Will writers be replaced by OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT?

This week I’m working with one of my biomimicry clients to explore the use of OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT. It has several models within it, including Davinci which we’ve found has the most detailed, natural sounding results but not necessarily the most accurate information. We are using this technology to ingest a wide variety of scientific papers and produce plain-language text that can be used by designers and engineers who want to explore nature-based solutions and biomimicry inventions and applications.

We tried five tests with different biomimicry topics. I compared the source papers and the two versions of AI-generated text to assess them. Of the five tests, four were decent first drafts that need a human editor to refine them. Most of the scientific data was presented in a plain text way that maintained accuracy and integrity. It missed some key findings that would be valuable for engineers and designers, and the tests need to be edited for clarity. It had some trouble extrapolating the information into potential biomimicry applications and nature-based solutions. In other words, it could create plain-language text based on complicated, jargon-filled text reasonably well as a first draft. It could not creatively interpret the data to imagine many new possibilities. The one failed test completely missed the mark on the main points of the scientific paper.

Overall, it was exciting to see how this innovation could democratize access to information that is concealed in jargon. As with any simplification task, the accuracy has to be evaluated by someone who can reliably translate from language that needs deep expertise to language that’s accessible to those without that expertise. Proliferation of misinterpreted, oversimplified, and inaccurate translations is a risk and a danger. We’re in the early days of this tool and it will undoubtedly improve over time.

Some have expressed concern that writers will no longer be needed and that all writers will be forced into becoming editors. As a writer and an editor, I don’t share that fear. Human creativity, ingenuity, and imagination will never be obsolete. My hope is that tools like AI-generated text will free up our time, energy, and headspace to spend more time on creative projects.