Open Notes

Will I Be Replaced Soon

A leading edge question about AI is how soon will it replace human thinking and creating. How long, people want to know, before I am replaced by a machine that never complains, doesn’t need breaks, and never expects a raise in pay.

When it comes to interacting with our everyday digital devices, machine thinking has already replaced human thinking. We allow machine intelligence to navigate the road for us, spell check us, choose how we spend our time, and recommend movies and books. How long before it is creating for us? Writing for us? Composing for us? Making paintings?

Maybe longer than you think.

Look at journalism. Bots already write weather reports and report on sports scores. Since 2017, the Associated Press has been using computer vision AI to label incoming photographs so editors can work faster. The system isn’t totally independent, though. It required editors to supervise and train it.

There’s a project in the UK called RADAR that semi-automatically creates news articles. It still needs human help as well. Six journalists give it government data sets and help the program decide what is newsworthy about them. A story about aging could have localized stats included.

We’re at the stage right now where AI can automate only about 15 percent of a reporter’s job and nine percent of an editor’s job. Humans are still ahead of bots when it comes to working with sources, making choices about what goes in and what stays out of a story, and the broad area of guesswork and genius we call creativity.

It’s a different story in generative art and audio. Bots are able to learn how to create visual art if they are trained on existing examples made by humans. And if you’ve played around at all with Garage Band lately, you’ll find that the machine can do a lot of your creative thinking for you, choosing instruments and even genres for you to work in. You don’t need to know your way around a piano to instantly get the value of Garage Band’s arpeggio builder. You can sound like Philip Glass in about a minute.

Machines already help me with my writing when I need to remember things, connect storylines, and remain consistent in my storytelling. I am a devoted user of Scrivener. It’s of great value for me to have a table of contents that updates depending on what stage of writing I’m in. With long-form projects, like the novel I’m working on, I cross-reference facts across all chapters. With short-form projects, like podcasts edits, I use Scrivener to help me divide up interview transcripts into segments so that I can build the storyline.

Planning long-form fiction in the digital world is a pleasure. I still write in notebooks. I like pencils. But there is something about seeing the whole picture that the digital environment delivers that I can’t resist. If you want to go deeper into this, Granthika is an app designed to be your extra brain when working on longform fiction.