Don’t Let Robots Write Stuff You Actually Care About

In the 17th century an overwhelming majority of the American population worked on a farm. Today, with the advent of many machines that have automated once back-breaking, daunting tasks, about 1% work in agriculture. Now, many argue this was a godsend. Who wants to bale hay all day, or pick corn out of the ground? Since then, we’ve seen more machines that can pick things up, put things down, and even vacuum our floors for us. This leads us up to today, where digitization has produced the “sharing economy”, which is eliminating previously successful businesses (i.e., Amazon killed the bookstore).

But all these jobs—picking things up, putting them down, baling hay—were mindless anyway—does anybody really miss vacuuming? Does anybody look at a Roomba and say, “I miss the good ol’ days when I’d break my back vacuuming . . .

Today, though, robots are writing. Robots write news articles for the Associated Press, sports for ESPN, they catalog and publish on trending topics, and organizations more and more are turning to robots to churn out information.

But human relationships, which are the foundations of business, are more complicated than that. (That sentence seems too obvious to write, but I still felt it necessary). And that's what content marketing is all about—building and sustaining relationships through ideas. There's no trick to this. There's no smoke and mirrors. At the end of the day, it's just simple human communication. It’s a very corny idea called sharing.

And robots aren't sensitive to this. Robots cannot make a joke about post modernism, or how couples can get into fights about Facebook posts. Robots can't interview someone because they can’t modify the whole trajectory of the interview based on what the interviewee talks about. Humans do that. Because when we talk to people, we hear a tone in their voice that we pick up on. We notice when people are uncomfortable. We notice when they are excited and want to keep speaking about something. We notice when we've struck a chord, or a brilliant moment has happened. All of these things are uniquely human. With all of our flaws, we were born with major gifts: sensitivity and compassion, humor and irony, and the need to connect with others.

Don't let robots write stuff you actually care about. Don't let robots do your humanity work for you. Johnny Five isn't alive. He was a just in an extremely culturally insensitive movie with the character-actor Fisher Stevens.