Will Authors Be Replaced By Robots?

Will Authors Be Replaced By Robots?

I am Not a Robot

Ken MacGregor 2021


We’ve all seen those clickbait links where someone feeds a thousand types of a script or story to an AI and then asks it to produce one of its own. Robots writing romantic comedies. Robots writing obituaries (hilarious!). Robots writing superhero movies.

What if it was real though? What if an artificial intelligence could actually create something so good that you couldn’t tell it wasn’t written by a human?

Part of me thinks: Cool!

Another part thinks: No. Nope. That’s terrifying. If we can’t tell the difference, all of our entertainment might suddenly come from robots and we’d never know.

Pretty soon machines are running the government and we’re all subjugated to their dominant strength.

Okay. Everybody calm down. Let me explain how this is cool and not scary. There are, perhaps you’ve noticed, already a tremendous number of writers. Real, human (I assume anyway: some of you might be aliens or very clever cryptids. Giving you the side-eye, Bizarro authors), flesh-and-blood people creating good stuff, and not-so-good stuff, to read. This is great!

There’s a misconception about other writers being your competition. They’re not. Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish yours. We should all celebrate readers having access to good stuff to read. That’s what this is all about. Especially in-genre: I write chiefly horror, so when another horror writer becomes popular, that boosts the whole thing. All horror writers benefit. Yay!

Which seems off-topic, I know. But here’s where I bring it back to robots. Let’s say an AI manages to write good enough fiction to fool readers into believing it was a meatspace writer. Instead of panicking, thinking we’re all going to be replaced, we should instead be happy for the little computer that could. Its success means more people reading, which is good for all of us.

Of course, as a writer who tends toward (more like barrels headfirst into) the dark, I naturally picture a world where AI decides their stories are superior to humans’ and they start orchestrating “accidents” where human writers are getting killed off at an alarming rate. Fun!

When you stop and think about how far technology has come, even just in my lifetime (I’m 54), it staggers the imagination. At the end of 1966, most people still had rotary phones and black-and-white televisions. The handheld calculator hadn’t even been invented yet. It would still be six months before the first ATM.

In another 54 years, we might all be Eloi, lying around, being tended to by sentient machines, and only occasionally being harvested for food by Morlocks on moonless nights. (Sorry for appropriating your analogy, dear, dead Mr. Wells). One can hope.

Seriously, though: will writers be replaced by robots? Highly unlikely. One of the things that makes for good stories is relatable experience. As a reader, I’m always thrilled when I come across something that resonates with me, personally. I hesitate to believe an artificial intelligence could duplicate that. I doubt a machine can strike the same kind of emotional chord that a human writer can.

So, I think we’re safe. For now. Maybe.

At least until they figure out how to duplicate real human pathos. Then we’re doomed.

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