AIs can write for us but will we actually want them to?

From ChatGPT to Microsoft 365 Copilot, we’re seeing a wave of AIs that can write and write well.

In a recent post, Jim Nielsen described how having AIs write for us is a trade-off:

“Writing is a moment for self-reflection, for providing the space and time necessary for the conception of thoughts or feelings that can change your heart or mind. Offloading that task to AI is not necessarily a net-gain, it is a trade-off. One to make consciously.”

Jim Nielsen - More Everything With AI

That made me think about my own writing. If I had to break down my current writing activity (not counting code), it would look something like this:

  • 10% - Journaling
  • 10% - Blog posts
  • 20% - Texting and Personal Emails
  • 10% - Meeting notes / todos
  • 35% - Programming notes (usually to help me work through tricky coding issues)
  • 15% - Book notes

Could I hand any of these over to AI?

Definitely no on the journaling and blog posts, since those are basically pure self-reflection. It’s me figuring out what I believe. I could augment that a bit with spelling and grammar check tools, but it’s hard to imagine offloading more without compromising the process.

For texting and emails I already use autocomplete and Smart Compose. I also use Gmail templates for frequent responses, so I can’t see how I could automate this much further.

Personal notes (for meetings, books, and coding) seems the most promising but I don’t think AI can do this for me either. When I take notes, I’m only interested in writing out the stuff that matters to me. Every book I read has a hundred summaries on the internet, each more detailed and comprehensive than mine, but I still take book notes because I want to remember what impacted me. Even if an AI knew what those things were, delegating that work would defeat the purpose.

So maybe I don’t want AIs to take over my writing but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. Autocomplete, grammar check, and Smart Compose… these tools are already AI powered. As AI tech progresses, I expect these tools to improve and become more pervasive, impacting my writing in little ways, mostly from the margins.