This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Writers

        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.


  1. I can't imagine artificial intelligence getting creative, but who knows? Anything could happen in the future.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Surely works that in a series and use authors-fo-hire could be written by a computer. That makes sense. Insert formula and variables - computer spits out book.
    *chuckle* Romance writers beware!

  3. Oh man, if we lost writers, we lose... everything. Writers write what we entertain ourselves with. Music, movies, books... ideas. I hope not.


  4. I'm thinking of the movie S1m0ne with Al Pacino where he is able to use a new computer program to create a virtual actress to finish a movie. Great show.

    I hope writers are not replaced. But who knows how far artificial intelligence will take us. Great blog. Interesting concepts.

    Stephen Termp

  5. Eh-shrug.

    Since computers have no soul and they don't dream, I am not the least bit threatened by software of any sort being able to construct a better story than me or anyone else for that matter.

    Without heart and soul that all good authors throw into their story's-forced tales are quickly forgotten.

    If such a program came into existance, the FIRST novel probably could be a bestseller for novelty's sake-but that's it. Once the first one is out the door then there would be lots and then it would be a who cares.

    Just my speculative thoughts.

  6. Hmm...I definitely think it would be possible for a computer to spit out a novel. I don't believe it would be something we would all die to my mind anything created easily and by pushing a key would get old and stale quickly. No, I like to believe that there needs to be a more human quality to writing in order for other's to want to read it.

    By the way - wanted to say a big thanks for your thoughts on my last post! Meant alot to me as I struggle with my crit group experience. Been losing sleep over this one and it helps having other writer's perspectives!

  7. Oh lordy lordy. If computers ever start writing books, I'm going back to being a musician. Wait - computers are already writing songs.

    Hmmmm ... maybe become a shepherd?

    the Old Silly

  8. I sincerely hope that writing don't become a thing of the past.
    I love to read and dabble at writing poetry. Computers are their place, let them stay them.

    Author of Negative V. Positive:

  9. I definitely think a computer could spit out a novel - I just don't think one will ever be able to spit out a good one. You know the kind I mean - the kind of writing that hits you. The kinds we're all writing!! :)

  10. I have recently started reading Under the Dome - just holding it is a good upper body workout!

    I've worried about paper books becoming obsolete but never thought about writers being replaced by technology. Somehow, I don't think it is that far-fetched. Great something else to add to my worry-about list!

  11. Thanks for your comments. Hope this never happens, but there are some strange innovations that technology has come up with and who knows. Something to think about.


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