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Friday, April 19, 2024

Proceed with caution: How AI is changing writing

Think carefully about AI’s traits and how they stack up to actual humans


By CLAIRE SCHAD — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 


As a fourth-year college student about to begin my professional life, I find myself wondering, and sometimes feeling nervous, about how AI will affect my ability to get a job or impact how I may do that job.

Being someone who hopes to work in the communications field, I’ve had mentors and even former coworkers try to steer me away from committing to this career. “You won’t have a job in five years,” one told me, referencing the rise of AI platforms such as ChatGPT. “I don’t recommend going into the writing field right now, there is just too much uncertainty around AI,” a former coworker said. 

With all of this happening so quickly, I have been trying to figure out if I should embrace AI or fear it. After all, it seems like a legitimate threat to some careers. May of 2023 marked the first time AI was cited as a reason for job loss, with almost 4,000 people losing their jobs because of new technological advancements. 

Additionally, earlier this year, negotiations surrounding the Hollywood screenwriters’ strike were largely focused on limiting the role of AI in the writer’s room. In September, after a five-month-long strike, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) finally agreed to a contract that provided strict restrictions on how and when AI could be used in screenwriting. 

This contract states that stories generated by AI will no longer be referred to as “literary material,” meaning they are not considered usable storylines or scripts. By successfully achieving these regulations, the WGA is working hard to protect screenwriters from losing their jobs and hard-earned credits to AI. 

So the evidence is out there — AI has the potential to threaten jobs in certain career areas, and people are worried. However, I think as college students and soon-to-be professionals, we need to take a deeper look at both the strengths and weaknesses of AI. 

While AI might be able to write you that essay that you have been procrastinating until the very last minute, there is no guarantee that it will be good. Actually, it will likely be missing some key details and source references. However, most importantly, it will be missing one key aspect: the assurance that a human being wrote it. Sure, getting a bad grade on an essay that you didn’t write is a big bummer that could have been avoided, but it’s not the end of the world. While you may be thinking that the lack of human-likeness of AI is only a concern in the academic world, I argue that it is actually just a piece of a much larger problem.

It has been found that AI lacks the ability to understand creativity, strategy and, most importantly, empathy-based social skills. These characteristics are exactly what our world needs more of in a time of great inequality and transition. We should be hesitant to become even more reliant on this new technology, which would most certainly be miserable in human form. After all, who wants to surround themselves with content that lacks the human traits that many of us seek out in our peers? 

While the development of AI is inevitable, and likely does have some great benefits, we should be careful to not blindly become reliant on it. We must educate ourselves on what AI can and cannot do, and then decide for ourselves whether or not to use it. So, the next time you are thinking about just turning in the essay that ChatGPT wrote for you, think deeply about the characteristics it lacks and how it ranks in comparison to yourself as not only a writer but as a person. 


Written by: Claire Schad — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.




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