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Why Learning to Write Well Is Still Important in the Age of A.I.

Originally posted on inc.

Writing teaches you to think, and you can’t outsource that to a bot.

Elon Musk and some 1,800 other artificial intelligence experts may have signed a letter calling for a pause in A.I. research to develop better safeguards. But pause or no pause, it’s clear that A.I. is advancing incredibly rapidly and soon will transform how a lot of white collar work gets done.

What exactly those changes will look like is the subject of fierce debate and is probably anybody’s guess at this point. But already impressive tools like ChatGPT make plain that a lot of routine writing will probably be done by bots in the future.

Marketers are already experimenting with having chatbots write social media posts and ads. College professors are rethinking the essay for the age of A.I. Real estate agents are handing off writing listings to the bots. So if you’re a young person today, should you conclude that it’s time to decrease the time and effort you invest in learning to write well?

Writing makes you smarter.

“Writing is the process by which you realize that you do not understand what you are talking about. Importantly, writing is also the process by which you figure it out,” writes Farnam Street blogger Shane Parrish. “Writing about something is one of the best ways to learn about it.”

He’s not the only one making the point. Venture capitalist Morgan Housel has argued that everyone–even those with not a shred of literary ambition–should perfect their writing. Not to persuade others, but to make themselves smarter.

“Everyone is full of ideas they’re not aware of. They’re gut feelings. Intuitions. You use them a dozen times a day. But you’d shrug your shoulders if someone asked why. How you react to career risk. Why you invest the way you do. Why you like some people and question others. We’re all brimming with opinions on these topics that we may never discuss, even with ourselves,” Housel argues. Writing is the way to turn that “phantom intelligence” of hunches and half-formed opinions into usable tools for the betterment of yourself and your career.

Writing signposts what you don’t know so you can figure it out. It unearths the things you half know so you can get a handle on them and actually use them. It also serves as a cleaning service for your overstuffed brain. Spilling your thoughts onto a page is among the best ways to tame anxiety, learn about yourself, and generally boost your mental health.

If you want to learn to think, you need to learn to write.

One day in the not too distant future, a chatbot may be able to write a convincing email to your boss or polish up that important presentation in minutes. Use those abilities to your advantage. But no bot is going to figure out how complex ideas fit together and apply that to your specific situation any time soon. No bot can help you pick your way through a challenging intellectual puzzle.

Chatbots can convincingly regurgitate human knowledge, but they still struggle to expand it or even combine it in new and enlightening ways.

In this world, empathetic, experimental, humane writing may end up being an even more valuable career skill. But even if you don’t plan to market yourself as a wordsmith or communicator, you still need to be able to think. And the best tool for thinking humans have ever invented–up to and including these mind-bending new A.I. tools–is good old-fashioned writing. So if you want to be able to think clearly and well, you still need to learn to write.

Source: inc.

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