This question came to my mind after reading a number of submissions required for my day job. Although these submissions covered a certain topic, they were supposed to be creative. I noticed that many of them were almost molded in the same way, expressing pretty much the same thoughts with the same sentence structures and word choice.
They were dry, repetitive, and boring. They didn’t have a human touch, to put it bluntly. I cannot confirm how these texts have been written, but I can say that they had been produced using something more than just pen and paper.
This shows that writing connects us in a unique way. Yes, the way a reader receives a written piece is subjective. But there is an element of humanity left in any written text, like a code, that we can recognize. The absence of which will be apparent to us as well.
The other question that came to my mind was the people who sent me those texts, were they aware that they were willingly erasing their own voices and replacing the actual labor of writing with some kind of an automatic string of words and sentences?
Am I going too deep here? Probably!
But back to the basics. Why do we write? We write to inform, communicate, and entertain. We write to document life and events. We write to express ourselves in meaningful ways. We write to vent out and heal and we write to enjoy life.
We have been introduced to many writing and editing tools that interfere with our use of language in ways that spare us monotonous tasks, true, but also make us more passive in actively knowing the written language, such as syntax, synonyms, verb conjugation, punctuation etc. These tools can also interfere with our writing style, like suggesting how to finish a sentence in an email message or which word to use to comply with certain contexts. I was once suggested (passive voice) to use “lady” instead of “woman” or the other way around, can’t remember the hint provided, but it was something in the context of being socially correct.
This is a convenience that I personally use and appreciate.
But they will eventually make acquiring specific language skills rudimentary, such as learning grammar or even writing a text for a specific purpose, like business and technical writings, preparing synopses and such other tasks that are peripheral to the writing process. In general, this won’t be so bad, since it will economize human labor that can be invested toward more creative forms of writing, such as that invitation I got from a promotional newsletter to attend a live webinar on copywriting using artificial intelligence.
I agree that practicality rules over esthetic purposes when it comes to using languages, in general, and written word, in particular. But there will be consequences in the long run that we need to think of.
We will eventually believe that learning grammar and good writing practices is useless, since writing, instead of taking hours, can be done in minutes, just as easy as opening a tab and ticking a few checkboxes. This would be the first stage in abandoning writing. Probably, it will be replaced with icons and images, which are widely used right now to express or emphasize emotions, which adds a certain dimension to a plain text. In the future, this, combined with less and less need for humans to write, might lead to the creation of a form of a visual code of communication. Our senses and our capacity to interpret visual texts will evolve accordingly.
Also, the growing dependence on automated writing and editing programs will alter the way our brains use the language when we write. I felt it when I abandoned writing with pen and paper for a very long time. My brain did not collaborate well with my hands. I was frustrated that writing was slower than typing and that the flow of thoughts was totally different. I went back to handwriting again when I participated in writing events as it was simpler to write on a notepad rather than type on a computer. I even thought of improving my handwriting but didn’t actually work on that.
Pre-programmed software can do all the writing for us. Not yet as efficiently as humans, but we’ll get there eventually. As we “speak”, you can go and buy software to write non-fiction texts for you. The humblest ones are called “text generators”, the most ambitious ones are called “AI writers”. But wait, it’s not only non-fiction, there is a precursor to AI fiction writers. Is it a threat to human writers who write poetry and prose?
Well, not immediately. I don’t see people abstaining from writing just because a machine could do it. There’s more to writing than being just a task. I don’t think writers will go extinct in the near future. They will adapt to the new software and the new tools. They will become an authentic commodity in a world whose texts are predominantly manufactured with machines. Just like the artisanal bread and the machine-made bread. Both have their places.