The Future of Writers
Writers are having an identity crisis.
In recent weeks artificial intelligence took a stab at removing human writers from content creation and Facebook predicted the end of the craft all together. These headlines make it seem like the death of the writer is imminent — a casualty of machine learning and our desire for quick, digestible content. So we are forced to think about what future role writers will play in our world.
But writers won’t go down that easily. They never have. And while a writer’s role is shifting in the Digital Age, we must see that they are the necessary component of a 21st-century world in which society and technology are intrinsically linked.
Writers aren’t usually positioned at the cutting edge of high-tech advances. We reserve that distinction for scientists with technical degrees, falsely playing into the narrative that we are born either right or left brained. There are the ‘creatives’ of the world — those who delve deep into the emotional milieu that is neither definable nor quantifiable. In our ever-present desire to arrange society into groups, ‘creatives’ are often deemed ‘not good’ at math or science and thus rushed into humanities classes. If their creative talents are best translated through the written word, they become scribes of the human condition, curators of our social narratives. Their value is subjective and divergent depending on the audience. Sadly, they are not challenged to understand the underlying technological frameworks, mediums or the basic math and science which they interact with each day.
Then there are those that approach life with a more scientific perspective. They know the rules and strictly quantify ideas within their own specific sphere of study. As their value is determined by input and output variables, they are not often challenged to contextualize ideas within the greater human narrative. Sadly, they are not trained to think in as interdisciplinary a fashion as writers are trained.
We understand that technology has forever altered the way we communicate and create the written word. We need technology for every aspect of the writing process, from research to the dissemination of works. But the connection between writers and technology isn’t just a one way street, where writers benefit from continued scientific output without any sort of return. As we interact with digital devices as ubiquitously as we do with other humans — and as this interaction eclipses our interactions with humans all together in some situations — we find ourselves circling back to the questions that have consumed writers throughout the millennia: What does it mean to be human? What is time? What is our role in this place we define as Earth?
These are the questions that writers ponder with every sentence and with every story that they tell. Whether through creative pieces or more structured journalism, writers are trained to enter undefined spaces created by these questions, connecting ideas and fields through an interdisciplinary lens. They dig deeper into the human condition, searching for stories and then translating the meaning. They find connections where none were previously seen.
Good writers ruminate and contextualize ideas from a variety of places. They aren’t afraid to take on — and then ultimately expand — civic identity through interdisciplinary expression. A good writer understands the rules of his/her craft with scientific precision, knowing what constitutes a correct sentence and a proper phrase. But more importantly, writers know how to break these rules and create poems, stories, novels and plays with new structures, concepts, and ideas that resonate with a myriad of peoples. They are the sounding board of each generation and the archivists of thought in a parlance that we all understand.
Technology is creating connections in previously undefined and unknown spaces. More than that, it is forging connections between people and ideas that we never imaged before. The mind of a writer is uniquely positioned to explore this interaction and delve deeper into these newly created spaces, so long as they are willing to put in the leg work and understand the platforms, devices and technology that are forming these greater connections. Good scientists will need good writers to contextualize, to create and to comprehend the ways in which we interact with technology. They will be the ones who contextualize the connections between individuals and technology and they will help us grapple with the very human questions these connections create. They can be — and will be — the necessary and interdisciplinary linchpin in the Information Age.
Of course writers will have to adapt their craft to keep up with technological advances. But they have always exceeded expectations in the past when forced to adapt to new forms of communication.
Writers have the ability to bridge the gap between the emotional, human world and the new space created by technological advances. So may we write — and continue to write — to identify what is good and what we as a society are stilling trying to comprehend. May we use our knowledge and our views as a way to create good in new, unexplored digital spaces.