Can AI fully Replace a Technical Writer? [CURRENT SITUATION]

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Artificial intelligence is a rapidly evolving technology that is already impacting the way many people work, and it will only continue to grow. As the technology becomes more advanced, more jobs will be at risk of being automated leading to fewer people needed! Are technical writers at risk from AI? Will AI lead to a fully automated technical writing world? Let’s discuss!!

Before we get on with it, I have done another article talking about whether AI will take over the jobs of regular copywriters. I suppose if you are reading an article about AI for technical writing this may also be of interest to you 🙂

What is A Technical Writer?

Just to be totally clear at the start, a technical writer is basically a person who is able to write written content on very technical subject matters. The true skill of a technical writer is to write about these complex subject matters in a way that anyone can easily understand. They may break down what they write into simple steps or include diagrams to aid with the readers understanding. Technical writers don’t only write articles, they also write products manuals and how to guides for consumers.

Can AI fully Replace a Technical Writer?

Now that we have a clear idea what a technical writer is, the question is whether an AI writer can take over this job from a human? Since GTP-3 came out of the OpenAI stable I have been trying a lot of the writing services that have spawned from it, anything from Conversion.AI to ShortlyAI. From this experience with AI writers it is clear to me that an AI writer can’t yet fully take over from a human technical writer.

The current state of the AI available is pretty good at making short form content but struggles when asked to complete anything long form. Think about what goes into a long form piece of content. You have multiple sections that have to be strung together coherently, taking into account what was said in previous sections to make plausible insights and conclusions. This is not something the AI I have tested can do well!

Most AI writers that have attempted article writing tools are basically using a wizard to connect lots of small pieces of content together into one long form one. Often, you would input your article title and key headings. The AI would then generate a couple of paragraphs for each section to make up your article. The problem here is that the AI is generating each section as a standalone item, so there is little to no correlation with what is said between each section. Basically, the flow of writing is not there! These AI written articles require a lot of human editing after generation to bring them into line with what most would consider ‘quality content’.

Of course, I am only a small fish in the AI writing world and only have access to the commercially released AI tools. I would imagine that Google and other mega corporations might already have something better with all the millions they can pour into such projects! Although, of course, this is mere speculation.

What is the Best Use Case for AI Writers Right Now?

With the limitations of AI writers stated above, what position can they take up in the technical writing world?

What are the best use cases for AI writers now? AI writing has advanced massively in recent years, but it still has it’s limitations! With those in mind, here are some good examples for the best current use cases for AI in technical writing.

#1: Author Collaboration

Technical authors collaborating with AI writers is by far the best use case right now, in my humble opinion. This is especially true if you are trying to write longer form content. This is why my favorite AI writing tool right now is ShortlyAI. They have made an amazing tool based around a text editor. You can write a few sentences and then ask the AI to continue writing a few more sentences alongside. ShortlyAI also seems to be good at working out the context of writing previously done when making its generations.

Whenever I attempt to generate full articles with AI I feel that its almost the same as if I write from scratch, as I still need to go in and make some pretty major edits myself afterwards. So the tag team AI assistant style of writers is a much better option for these situations right now.

#2: Generating Chunks

The current AI technology is pretty good at making short form content in a coherent and almost human written way. For example, if you need some text for a Facebook ad you could enter in the details of the product you are selling and some of its unique selling points etc. The AI writer would then be able to generate 3 or 4 different options for this ad copy. These multiple generations are important, because these AI writers often need several attempts for you to find a good one 🙂

This way of working can be implemented by human technical writers to augment their work. Maybe they could use it to help generate an article intro or the steps needed for a set of instructions. When done right, this could speed up the process of technical writing and make those human writers more efficient.

#3: Video Content

AI can already be pretty good at taking a few paragraphs of text and turning it into a video. This is much faster than a technical writer editing out a video themselves (or getting the video editor on their team to do so). This could be great if you are writing about a process or a set of instructions. These could be input into a video generation AI and voila! you have an awesome video to go alongside your written content.

What Does the Future Hold for AI and Technical Writing?

For the moment, the tide of AI writers can be held back simply because they are not good enough to be left alone to write independently. They need humans to refine the content they produce, especially with the longer form content. The question is, how long will it take for AI writers to get there?

Personally, I feel it is just a matter of time before we see full AI writing automation. I think general writing will see full automation before technical writing, as it is much easier to train an AI to write a general piece of content. When you are getting into technical details it is much harder for an AI to do this.

With my extensive experience of AI writers, I have noticed that fact checking is an important part of their implementation. Simply because sometimes the AI will spit out facts and figures that are plain wrong. These AI writers are gathering data from multiple already written sources and trying to come up with their own unique combination. Somewhere in this process the truth can get somewhat mixed up. This is another thing that will slow down the push for full automation for technical AI writing.

Finally, I think that full automation of technical writing is further away than you think. I expect it to take a full ten years for us to get there. That final push is more like a massive step for AI writers, to be able to independently write like a human. Couple this with the ethical approach of OpenAI, the main AI framework being used right now, and this is turning into a marathon rather than a sprint. OpenAI has openly said they don’t what their AI used to generate full blog posts, which they think would lead to people simply spamming the internet with AI generated text. All of the writing platforms that want access to their API need to ask for permission. Whenever they want to use the AI for a new implementation they need to seek the permission of OpenAI. This will all help to make the progression in AI writing more considered!

So, Writers Are Safe for Now?

Clearly the push for total automation in technical writing is a ways away yet, so don’t fire all your human technical writers yet! Although good use of AI as a writing assistant to those writers will make them more efficient. They will be able to write much more text than if they were coming up with it all themselves. This increased efficiency may start to reduce the number of job openings for human technical writers going forward. 

If you are looking for a good writing assistant for your content team I would highly recommend ShortlyAI for longer form content and Writesonic for shorter form. You  can check them out by clicking on the buttons below.

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