Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Why is AI only coming for English Majors?

Many assume creatives will be the only ones to lose their jobs to AI when it threatens to take over a wide array of occupations

As an English major, artificial intelligence (AI) is constantly used to devalue my major. Despite how common it is, my first encounter with such reasoning still stands out to me.

A friend of a friend asked if he could have dinner with us in Worcester Dining Commons. If you’re a student at the University of Massachusetts, you know it’s only polite to say yes rather than let the poor soul wander for hours in search of a seat. It’s just as well; I like meeting new people.

The conversation seemed to be going well until I started complaining about the political theory class I had to take for a general education requirement. Without meaning to, I offended our guest—who turned out to be a political science major—when I had merely set out to insult a professor.

To avoid the awkwardness, I tried to shift the conversation elsewhere and mentioned my upcoming thesis (a series of poetry I had been planning for a long time). The moment I mentioned it he pounced.

“I could just get ChatGPT to write a poem these days.”

It wasn’t the first time I heard this kind of comment. Even before the rise of ChatGPT, I had to endure similar jabs. I faced everything from the genius remark “But you already speak English,” to the truthful yet unnecessary remark, “Writing doesn’t pay well.”

I’ve had STEM and business majors argue that my classes are easier than their own, only to watch them turn around and have a meltdown over a three-page paper. Humanities and STEM seem to have been permanently locked in the most foolish of wars for years now: which majors are harder and therefore more valuable. This argument is often made somewhat ironically, but now STEM majors genuinely seem to think my major is obsolete thanks to AI. It isn’t, for a variety of reasons.

To put things into perspective, I’m an English major with a certificate in professional writing and technical communication and a concentration in creative writing. It’s quite the mouthful, but to sum it up, my major provides me with the skills necessary for industry level writing and software use while also honing my unique voice and style as a creative writer.

Originally, I thought these skills would make me indispensable, but with the rise of ChatGPT and other Ais, the job of a technical writer is easily automated. With AIs ability to recognize text-based data as well as edit and reproduce, many media-based jobs are threatened. It is a sobering reality, but one I have come to accept.

In spite of these skills, there remain many fundamental aspects to writing that AI lacks, the biggest being human experience. AI may be adept at accessing, analyzing and reproducing pre-existing work from writers, but it cannot create something entirely original. Its abilities may be able to produce a poem in the style of Mary Oliver or Sylvia Plath, but it wouldn’t be able to create something unique. It lacks its own experiences, emotions and ideas which are all integral to writing a good piece. Instead, it rehashes previous poetry. A writer with an individual voice cannot be generated by AI. Could an AI write a piece similar to this article? Absolutely. Could AI write it without access to previous writing material from which to copy? No.

Aside from the technical shortfalls of AI, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has ensured that writers will be difficult to replace. In a historic deal, the WGA reached an agreement with studios and streaming services that will protect their creative choices within and outside the writers’ room. One of the biggest terms of the contract regards the use of AI. Under the terms of the agreement, writers will decide where, when and how AI is used, if they choose to use it at all. If a writer does choose to use this tool, their work in collaboration with AI will not be discredited or undermined as a result. The agreement has forced companies to recognize that writers are invaluable to creating new media, and AI is more beneficial under their control.

While I have prepared myself for how AI will affect my future, I wonder if my fellow students know just how many jobs it threatens. Business Insider details that technology, legal industry, market research, teaching, financial, trading, graphic design and customer service jobs will all be impacted by the integration of AI. Still, just as my skills cannot be entirely replaced by AI, most of these fields won’t be seeing complete automation any time soon.

As IEEE Spectrum has pointed out, widespread implementation of AI is far more complex than many have made it out to be. To replace a variety of jobs on a large scale, AI would need standardization that hasn’t yet been agreed upon and won’t be agreed upon anytime soon. Additionally, a vast amount of money would be required to run such a system, along with the number of people that would need to be trained to operate and supervise this system—AI relies on external management. Aside from the labor essential for such a task, there is still the matter of the hallucinations, incorrect code, math errors and general misinformation that AI continues to produce. AI is a long way from being perfected. Jobs are just as far from being replaced.

It may seem that I am against AI, but it’s quite the opposite. Seeing AI at full strength would be amazing. What I am against is the replacement of humans with AI. As seen with the writers’ strike, companies don’t want to treat writers as valued employees. “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” one anonymous studio executive said.

The movement to replace jobs with AI is based around ideals that do not respect human creativity and labor. AI is an incredible tool that could help improve the efficiency and quality of writing through our cooperation with it. Nevertheless, we cannot see the benefits of AI until we stop attacking something as stupid as a major that’s different from our own and start appreciating the unique experiences and ideas that every individual has to offer.

Hailey Furilla can be reached at [email protected].

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