For me, the most concerning yet interesting issue from ChatGPT is its writing capability. Before going further, as a justification, I am a writer. I have been writing professionally since 2008 when I was writing for a printed magazine. After that, I worked for several online media companies as an editor and also a writer.
That’s why, I am interested to take a look at this AI and its writing capability. Because of my experience, I may have certain skills in writing from writing essays or articles, scriptwriting, copywriting, and translation. Furthermore, I certainly know a thing or two on how the media works.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at this ChatGPT, its writing capability, and the implication for us writers.
Language is all about context
I strongly believe that language is all about context. Whether we realized or not, there are a lot of contexts we refer to when we use our language – our culture, our jobs, our family, our life experience, current situation, our relation with the person we talk to, or so many other types of context.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, I don’t think a machine or AI could understand context – or maybe it could but there could be gazillions of things that need to be included in the database which may take a while to build.
I realized it a couple of years ago when Google Translate started getting its popularity in the mainstream users. If you asked me, I am pretty confident that I could detect translation results from Google Translate – or, at the very least, I might guess that it’s the results from people who know nothing about language.
That is because I know there will always be certain contexts missing on the result. Yes, there will always be certain losses and gains on meaning when we translate between languages but it happens deliberately because of the conscious decision from the translator related to the contexts.
So, professional translators will always definitely consider contexts in the result. This is why the result could be very different from time to time, for different target readers, and from different translators’ knowledge and background. I don’t think AI could include this concept of context, yet. I will get back to this later.
Since language is all about context, so is writing.
This is what the ChatGPT wrote when I instructed it to make an article about Forspoken.
“Forgotten City Discovered in the Heart of the Jungle
Archaeologists and local communities in South America have made a groundbreaking discovery, uncovering the remains of a long-lost city hidden deep within the jungle. Dubbed ‘Forspoken’, the city is believed to have been a thriving center of civilization over 1,000 years ago and is now providing valuable insights into the region’s rich cultural heritage.
Excavation of the site began several months ago and has already uncovered numerous artifacts, including ancient ceramics, stone tools, and intricate carvings. Scientists are also studying the architectural remains, including pyramids and temples, to gain a better understanding of the city’s social and political structure.
Local indigenous communities, who have lived in the area for generations, have welcomed the discovery and are actively involved in the excavation process. They believe that the city holds important spiritual and cultural significance, and are eager to learn more about their ancestral heritage.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to uncover a hidden piece of history and shed light on the incredible cultural diversity of our region,” said lead archaeologist Dr. Maria Rodriguez. “We are working closely with the local community to ensure that the site is preserved and protected for future generations.”
The discovery of Forspoken is attracting international attention, with experts from around the world flocking to the site to study and document the findings. It is hoped that this new knowledge will help to deepen our understanding of this remarkable civilization and its place in the world.
More details of the discovery are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks, as the excavation continues to uncover the secrets of the forgotten city of Forspoken.”
If you know me, you would know that I am a gamer. So, you would immediately know that I was talking about the latest game from Square Enix when I mention Forspoken. Yet, as you can see in the result above, ChatGPT didn’t know that context. This could be a good thing or bad.
However, I believe AI could someday include contexts when interacting with us. Just see your Google Search results. It’s personalized based on our stored data.
In the meantime, we writers could take a breath for a minute or two.
Writing is not just about language
Writing is not just about putting words in certain orders. It’s so much more than that — at least ideally. Grammatically and structurally, ChatGPT could be a better writer than me but there are still a lot of things missing from ChatGPT’s writing.
As Hetal Thaker puts it, “But what was it like to read? Did you make it to the end, or just skim? Or did you follow my initial gut reaction, which was to read the first paragraph and say, “I see where this is going,” and then not even bother to skim because you didn’t need to?”
Tressie McMillan Cottom also explains, “ChatGPT impersonates sentiment with sophisticated word choice but still there’s no élan. The essay does not invoke curiosity or any other emotion. There is a voice, but it is mechanical. It does not incite, offend or seduce. That’s because real voice is more than grammatical patternmaking.”
However, sadly, seeing the poor condition of our current text-based online media, content writing is just mostly lacking that human touch. Considering pageviews and quantity are all that matters, for most text-based online media, human’s touch is a luxury that so many of that media can’t afford.
So, what does it mean? Meaning, companies may pay less money to its writers. Nowadays, writers are one of the cheapest paying jobs in the digital world — because of what I wrote earlier. Most media companies don’t even need writers with distinct styles anymore right now, as long as the SEO checklist is fulfilled.
Speaking of SEO checklists, along with the limitation of engaging writing style, I do believe writers still have two options.
Sure, regular writers may get paid less, but so do mediocre programmers or any other average level professionals. That’s why, writers also need to up the ante.
As I said, there are two options – or actually three options. The third one is the combination of both.
First, we could learn more about SEO checklists and become a really good SEO writer. This skill is no joke. It requires many things to learn from keyword research, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO. Maybe one day AI can do this too but I’m pretty sure it may take a while for an AI to do this well enough to replace humans since we need to jump around to many platforms from different companies to do this on an expert level.
AI usually only works on a specific contained platform. So, unless there is a platform that can offer decent AI writing, keyword research, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO altogether, programmers need to make an effective AI that can work really well across platforms regardless of ownership. Both of them are not impossible but it might take years or even decades to develop.
Another option is to become a truly masterpiece writer who can create contents with peculiar human styles which aren’t easily reproduced by AI. Even though it’s rare, I do know that such media and companies who value quality writing still exist.
Option one is still more viable though. A lot of bosses don’t even read the contents in their own platform (which is required to judge the quality of writing) but they do see and will certainly pay attention to the pageviews number. But hey, who knows, you’ll get lucky.
Long road ahead
In the end, it’s certainly possible that writer jobs will cease to exist. Yet, it still has a long way to go. Hopefully, we writers could reinvent ourselves when the time comes.
Feature Image: Markus Spiske via Pexels