Rise of the robot writers? by Janine Donoho

Robot meets worldFor the last decade and more, makers of software have tried to lure writers into their electronic grasp. Their products fall far beyond our word processing needs. These programs claim to “unleash your creativity” with “programs to help you plan, structure and write your novel or…”

Your opus in an app or download. A quick search of “writing software” turns up 491,000,000 results—some free, but most? Not so much.

Since a law professor at my most recent alma mater raised a hue and cry for a “Department of Robotics”, I started thinking anew about how this tech has insinuated itself into so many areas of life. Vet robotic surgery, driverless vehicles, and algorithms fall into this general category. As do the aforementioned writing software/apps. Not quite Skynet—yet.

I, RobotDoes the trend explain the ongoing schlock issuing from the bastions of literacy in New York? And what of that oozing from Hollywood? Full disclosure: Intrepid Guy’s mancave hosts its share on our monstrously outsized screen. His love of all things tech issues from his ability to make inorganic electrons flow as he chooses.

Still… What elements imbue your favorite reads? Mine surprise me with reversals, hold characters that remain with me after I finish the story, and elicit true emotion. Yes, the opposite of the churning mill of boom, splat, boom that dominates blockbusters and movie screens. At risk of sounding cranky, I’m biased toward indie publishers, indie films, and indie bookstores.

Yet robotics has taken over the work of lower level accounting, law offices, assembly lines, and supposedly high level trading via algorithms. The results? Mixed. Hello, multiple stock market crashes.

Robotics is moving up our food chain, thus my question. Do algorithms trump the creative spark that makes us writers? Does the “boy meets girl by page 3”, “sexual sparks occur in chapter 3”, and so forth lend itself to this? And will we who write—and who begin that path as voracious readers—be satisfied with the results?Scary robot

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