manufacturing, beyond the abilities of humans. They shrewdly buy and sell stock. They can read medical literature and aid in the treatment of disease. It won’t be long before even the last bastion of the human mind, creative writing, will be replaced by AI agents.

AI Agent

One of my personal observations that’s probably not unique to me is the following. “If your job can be done by a robot, it will be.” That’s because, of course, computers are far less expensive to operate and maintain than human beings.

That replacement process gets slowed down in many areas because of human nature. That is, while we wouldn’t mind being served a burger by a descendent of Pepper, a robot doctor performing an intimate physical examination is quite another matter. Human factors in society will naturally, selectively decide which jobs an Artificial Intelligence (AI) agent, perhaps in robot or android form, can assume in the workplace.

One of the jobs that has always been considered one of the last to fall to AI agents is the art of creative writing. That’s because the human mind has unique abilities when it comes to relating to other human beings. And yet. One can imagine a sufficiently advanced AI agent on a massive supercomputer being able to pass the Turing Test and able to generate both fiction and non-fiction that’s, in fact, pleasing to read.

One precursor to all this is IBM’s Watson. Watson is an AI agent that has been put to use reading, cataloging and organizing information about oncology by reading medical journals. From IBM:

By combining attributes from the patient’s file with clinical expertise, external research, and data, Watson for Oncology identifies potential treatment plans for a patient… Watson for Oncology draws from an impressive corpus of information, including MSK curated literature and rationales, as well as over 290 medical journals, over 200 textbooks, and 12 million pages of text.

Other research efforts have led to computers that have written experimental novels. One is called “True Love.” Here’s a story from 2014. “Computers Are Writing Novels: Read A Few Samples Here.

This week, I learned of a homegrown effort by the Washington Post to automatically produce news stories about the Rio Olympics.The Post’s Jeremy Gilbert who leads the project said, “We’re not trying to replace reporters. We’re trying to free them up.” (For now!) You can read more about the project here in my pick of the week: “The Washington Post will use robots to write stories about the Rio Olympics.

This emerging initiative is a natural thing to do. The amount of text, news and data being created by humans (and computers) is growing fast. Only computers can deal with all that information and, likely, properly analyze the total body of work.

A good example of human failure is when a particular author has an axe to grind about Apple. A myopic understanding of all that Apple does can easily lead to an article that looks to be born of expertise but is really quite self-serving. What if a descendent of Watson were to analyze all the facts about Apple over the years? What kind of analysis would it produce? How would i be received?

In any case, the simple task of writing news looks to soon be the realm of computers. The race will soon be on to see who can write better analysis, tips and editorials: humans or AI agents.

Next page: The Tech News Debris for the Week of August 1st. More on the ‘Macintosh Problem.’

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geoduck
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geoduck

daemon That’s the funny thing. I was all in with the post-PC idea. I even expected my 2012 MacBook Pro to be my last Mac. I said so publicly. The trouble is it just hasn’t happened. I would love to be able to replace The Beast with a 12 inch iPad Pro. Except I just can’t do what I want as effectively. The hardware is good. iOS and the touch interface just aren’t up to my needs. I can write on my iPad, but editing is still much faster and easier on \The Beast. I can record videos on my… Read more »

wab95
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wab95

John: A couple of thoughts, one about AI and the other about the iPad. Regarding AIs displacing human authors, Mark Twain’s often misquoted line may well have been a prescient response on behalf of human authors past, present and future when he quipped, “The report of my death was an exaggeration”. For human creative authorship, it remains so. AIs will never displace human creative authorship. There are two compelling reasons why. The first is simply the sheer unstoppable power of diversity. This is a woefully misunderstood and under-appreciated intrinsic feature of humanity, but it is what gives us our strength,… Read more »

mrboba1
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mrboba1

Oh – I see a different config allows for a 256 flash drive – which will be the same capacity as the phone (reportedly) or an iPad. Those 2 capacities (desktop v mobile) should never get near each other.

mrboba1
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mrboba1

re Mac Problem: I’m in agreement with geoduck – except for $2k, I want a full TB 😉 jhorvatic – no, they are outdated. Period. I have a 2008 macbook which I added RAM and a SSD and it works faster than the 2014 MBP we purchased used for our office. It has nothing to do with whether or not I can touch the screen, the facts are that these things are too old for the price. I want to get a mini to host our LAN, but again, it’s 2 years old and I’d have to spend a minimum… Read more »

sed
Member
sed

I see the following areas for a new iMac. – latest i7 chip: not much of a change and doesn’t need a new model. Intel is having problems cranking up their chips and I don’t see that changing – latest graphics chip: always good, but also doesn’t need a new model – fingerprint scanner: good, but really only needs a new keyboard or device – updated ports: needs a new model! I’d like to see the thunderbolt and USB ports replaced by six USB-C ports that support both thunderbolt and USB. The sticking point is how expensive this will be,… Read more »

