Will ChatGPT Replace Writers?

The starting page for ChatGPT

Have you heard of ChatGPT? 

Just kidding! If you’re in the marketing or writing community you’re probably sick of hearing about it. Seriously, it’s everywhere and everyone is talking about it. Engineers, programmers, teachers, marketing professionals, content creators, tech philosophers, and of course, writers. 

If you’re not familiar, ChatGPT is a chatbot that uses natural language processing to generate content, images, and code. I.e., you type in a question or request to ChatGPT and it responds in a conversational manner. It’s akin to chatting with the bots on websites that always pop-up and ask if they can help with anything. Except ChatGPT is operating with wayyyyyy more data and they won’t pass you off to a customer service representative if your question stumps it. 

Programmers are marveling at its ability to help debug code in a matter of seconds and content creators are impressed that it can  write a  blog post that is indistinguishable from a human one. Imagine if something that normally takes you half a day could be done in a matter of minutes?

But with all powerful tech, there are a lot of concerns and questions. Especially amongst writers, marketers, and content creators. Including: 

  • Will AI chatbots replace human writers? 
  • Will the internet and book market be flooded with AI writing? 
  • How can writers compete with AI generated content?

Well friends, I have lots of thoughts on this one. So let’s dig in! 

Some basics: What is conversational AI?  

At best, these AI programs  will revolutionize how we search for and process information as well as how we create content. At worst, bias in the data training could generate harmful or inaccurate responses; the internet will be flooded with AI content and void of fresh ideas and voices; and writers will be obsolete. 

So why is everyone freaking out about ChatGPT?  

If you’re new to the ChatGPT conversation you may be asking, so what’s the big deal? Why is this different or significant from any of the other thousands of AI tools and products? 

Secondly, it’s beginning to shift how we think about search. Right now the basic process is you visit Google (or your search engine of choice), type a question or some keywords, and Google returns a list ranked by what they think is reputable and relevant. But with ChatGPT, you ask a question or give a command and it returns a response. Here’s an example: 

User Ginnye asks ChatGPT "what crystals are good for creativity?" and it response with a list of 4 crystals including Carnelian, Citrine, Amethyst, and Moonstone.

It can also help with tasks like debugging code and editing content. Copy and paste a blog post into ChatGPT and ask it to edit the text. It’ll provide suggestions on spelling, grammar, syntax, clarity, and organization. Something that search engines can’t currently do. 

What are the limitations of ChatGPT? 

Like anything, ChatGPT comes with limitations. Some of which should be taken into consideration if you’re planning to use the tool for anything other than pure amusement. 

  1. It can’t access the internet 

Unlike Google or other search engines, ChatGPT isn’t crawling the internet to find the latest and most relevant information. Instead the responses are generated from the data that ChatGPT is trained on. So don’t expect ChatGPT to be providing groundbreaking answers, research, or resources. 

  1. It’s only trained on data through September 2021

Similar to the limitation above, don’t expect ChatGPT to be a know-it-all. At the moment, it’s only been trained on data through September 2021. Meaning it only has access to information pre-September 2021 and can’t provide answers past that. For example, I asked it who won Super Bowl LVII and this is what came back: 

User Ginnye asks ChatGPT, "who won super bowl 57?" and it responds that it's not able to provide information about events that haven't happened yet and it's knowledge cutoff is September 2021.
  1. Incorrect responses 

Which means it’s pretty good at seeming like its providing a great response, but sometimes it’s inaccurate. It’s like that one friend in the group who always seems like they know a lot, but really they’re just confident speakers. The lesson? Always cross-reference the information before you act on it. 

Will ChatGPT replace writers?

Now, the question we’ve all been waiting for: will conversational AI with text generation capabilities, like ChatGPT, replace writers and other content creators? 

My opinion? No. 

While they can generate content quickly and somewhat accurately, their limitations don’t allow them to create art. Art is a unique voice or perspective; an opinion or experience; and the power of story. 

ChatGPT can’t describe what coffee smells like or the exact shade of the evening sky out your window. ChatGPT can’t tell you how the repeal of Roe v. Wade, or the crypto meltdown, or the release of Hogwarts Legacy impacts it. ChatGPT can’t write about falling in love or losing a friend or finding your purpose. 

