Take heart, writers. Artificial intelligence lacks a vital storytelling component: empathy

Software can string words together, but it can’t draw people together with a tug at the heartstrings. AI and machine learning can, however, help with all that tedious research.

Many workers worry that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will take their jobs, leaving them out in the cold while robots take over the world.

There’s some cause for concern: self-driving cars, augmented and virtual reality, and chat bots handling customer service.

Analyst firm Forrester predicts that AI will replace 16 percent of jobs in the United States by 2025, and PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts that AI will take over 30 percent of U.K. jobs.

Where will AI and ML stop? The answer isn’t clearly defined. Scientists, engineers and programmers are continually finding innovative uses for AI, usually deriving from a need for a specific fix, such as a way to reduce combat casualties. Voilà: drones.

Businesses base everyday decisions on big data. AI and ML are ideal for crunching data and predicting results; algorithms’ processing power makes complex computational tasks easier.

AI and ML are great at automating repetitive tasks and making objective decisions. Beyond that, they stumble. For example, seasoned mathematicians lag computers in solving complex math problems, yet in a 2012 experiment a preschooler significantly outperformed a supercomputer in recognizing a cat in a photo.

How AI and ML can help writers

You are an amalgamation of your life experiences, your thoughts and ideas, and your intuitive ability to reason out and empathically tell a story. Their advances aside, AI and ML are still far from writing with personality.

One thing they can help with is compiling information for writers. Consider how quickly an algorithm could peruse millions of articles and data and pull together a summary of its research.

We probably won’t see AI and ML take over the creative arts soon. In Harvard Business Review’s excellent post “Why AI can’t write this article (yet),” the author cites Roger Schank, a researcher and professor, who believes that a computer should be able to identify the plot of “Romeo and Juliet” after watching “West Side Story.”

Schank posits that “stories are central to intelligence, reasoning and meaning,” and asserts that because AI can’t delineate stories, it has a long way to go before it reaches true intelligence.

Where the software falls short

AI and ML lack the essential art of the narrative.

Humans are emotional creatures. Understanding that storytelling helps people remember key points, writers appeal to fear, joy, love, persuasion, anger and other emotions when creating content.

Storytelling is how humans relate to one another—and how a business relates to its customers. Every piece of content created for marketing purposes is intended to build relationships with customers, and storytelling is the key factor.

Top copywriters create stories that place a brand’s ideal customer in the driver’s seat. They show prospects and customers how a company’s product or service will make their lives better, make them happier, or solve their problems. Unlike AI or ML, human writers create memorable, emotional stories that compel and engage their target audience.

Only you can create a unique and powerful story based on your experiences. AI and ML can’t compete with the human brain for storytelling—at least not yet. Maybe someday someone will teach a computer empathy, but until that day comes, the world will still need writers to reach people with words.

A version of this post first appeared on the Pro Writing Aid blog.

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