Today is Science Fiction Day. Wait!--you may say, I thought Thursday was Debate Day! Okay, yes it is, except today I'm going to get a little science fictionized so perhaps today might be better termed Speculation Day. Either way I'm going to toss out something for you to dwell on and you can toss your thoughts back to me.
Do you think writers could ever become obsolete?
Now I don't know exactly what got me to thinking about this, but I was reading Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME and I just started thinking about formulaic writing. This is not a bad thing really. We all have certain writing formulas and by its very nature language must be formulaic in order to be understood. Therefore for a written work to be comprehensible I think we can all agree that there must be logical progression or at least a certain logic to any illogic. In other words any widely acceptable writing is more than just words on paper (or a screen or what have you), but it must also be something that can be understood by an intended audience of readers.
Does it necessarily take a human writer to do this? I am quite certain that with current technology a fairly passable novel could be constructed using a decently written software program and a average computer. I believe I have read where this has actually been done already. We have our "word" and "spell check" programs that do a pretty good job of correcting errors and there are editing programs that reconstruct improper writing with accuracy. There is software available for developing novels and screenplays. As long as the computer is fed data, i.e. writing styles, character traits, geography, history, or whatever is needed, the writing can be produced by artificial intelligence.
As more books are scanned by the mega-digital-storage banks and more encyclopedic factual data, more observation on human behavior studies, and more data of all types is assimilated by the digital brains the more they know and the more control they have. Can the age of Big Brother be far behind? I don't read a whole lot of science fiction, but I'm sure this has been explored often. Computers are so darn convenient and we as a society have come to depend on them. Are we starting to depend on them too much?
I hope it never happens, but it would be so much cheaper for computers to crank out Stephen King style work than it would be to pay Stephen King to do it. It would even be cheaper than having me, Arlee Bird writing it. Automation has taken away many of our jobs as it is, so why should the creative minds be exempt from obsolescence. And writers aren't the only ones at risk--this could also be said of visual artists, composers, and musicians. Even actors may be replaced by digital images. A future world run by machines may become a reality and we may not be so lucky as the fat pampered humans served by machines as we saw depicted in the animated film Wall-e. Shades of Terminator Rise of the Machines and Hal the supercomputer from 2001: Space Odyssey--the machines may be our undoing.
The scenario may not be unrealistic. I shudder to think that we humans could ever let something like this happen, but look at some of the things that have happened already. Are you ready to become obsolete as a creative individual? Do you think this scenario is absolutely absurd and if so, why? What do you see in the future for writers? For other creative individuals? For humankind in general?
In the next couple weeks I plan to review Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME, that is, if the powers that be allow me to keep creating. You never really know for sure what can happen in the future.