"All of a sudden I was just doing everyone's job."

Impostor Syndrome

The pace at which AI has damaged countless industries is whiplash-inducing. And no one understands this better than a writer who in 2023 was excelling at his copywriting job with a team of writers 60 people strong — and by the next year found himself the last human standing, arm in arm with AI imitators he was expected to drag along and get up to speed.

"They wanted to use AI to cut down on costs," the writer told the BBC, using the pseudonym Benjamin Miller.

At first, the new workflow was this: his manager would feed a headline into an AI model, and it would generate an outline that the team were expected to work with, with Miller doing the final edits.

But that was just the beginning. Months later, management decided to cut humans out of the loop almost completely. Going forward, the AI model would generate articles in their entirety. Shoddy automation was here, and as a consequence, most of the writers lost their jobs. Miller kept his — though his role was going to be a bit different than before.

Now, he was tasked with polishing up the AI's lackluster prose, and, to quote the BBC, "make it sound more human." If only there was a way of doing that with, uh, human writers.

Dehumanizing Drudgery

Soon, Miller was the only human employee left on the team. It was down to him, and him alone, to fix up all the AI-generated articles.

"All of a sudden I was just doing everyone's job," Miller told the BBC. "Mostly, it was just about cleaning things up and making the writing sound less awkward, cutting out weirdly formal or over-enthusiastic language."

"It was more editing than I had to do with human writers, but it was always the exact same kinds of edits," he added. "The real problem was it was just so repetitive and boring. It started to feel like I was the robot."

And so Miller found himself in the unenviable position of legitimizing the intrusion of AI into his very own job by making the extremely fallible models appear more capable than they actually are. This hasn't been a fate exclusive to writers; in the service industry, for example, an army of underpaid, outsourced workers secretly worked behind the scenes to power the "AI" drive-thrus at the fast food chain Checkers.

Transition Team

Miller was cornered into that position, but across the industry, being an AI fixer-upper has quickly become a dominant new form of grunt work.

"We're adding the human touch, but that often requires a deep, developmental edit on a piece of writing," Catrina Cowart, a US-based copywriter who's edited AI text, told the BBC. "It's tedious, horrible work, and they pay you next to nothing for it."

Eventually, several months into the fully AI-automated experiment, even Miller was fired.

Out of a job, the best work he could find was — in a grim twist — working with a firm that makes AI writing harder to detect. A sobering indictment of the state of affairs, to say the least.

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