Some Skills Should Not Be Ceded to AI

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Robot hand lies uselessly on a desk with two computers, a tablet, a pen, and a phone

Source: Ivan Lazarenko via Alamy Stock Photo

I'm surprised by the number of times that people have asked me if I use ghostwriters (I don't). I guess perhaps I shouldn't have been — maybe it is a fairly common practice in the security industry. Lately, this question has been supplemented with another one. Do I use AI to assist me in writing? Absolutely not.

I steadfastly refuse to use ghostwriters or AI. Over the course of my career, I've repeatedly turned down requests to put my name on writing that isn't mine. If you see something with my name on it, you can know that I wrote it. If there is one thing we don't need in the security field, it is AI assisting us in amplifying the already very loud shouting of repetitive points without pragmatic approaches for addressing these points.

Perhaps some people consider me a relic of the past or a fool — who knows. I do have what I believe are good reasons why I don't use AI to help me write.

1. I Can Speak to What I Write

It can be awkward when someone is asked about something they have supposedly written about and they can't speak to it intelligently. Even more awkward is when someone can speak to a topic at a high level but, when questioned further, can't effectively pivot in a way that shows an understanding of the material. Fortunately, those of us who do our own writing don't have these issues. We have to know what we are talking about.

When a person sits down to write, it requires truly understanding a topic: thinking about it, analyzing it, organizing thoughts around it, and only then putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). This requires an investment in time and energy, but one that pays huge dividends down the line when I am asked to present, speak to, or otherwise engage on a given topic.

2. I Like to Include Emotion

One of the things that makes the human brain so special is its capacity for emotion. Sometimes, emotion clouds our decision making, slows us down, or drags us off course. In many cases, however, the human capacity for emotion can be a force for good. Sympathy may motivate someone to help another person. Emotional stress may motivate someone to solve a problem that has been plaguing them. Being optimistic may cause someone to work diligently for a cause they believe in. There are many examples, of course.

The point is that human writers can choose to appeal to the reader's emotions on occasion to help achieve the writer's objectives. It seems to me that a world full of AI-generated text would lack that emotional heft.

3. I Try to Have a Sense of Humor

As the American philosopher William James was said to note, "A sense of humor is nothing but common-sense dancing." This is a powerful quote aligned with James' belief that those lacking a sense of humor also lacked common sense. A human writer's ability to infuse (or attempt to infuse) humor in their writings is perhaps in its essence an ability to infuse common sense into writings. In addition to this, humor can, when used appropriately, keep the reader's attention, illustrate certain principles, and emphasize certain points. Humor also allows us to cope with challenges and better address them.

Given this, it is not surprising that comedians are some of the most intelligent, witty, and analytical people out there. A world of writings without humor does not sound like a very fun world to me.

4. Writing Is a Skill — Use It or Lose It

Many people, myself included, try to keep themselves in good shape physically. It is well known that when muscles are not used regularly, they atrophy. The same is true for different parts of the brain. If we become dependent on navigation systems and never use our sense of direction, we stand to lose it. If we don't regularly interact with people face-to-face, our ability to do so is impeded. Similarly, if we don't regularly write, we lose our ease of doing so.

I do review others' writings from time to time, and it is usually quite clear who has been practicing writing and who has not. I, for one, am not ready to give over the art of writing to mercenaries and machines.

5. People Know the Difference

Last, but certainly not least, most people can tell when they are reading something that was ghostwritten or written by AI. In my experience, people are generally disappointed when they realize they are reading something that was not written by the person whose thoughts they expected to read. This is an unfortunate but important lesson for us. As far as I am aware, writing is always better when it comes from the purported source.

Both technical writing talent and AI present interesting opportunities. While each option is certainly an appropriate approach in some cases, I don't believe that writing in someone else's name is one of them. Perhaps history will judge me to be a relic of the past, but I, for one, have every intention to continue to write my own pieces, without ghostwriters and without the help of AI. I believe that my readers know and appreciate that, and at the very least, I owe it to them.

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