COLUMN: What if AI wrote this column?


Trent Jonas

Trent Jonas is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Trent Jonas, Columnist

That is a thing now, you know.  

There are content generating (because everything is “content” now, i.e., crap that is used to fill up space on pages, screens, and, most particularly, social media platforms) bots that spew forth paragraphs and paragraphs of words connected as though written by a native [insert language here] speaker.  

These bots can perform this trick in seconds, clearly obviating the need for… well, me.  

So, what if AI did write this column while I sipped a mai tai, scritched the ears of a nearby dog, and binged three seasons of Floribama Shore? Would anyone notice? Or care? 

It probably wouldn’t make a huge difference here, since I get nothing for writing these missives beyond the satisfaction that I receive from folks reading anything I write.  

But in the world outside Eastern, I do, in fact, make my living as a writer. 

That makes the notion of AI-generated content awfully spooky for me. I mean, I am a writer and liberal arts degree holder—I am already insecure enough.  

Now I got to worry about being replaced by a machine? 

Ask me the question half a decade ago, and I would have said, of course not: Writers will be the last to be replaced by robots.  

I mean, how can you replicate human creativity with data science? The whole idea is ridiculous, right? 

Robots will make cars. Flip burgers. Stick their claws into the fryers at Dunkin’ and pull out consistently perfect tori of dough every. single. time. 

But write? Pshaw. Clearly not. Not for a very long time anyway. 

Welp. I missed that call. 

So, as I stare into the abyss of a future without me, I have to ask what’s next? Do I search for some other calling? 

I mean what I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer.  

And now I am that (it is different from what I thought it would look like when I was in high school, though), but how much longer can I really do it if the machines are coming for me? 

Maybe I should just ditch the humanities and build a bunker. Or maybe I could be the John Henry of the word processor and battle the bits and bytes to the death.  

But I am not really the heroic type. Of course, 7-Eleven always seems to be hiring. 

Really, though, maybe I’m being too extra about this whole thing. 

I could just embrace the technology like I did with that newfangled iPhone contraption all the kids are using these days. 

Then I really could kick back, fire up the bot, and like a Roomba, let the machine write my column while I clean the sticky, er… content, out from between my toes. 

And just like that, it will be done. Artificial intelligence will have written this column. 

Or did it? 


Trent Jonas is an English graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.