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we probably should be writing

  • Writer's pictureAmy McKernan

You have to be better than AI

Like all of you, I've been hearing a lot about how AI is here to take over/destroy/diminish/fix/etc the world of writing. There's a great deal of fear about what this means for academics and students, and what will happen if we all start just using AI to write all of our various papers and books.

Being me (i.e., someone who loves to write), I don't really understand why anyone would want AI to do their writing for them, but then I think about how much I absolutely could not stand writing some types of assignments when I was a student, and maybe I do get it a little. Mostly though, I think creative activities - like writing - are so foundational to what it means to be human, that the idea that we would hand over such a task to a robot is...pretty wild.

I do think AI changes the writing game though, in that it negates the need for humans to produce mediocre or 'standard' content. AI can produce an average quality essay or blog post or whatever on a topic that's already been covered in various ways. It can reproduce whatever humans have produced in the past, in a range of different formats. It can review the literature better than many of us.

It can't do anything new though. It can't approach a subject with the level and range of critical thought that an intelligent human can. It can't take the building blocks of language and create something beautiful and unusual, the way great writers and artists do. It doesn't have empathy. It cannot be (intentionally) funny. It struggles with the correct use of sources. And it has other limitations, which I'll allow it to tell you below.

If the texts that we write could be produced much more quickly and easily by AI tools like ChatGPT, then why are we bothering? If we're asking students to produce work that AI can do for them, what is the point? We need to rethink the skillset we're asking of students and academic writers, because it shouldn't be such an issue that a tool like ChatGPT exists. It should be a tool we're adding to our educational toolkits - how can we use this to make our work better?

When I asked ChatGPT what it thought about this topic, it wrote:

Title: The Human Touch: What AI Can't Replicate in Writing


In the era of artificial intelligence, where algorithms can generate coherent texts and mimic human language, it's easy to overlook the unique qualities that make human writing truly exceptional. While AI has undoubtedly revolutionized various aspects of our lives, there are certain elements of human writing that machines simply cannot replicate. In this blog post, we will explore the distinct aspects of human writing that set it apart from AI-generated content.

1. Creativity and Originality:

One of the most remarkable features of human writing is its ability to exhibit creativity and originality. Human writers possess the capacity to draw inspiration from personal experiences, emotions, and imagination, creating unique narratives and perspectives. Whether it's a fictional story, a thought-provoking essay, or a poetic masterpiece, the human touch brings a level of ingenuity that AI algorithms struggle to emulate.

2. Empathy and Emotional Connection:

Human writing has the extraordinary power to evoke emotions, establish connections, and create empathy within readers. Through carefully crafted words, human writers can convey genuine emotions, share personal anecdotes, and tap into the shared human experience. The authenticity and depth of human emotions expressed in writing go beyond the mechanical processing capabilities of AI, making human-written content more relatable and impactful.

3. Contextual Understanding and Intuition:

Humans possess a remarkable ability to understand the nuances of language and interpret context. Human writers can employ humor, irony, and sarcasm effectively, adapting their style to suit the intended audience and purpose. AI, on the other hand, struggles with subtleties and often lacks the intuition required to navigate complex linguistic terrain accurately.

4. Ethical and Moral Judgment:

Writing often involves grappling with moral and ethical dilemmas, exploring conflicting viewpoints, and making value-based judgments. Humans bring their inherent sense of morality, personal beliefs, and ethical frameworks to the table, allowing for a deeper analysis of complex issues. AI lacks the capacity to make value judgments and cannot engage in the critical thinking required to tackle sensitive topics with the same level of insight and empathy.


While AI has undoubtedly made significant strides in natural language generation, there are still essential elements of human writing that machines cannot replicate. The creative genius, emotional depth, contextual understanding, and moral judgment displayed by human writers continue to set them apart from AI-generated content. As we embrace the advancements of technology, let us not forget the irreplaceable qualities that make human writing an art form, connecting us at a fundamental level and inspiring us to explore the boundless depths of our imagination.

If you are a writer of any kind, you have to be better than AI. If you want to know how, well, just ask AI.

A man and woman sit on benches in old timey clothes. He is mansplaining something to her, pointing his finger while she looks away and crosses her arms.
ChatGPT explaining to me what it means to be human

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