On some level, we have to come to accept a technological inevitability. The harsh reality of the situation is that if your job can be outsourced, if your job can be automated, if your job can be made obsolete, that’s precisely where it’s going to go. It’s only a matter of time. Put another way, the robots are taking over, even if we don’t have to accept an inevitability of a Skynet-powered apocalypse.
To this end, what you really need to think about for yourself, both in the short term and over the long term, is how can you make yourself and what you do so indispensable, so irreplaceable, that you’ll never get supplanted by a machine or some form of artificial intelligence. Speaking for myself, as a freelance writer and editor, this is very much a clear and present danger. You don’t need a hundred monkeys sitting at a hundred typewriters; you just need one algorithm, right?
The Robot Copywriter
In July 2019, a monumental deal was struck between Chase Bank and Persado, the latter a New York-based company “that applies artificial intelligence to marketing creative.” Put simply, Persado has the technology to “write” marketing material. Rather than hiring a human copywriter or a human team of marketing geniuses to put together the best ad copy, they simply get the software to do it.
“But,” you might say, “humans are way better at actual writing, especially in a more creative and nuanced field like marketing. A computer can’t replace a writer, can it?” Except, it basically did. When Persado’s machine learning algorithm wrote some ads, it outperformed the ads that were written by living, breathing human beings. In some cases, the ads written by the machine were generating twice as much clicks as the ads written by humans. The differences can be subtle, but the difference in results can be drastic.
Without cheating and clicking on that source link I provided above, let me ask you this. Below are two examples of digital ads. One of them was written by an actual person. The other was written by the Persado technology. Can you tell which is which? Can you tell which performed better?
- It’s true — You can unlock cash from the equity in your home.
- Access cash from the equity in your home.
The “it’s true” statement sounds a little more human and natural and conversational, right? It’s also the one that was written by Persado and achieved better performance numbers. The machine learning led to more humanity, as contradictory as that may sound. It also had the added benefit of “learning” from a much larger library of potential ad copy than any human could possibly absorb and comprehend.
It’s the End of the World?
So, as a writer and editor, am I doomed? After all, spellcheck, autocorrect and grammar check technologies are getting better all the time. This goes all the way back to the assertion made at the very beginning. If you can be outsourced or automated, you can indeed be replaced. To this end, people who work as simple proofreaders, simply checking for spelling and grammar, probably will be replaced to some degree if they haven’t been replaced already.
And you’ll definitely see this much more on the lower end of the market, the end of the market that is much more cost sensitive. However, at the middle and higher end of the market, in areas where nuance and complexity and originality are more highly valued, the human element will persist. At this point and for the foreseeable future, we can’t expect some algorithm or machine learning to replace award-winning scriptwriters or novelists. Or bloggers, for that matter.
There is an increasing desire for authenticity on the Internet. That’s part of why social media has become so popular, even if it may not necessarily reflect reality in a completely realistic kind of way. That’s a big part of the reason why we enjoy watching vlogs on YouTube or listening to podcasts with long-form human interaction.
The Human Touch
The robots may have taken over some jobs in manufacturing, and even in areas like finance with automated investing, but there will always be a place for human ingenuity. That’s where you need to find your place. Because if you’re doing a job that a machine can do for less money or with higher efficiency, your job might not exist tomorrow.