The human experience is creative, nuanced, messy, painful, textured, confusing, beautiful, and personal. That’s art. And AI can’t create that. No matter how many data points it’s trained on.

So no. Conversational AI like ChatGPT will never replace writers. Because writers create art. 

Will the internet or book market become saturated with AI content?

Inaccuracies aside, ChatGPT and future conversational AI with text generation capabilities are an inexpensive and efficient way of creating content. Blog posts, social media posts, scripts, emails, even books. Instead of paying for content  or spending hours writing your own, you can type in a request to ChatGPT and have something in a few minutes. 

I anticipate we’ll see a flood of mediocre or inaccurate content hit the internet in the next few years. 

Individuals and companies, seeking to reduce costs and produce more, will lean into the powers of AI content. The result will be even more content to sift through on social media, more blog posts hitting RSS feeds, and even more emails to clear out of our inboxes. It’ll become an art to scan a piece of content and determine if it’s worth your time.

But we’ll learn. 

Just like how we learned to scan, judge, and filter through the millions of other content items we see everyday. And I think what we’ll learn most of all is that content from a human is vastly more interesting and valuable. 

How can writers compete?

If you’re a writer, content creator, or other person who makes their living with words, you’re probably wondering: how do I stay relevant and compete with AI writing? 

As I’ve touched on in this post, there are limitations to ChatGPT and things that humans are inherently better at. Like having opinions, access to sensory information, experiencing complex emotions, and being able to interpret things happening in real-time. These are the things that will demonstrate that human writing and content is more engaging and important. 

Here are 3 ways writers can stand out from AI content: 

  1. Hone your voice 

 ChatGPT (and I imagine the other models that follow) is designed to be factual and objective. It’s specifically engineered so it’s not biased in the information or responses it shares. Which means that it’s not humorous or snarky or bubbly or nerdy. And when you’re not humorous, snarky, bubbly, nerdy, or anything, you aren’t able to form relationships with your readers. 

Think about your favorite authors, writers, or other content creators. They typically have a distinct voice, tone, and message right? Even if it’s sharing a post about how to boil water, they’ve probably added their own unique flavor to it. And because they have a voice that resonates with you, you’re a reader. 

So, hone your voice and lean into it. 

If you’re not sure what your writing voice is, try thinking about how you speak. Are you polite? Funny? Exclamatory? Sarcastic? Precise? Informal? Do you use certain phrases, dialects, or words? Use this as a basis for developing your voice and then think about who you’re speaking to (aka, your audience) and if they’d respond well to that voice. 

I believe that people will engage with and prioritize content with a strong voice rather than “fluff” content that is neutral. 

  1. Express your opinions and share your experiences 

Similarly, ChatGPT has never experienced an event in a human way. It may know about the COVID-19 pandemic, but can it tell you about the sensory and emotional experiences of sheltering-in-place? Or the uncertainty of not knowing if your family and friends were safe? Or going into your job every day because you’re an essential worker and wondering if you might come in contact with the virus?

Here is where humans have a distinct advantage. ChatGPT can generate statements and facts. But it doesn’t have a unique or distinctly human point of view. Writers and content creators should use their human viewpoint to  form relationships and build community with their readers. 

  1. Use the power of storytelling

Another thing ChatGPT isn’t great at? Telling stories. 

Writers and content creators should use the power of storytelling to write meaningful content. 

As I mentioned above, I anticipate we’ll see an uptick in content on the internet as ChatGPT (and other conversation AI with text generation capabilities ) write more efficiently and with reduced costs. However, it’s not going to be great. The blogs, posts, and eBooks it writes will be the type of SEO fluff that is technically correct, but not very engaging. This is where humans have the advantage. 

When we share a story, when we give a human face to the thing we’re talking about, it creates a connection. And it creates interest. We’re vastly more interested in other people than a blog stuffed with keywords.

Final thoughts 

ChatGPT and conversational AI is not to be feared. While our gut reaction to AI technology that can write content is to assume it’ll render writers obsolete, we’re far from that. 

The technology is relatively limited when compared to a human’s processing power. We may not be able to absorb millions of data points and reconfigure them on command, but we can experience sensory information. We can form opinions, insights, and significance. We can write with our unique voices and share our experiences with the world. We can create art.