Bots Have Gotten a Lot Better at Writing, but Are They Good Enough to Write Your Law Firm’s Blog?
In the ninth century, Abu Uthman of Basra, better known as al-Jahiz, the namesake of a crater on the moon, famously wrote that a book is the best companion, although perhaps not for the reasons that elementary school librarians have in mind. In his opinion, a book is the best companion because, unlike with in-person conversation, you can just flip through the boring parts, and if it turns out that the book is completely pointless or based on false premises, you can simply shut it. A book never tells you that it is too busy for you to read it. One can only wonder how Abu Uthman would have rated the companionship of blogs. Most law firm blogs are so shamelessly geared toward a target audience of search engines that they bear little of what makes human conversation annoying, or endearing, for that matter. A blog post might not replace an in-person conversation or personal email message, but they get the job done. They boost SEO rankings, drive traffic, and generate leads. Should you entrust your legal blog content to bots, or are human writers still the best choice?
In Praise of Machine Learning
A recent article in The New Yorker shows just how far the writing skills of computers have come in recent years. It shows how a bot composed a passable simulacrum of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. You don’t need to read The New Yorker to know that computers can and do write, though. If you use Gmail, then its bots try to help you write emails, and they usually do a decent job of guessing what you are going to say. Even better, bots don’t make typos.
Best of all, bots are the most cost-effective way to create blog posts. A subscription to blog-writing software is all it costs to get unlimited blog content.
Bots Have Mastered Grammar, but They Lack Social Skills
The more human-composed text bots read, the better they can imitate its style, but it lacks a certain human nuance. How many times have you tried to dash off an email acknowledging your colleague’s less than thrilling news (for example, about payroll being late or about having to postpone your meeting), and Gmail suggested “thanks for the heads up.” It’s not a bad guess, but it doesn’t really sound professional coming from a lawyer. “Thank you for letting me know” would be better, and you can, in fact, teach your bots to respond thusly.
Now, about that passable simulacrum of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Somehow, thanks to the bot author’s lack of human social skills, it ended up being even creepier than the original. The image of the neighbor picking up infants with tongs and tossing them onto the rubbish heap is an unnerving glimpse into the uncanny valley. (The bot apparently thinks “infants” is a subset of “sick animals,” which somehow makes it creepier still.) If you are sufficiently budget conscious, then, by all means, let bots write your blog, but maybe let a human edit it before you click “publish.”
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