Bloggers Beware: Will Automation Replace Content Creators?

Anybody that’s been paying attention to tech and the jobs market in the last couple of years has been paying attention to automation, and anybody paying attention to automation has seen this video by CGP Grey:

There’s a quiet rumbling on the Internet as slowly, people are starting to worry about the future of labor, debating whether mass technological unemployment is the true blue fate of humanity or just another Y2K scare.

For those in-the-know, it seems pretty certain that automation will replace jobs, but the degree to which humans will be fiscally displaced, however, is up for debate.

Bloggers, writers, and other creatives will argue against there ever being machines that can do their jobs and create pieces better, with more soul, if you will, than a human can. Unfortunately, those poor folks are in for a rude awakening; the machines have already begun to blog.

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A World Without Automation Makes No Sense

In the U.S. in 2014, 720 bicyclists, 4,400 pedestrians, and 33,000 drivers died in auto accidents. Roughly 440,000 died as a result of preventable medical mistakes that year.

About 51 police officers died on the job as well, and at least 1,000 civilians died at the hands of police officers in the span of that year. Because robots never sleep, get intoxicated, get distracted, or make any number of general human errors, it’s not absurd not to think that almost every single one of the deaths listed above would have been prevented if robots were running the show.

Add to that the fact that the skills gap is still a glaring problem, and it’s no wonder the headlines are buzzing about automation’s ability to bring about a safer, more productive world.

Driverless cars, of course, are getting the most attention because of how directly they will affect most of us. However, CGP Grey video mentions that Watson, the IBM machine that famously appeared on Jeopardy, was actually originally used to make medical diagnoses.

Eventually, robot-police officers could replace human officers too, negating the need to use deadly force on most civilians as well as the need for men and women in blue to risk their lives. The best part is that robots don’t need to be perfect. They just need to be more accurate and “better” than humans. So could automated systems ever actually replace bloggers?

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But Will Automation Truly Replace Blogging?

For those still wondering whether or not automated blogging would work, the answer is as simple as Googling the phrase “This story was generated by Automated Insights”. The AP has been using “robot journalists” for some time now, mainly to generate financial reports. If you were to read these reports, you’d notice that they are pretty basic, but at first glance and without prior knowledge, you’d never know that a human didn’t throw them together.

If you compare two or three of them together, however, you can see their shortcomings almost immediately. They use the same language, the sentence structure is pretty basic, and they’re slightly lacking in the creativity department. Nevertheless, they get the job done, and more than 3,000 companies are currently using robot writers to generate quarterly reports.

Now, the big thing to remember here is that we’re talking about financial reports. These reports contain, essentially, very basic data, the type that is easy for a computer to spew out. Bloggers, on the other hand, produce thoughtful, evergreen, qualitative content (or at least they’re supposed to), and, fortunately, there are no robots that currently do the same thing.

The CGP video mentions creativity at about 11:25 in the video, positing that if bots like Emily Howell can learn to write music, bots will eventually learn to write blog posts. This is probably true, but for now, most human beings are still able to write better blog content than robots. By following a couple of simple rules, humans can stay ahead of the curve and beat out technological employment while remaining a blogger.

Avoiding the Chopping Block

One of the biggest problems with blogging in the late 2000s and early 2010s was that bloggers were trying to pump out as many articles as possible without regard for quality. Internet Marketing was offering beau coup bucks and Google wasn’t regulating its search engine and sniffing out black hat tactics in the way that they do today.

To accomplish the goal of pumping out this many pieces of content, bloggers would practice article spinning, a process whereby they would feed a piece of unique content into a software program that would use the thesaurus to replace words in the original article, effectively “spinning out” new content. The problem is that the language is so confusing and used in such a clunky way that everybody knows it wasn’t written by a human.

For anybody that’s never read a spun article, you’ll notice that certain things just don’t sound correct. “So, let’s take this sentence”, will turn into: “Therefore, let’s acquire this sentence” (Hubpages has a large thread with other good examples of spun sentences).

Technically, “take” and “acquire” would appear as synonyms together in the thesaurus, but because of the colloquial way that we use the word take, i.e. “let’s take some time,” or “I take it you’ve never done such and such before,” you can’t exchange the word “take” with “acquire” in this instance. It just doesn’t make any sense.

This is the perfect example as to how to beat out the computer every time. You have to do things that are uniquely human, such as using colloquial language, metaphors, and similes.

Another salient piece of advice is to pay attention to the stories that display humanity, because while you inherently know what humanity is, computers aren’t sure how to quantify it yet.

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The Best Writers Might Not Always Be Human, but the Best Writing Always Will Be

If the CGP Grey video’s explanations, the sheer number of predicted lives that will be saved, and the fact that robots are already writing isn’t an indicator that we’re entering weird and unknown territory, I don’t know what is. It’s not absurd to think that robots will someday write as well as humans.

Chances are, they will. What is absurd, on the other hand is to think that at any time in the next century, humans will stop caring about the same things that they’ve care about in the written world since human history began.

From our oldest epics to the biggest newsworthy moments ever written about, there is one constant thread between them all: us. Humans. Even your most dry article about server storage or manufacturing protocols can be spiced up to add a human element and make people care about them.

The ability to draw on the human element in any article is the one and only thing that will keep bloggers employed in the near future. Remember your audience, and remember that your job isn’t just to make people interested in whatever you’re writing about, your job is to make them care, and that trait is still uniquely human.

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