Are AI communications changing written language?

Will easy, automated language production sweep us all into “sameness” of expression?

We now have a variety of automated communication tools. Things like autocorrect on our phones, Google Smart Compose in our emails, and auto-suggest in our messaging and live chat applications. Not to mention chatbots.

Over time, as more and more of our sentences are composed via auto-suggest/automation, will language diversity suffer for the sake of simplicity?

The changes

First, what changes are AI communications bringing? What are the concerns, and what’s the reality?

— Changing viewpoints

There’s a concern around AI communication changing what we say as well as how we say it. If the auto-suggest features behind our written communication repeatedly offer biased suggestions, could it have an impact on our opinions about certain matters?

Indeed, the issue of echo chambers, caused by such algorithmic bias, have already been seen and documented.

In this sense, AI communications finishing our thoughts for us could be subtly changing them, too. By routing us into set conversational pathways, AI could inhibit growth through the understanding of different viewpoints.

— ‘Sameness’ of expression?

This concern goes that if AI is writing our messages for us, we’ll all end up sounding the same. We’ll say the same things, losing the idiosyncrasies that make us human.

In short, AI communications mean the loss of the human touch in our written language. That is, we’d inevitably lose some diversity and creativity of expression. After all, the messages we write will be crafted not by us, but by our technology.

— Countering the concerns of bias and sameness

On the other hand, AI predictions are based on things we usually say. The auto-responses we’re fed are the ones we type every time. Think the ‘how are you’s and the ‘kind regards’ that pepper conversations almost formulaically.

The fact remains that AI communications are (currently) most often used for the frequent niceties we exchange, and for correcting spelling or grammatical errors. It’s based on the routine things we say day in, day out.

Ultimately, the auto-suggest features we are using do not craft the substance of our messages.

Even if our wording becomes more uniform, our meanings will remain ours. After all, the point of spelling and grammar rules is to aid written communication — AI tools are merely helping us with that.

— Changing abilities

The final concern surrounding the impact of AI communications revolves around the impact it could have on children. It’s postulated that if AI always corrects our spelling, always writes our message for us, then the ability to do these things ourselves will atrophy.

In the case of children using this technology, the concern is that skills such as spelling, grammar, and written language will never develop.

The other side of this concern is that we can choose when to use AI communications as a tool. Seeing corrected spellings can help us to learn them for future writing. The same goes for seeing correct grammar and clearly written sentences.

Just as you should not over-rely on automation or other software, as long as we avoid over-reliance on AI communication technologies, there’s no reason to expect our skills to atrophy.  

The overlooked positives

Beyond the changes that AI communication may pose to our written language, there are also benefits to the technology.

— Clarity in written communications

AI communication helps everyone create clear, error-free messages.

There’s value in helping people communicate points clearly and effectively.

Where they may struggle to find the right words to make their point, AI-powered suggestions could help.

— Brings convenience and efficiency

Automation makes it quicker to write messages to friends, customers, businesses and so on. AI communications take on the repetitive, frequent things we type — saving us the time we would spend typing them. For live chat agents, that means quicker responses for customers. For emailers, it means more mental energy to spend crafting the more important part of the message.

AI communications

Humans have a habit of predicting the worst from emerging technologies, even when they typically end up improving lives across the board.

It pays to remember the value that these technologies represent, rather than fearmonger over the worst-case scenario. As with any AI-powered ability, all AI communications are is tools. A tool is not good or bad — rather, it’s up to us how we use it and the impact we allow it to have.

So yes, AI communications may be changing parts of our written language — but it’s a change towards manners, towards the opportunity to provide more substance to what we’re saying.

Change doesn’t have to mean bad.

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