Can Writers Be Replaced By Machines?

We are currently living in what could be called the “post-industrial era.” Throughout the 20th century, machines have slowly been doing backbreaking work that flesh-and-blood humans and animals have been burdened with for centuries. Washing machines replaced washboards, automobiles replaced horse-drawn carriages, and now robots are replacing the factory worker. Even then, most people doubted that robots could create works of art of expression, such as writing and painting. But now, robots are writing news reports and painting the masterpieces of great artists. Is this the end for those who are in these niches?

The capabilities of robots have surged considerably in the last few decades, and we can only expect them to get better at what they are doing. The reason why the manufacturing sector of the workforce is easily being swept aside by machines is two-fold. First of all, companies need to seek out ways to remain competitive in a market that is always asking for lower prices that coexist with a government that’s always making them pony up more cash. Businesses left to choose between losing some of their workforce to stay afloat will take that choice if it means that they don’t end up closing down entirely. While necessity is a strong incentive for workforce mechanization, it’s not the only one; businesses also must produce things faster than their competitors. And what’s faster than a machine that can churn out a significantly higher quantity of one product while also minimizing flaws?

In the 21st century, robots are masters of imitation and obedience. They do everything you tell them to do, imitating every step a human would take, and wow, do they do it quickly!

What about the creative arts? Can robots produce abstract works that are as original as that which humans can build with their own two hands?

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While the header above seems like a very strong answer, it is more nuanced than one may think at first. To really come to the above conclusion, you need to ask yourself just one simple question: What makes us human in a way that robots are currently incapable of reproducing? Think about it for a second. We are the only beings on this planet capable of working with abstract concepts and putting them on canvas or paper. This makes us the only things that are able to make an original piece of art. Yes, robots are writing news stories. However, at best, you can say that those stories are just words strung together in a way that is legible. On May 20th, 2015, Engadget reported that a showdown between a famous writer robot and a real live reporter revealed that the robot’s writing was still … robotic.

Does this mean that robots will never have the capability that humans have to create full-bodied works of art? Not necessarily! If we can get robots to be as quirky, as irrational, and as creative as we are, we can definitely see ourselves creating the next Picasso with our own hands. A team of engineers one day with no talent in the fine arts will be able to build their own robot that composes new melodies and writes beautiful literature that has never been read. This day is definitely not near, but I can see it in the far future when we’ve managed to create one robot that sincerely makes a request, has a particular taste in music, and draws inspiration from what it perceives around it.

Now, we must ask ourselves: is such a robot worth creating? Go ahead and tell us what you think in a comment!

4 comments

  1. “Can Writers Be Replaced By Machines?”
    The way many writers write, they should be replaced, whether by machines or chimps, it doesn’t matter.

    Creative art is very subjective. A robot can splatter paint on a canvas with the best human splatterers. A robot can generate couple of thousand musical notes in succession. A robot can knock off a bunch of stone chips from a stone block just as well as a human sculptor. Who are we to say that those are not works of art? What really determines whether something is a work of art? If I weld some metal scraps together, is it art? If a robot does the same, is it art? Or is my creation art because I supposedly put some thought into it, and the robot’s creation is not because it supposedly did it automatically?

    What I want to know is what happens when robots take over all the man’s jobs and then decide that MAN is superfluous in the greater scheme of things and nothing more than a biological infestation on the Earth.

  2. Agreed dragonmouth, but I will add the robots are already at work!

    Most “writers” either re-write what’s already there and add some small touch to make it their own or not get sued. Just look at all the movies with similar story lines or actual remakes (the robots), sure they eat and breath but re-doing work produced by someone else is a robot’s work. The unique writers quickly make it to the top since people find its uniqueness well unique.

  3. Stanislaw Lem already covered all this in The Cyberiad. In a few thousand years, intelligent robots (the AIs that will basically take things over from us poor earthbound saps) will make their own poetry-generating robots.

    • I think the timeline is a bit pessimistic. At the pade technology is advancing, I would expect this to happen within few hundred years, if not sooner.

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