AI will not make writers obsolete

Peter Thiel said that AI will be “worse for the math people than the word people.”

My intuition would be it’s going to be quite the opposite, where it seems much worse for the math people than the word people. What people have told me is that they think within three to five years, the AI models will be able to solve all the US Math Olympiad problems. That would shift things quite a bit,” Peter Thiel said when the host, Tyler Cowen asked him if writers should worry with the advent of technology like ChatGPT.

Agree 100% here. What constitutes goodness, like almost all of good writing, is subtle and not easily replicated by AI. AI-generated writing has a certain unmistakable clunkiness, overly-formalistic tone, or wordiness that tends to give it away.

Additionally, the writing has to also be logically consistent and not contradict itself, which means the AI has to ‘remember’ what it said earlier, in the correct context too, so as to not contradict itself later. For these reasons, creative writing will prove to be one of the most impervious professions to AI.

As I said earlier, of the twenty or so Substack bloggers I read, not a single one has seen a decline of traffic as measured by ‘social signals’ such as ‘likes’, subscriber counts, or comments since 2021, before the advent of GPT-4 and the LLM explosion. Recent Substack posts by Noah Smith, for example, get hundreds of ‘likes’ compared to only dozens a few years ago. Same for many other popular bloggers too, like Freddie Deboer and Matt Yglesias. Such engagement and subscriptions metrics keep rising in spite of increasingly advanced LLMs, suggesting reason to be optimistic. As the success of the New York Times’ paywall shows, high-SES, well-educated readers are more than willing to pay a premium for high-quality, human-produced content.

There will also be the increasing bifurcation–like much of the rest of the economy–into an artisanal or creative elite who are highly paid and do not use AI, and on the other extreme, the mass-production/proliferation of mediocre quality AI or otherwise automated content.

The majority of content does not need to be good or pleasing, just passable to the undiscriminating masses. A generic news site only needs content that is good or ‘sticky’ enough to retain the attention of readers for long enough to click an ad or register a page impression (for CPM ads). In music, there is the whole genre of 2000s bland rock or bland pop that fills the airwaves and commands low royalty rates, which will be replaced by free AI-generated music for ambience purposes.