Scaling up me

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what computers can do. I’ve also been thinking about a quote, paraphrased from Ambassador Frank Baxter (who now does digital education philanthropy) that “you should never send a person to do a computer’s job.” Recently, someone told me that she could usually recognize my columns before she saw the byline because they sounded like me. But if I have a certain sound, could a machine learn to write in that style, or at least something close to it?

This isn’t a blog post about the perils of being outsourced. I actually think that this would be kind of cool. I’d feed a program hundreds of my blog posts, columns and magazine articles, and set the computer to reading my books. Then, when I needed to crank out a draft of something, I could feed the computer some quotes, maybe some relevant statistics (and the computer could find its own). The program would write a first draft for me. I’d then spend my time editing this mound of copy and turning it into something more polished. 

Needless to say, this would make me far more efficient. I spend big chunks of my time writing first drafts, but writing is re-writing the saying goes. Most of the magic happens in between the first draft and what you read. If the computer can be the hack, I could write a lot more and most of it would be much better edited. After all, we only have 168 hours a week, and time not spent writing first drafts could be time spent polishing my (or the computer’s) prose. I could solve that free agent problem of scaling up Brand Me — without relying on interns!

Anyway, one can dream. In the meantime, I’ve got some drafts to crank out tomorrow…

Photo courtesy flickr user sure2talk


4 thoughts on “Scaling up me

  1. I have to say I am a little uncomfortable with this idea. This is somewhat ironic, as I always use the self-serve aisle at the check out (despite the fact that it puts people out of work), yet I am uncomfortable with the idea of computers taking over more creative work.

    1. @NS – I guess I’m just not convinced that the first draft writing is necessarily the highest creative part of my work. I could give the computer a broad outline, and it decides what quotes and facts support each bullet point of the outline. But then I’m the one who goes in and gives it more character and polish. A camera captures a scene better than any artist can with paints or pencils… but computers certainly haven’t put artists out of work, since it turns out there’s more to art than creating a faithful visual representation — it’s about ideas and impressions and the like.

  2. Hi Laura,
    I can definately see where you are coming from – I guess I have just been too affected by movies like “AI”!

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