Member
jhorvatic

Outdated my butt. People think its outdated because you can’t put your fingerprints all over your screen with that touch crap. The Macs have trackpads that can do that so your screen doesn’t need to be full of dirty hand and fingerprints. I have a 5k iMac that will match any crappy PC out there. I don’t need add-ons because everything is already built in. I have an OS that doesn’t get viruses just because I use the internet. I can however run Windows and Mac OS at the same time without a hitch. Try running Mac OS on your… Read more »

Tiger
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Tiger

Face it, desktop Macs, as useful as they are, are a commodity that’s as common as anything these days. The need to refresh your home system isn’t that great. Nothing is taxing them like the advances of the 90s. I had my first Mac 12 years, my second one 8 years (BTW, it still works), and my third one would be 8 had it not been stolen last year, so my fourth one is 18 months old. And will last another six to seven years. Even Apple’s EOL scheme can’t stop it from actually running. We just don’t have the… Read more »

daemon
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daemon

Meh… Apple’s been putting out dated hardware for decades.

Honestly I always thought you guys were ecstatic that Apple was post-PC….

geoduck
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geoduck

RE: Mac Problem I’ve mentioned before that I’m more concerned about the Mac than I have been in many years. They just don’t seem to care about it any more. Even more distressing was a quote from Eddy Cue I ran across this morning: Apple now does public beta testing of its most significant software projects, something that Jobs never liked to do. In 2014, the company asked users to test run its Yosemite upgrade to OS X. Last year, it introduced beta testing of iOS, which is the company’s most important operating system. * iOS is Apple’s most important… Read more »

aardman
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aardman

geoduck. About AI comedy. It could be so bad that it’s actually funny. Machines can probably write news reports. Not news articles but boring accounts of who, what, when, where, but not why. They can also probably write corporate financial reports. But works of fiction and non-fiction that are sophisticated enough to advance the art? I think that’s as big a pipe dream as atomic powered rocket ships. You know, the ones that spewed a trail of radioactive exhaust in their wake. This notion that creativity can be achieved by gathering more and more data and then programming a machine… Read more »

geoduck
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geoduck

One more thing

Comedy

There is no way any AI ever will be able to write comedy.

geoduck
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geoduck

Sorry about the double post. Server error.

geoduck
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geoduck

What a depressing thought. But the more I think of it, the more I don’t see it happening. OK for news, yes it’s totally possible. The facts, in a formulaic style should be easy for an AI to do. But not creative writing. Not good fiction. As Paul said above AI written music is look alike-sound alike trash. It takes a person to write something really creative. Sure, drivel like the latest superhero-of-the-month film could be done by an AI. Hell, in the latest Bourne film Matt Damon only has 277 words. A couple of dozen lines. http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36952919 Yes an… Read more »

Paul Goodwin
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Paul Goodwin

The sad thing is AI algorithms are already in use in the pop music business replacing human songwriters. The music is so bad it fits right in. That’s what music industry execs want these days: zero risk sound-like-everything-else stuff with almost no creativity. It apparently didn’t take a whole lot of AI development to equal what those execs thought would be a good song. The truly creative stuff is still being written, but the songwriters that produce anything other than the same thing that sold already are getting lost. If they want to keep their income, they have to write… Read more »

geoduck
Member
geoduck

Ok, news is a bit formulaic, I can see how maybe an AI could spit out a story on the Rio 100 meter dash final, or Congress blocking Obama’s Suprime Court nominatopm, but fiction. Not the Hollywood canned, superhero-of-the-month kind, but real creative stories. I just don’t think so. I’m working on a script that combines Alzheimer’s, philosophy, a low end hustler, and redemption, in a dialogue driven Twilight Zone style. Maybe, just maybe, an AI could string the dialogue. But it could not come up with the idea. It could not make the connection that I had last week… Read more »

Jamie
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Jamie

No, alas, that isn’t how creativity works. The assumption is that creativity is restricted to previously ingested information, but no, human beings are capable of spontaneous insight. Algorithms will always literally, at least at root, be ristricted to pre-existing information, and even if a uniquely ‘AI vernacular’ emerged, we would be capable of understanding it because we provided all of the input, in one way or another. I wouldn’t worry too much about this one. 😉 This is something many engineers fail to grasp: the highest heights of technological accomplishment are always a coalescence of human ingenuity and technological efficiency.… Read more »

Lee Dronick
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Lee Dronick

“Perhaps all those out of work developers will turn to blogging.”

Or become baristas

Lee Dronick
Member
Lee Dronick

“Eventually, AI Agents Will Put Even Authors Out of Work”

God I hope not

palmac
Member
palmac

Will AI’s write fiction so intricate and deep that only other AI’s can understand it? If so, will there be a new category on the NYTimes bestseller lists?