TechComm and Artificial Intelligence (overview of a podcast by Seth Earley)

Nowadays, artificial intelligence is a central subject in the constantly evolving world of technologies. It is believed that in the long run, it will define the next generation of software solutions. Simultaneously, there is a lot of anxiety that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to lead to significant labor displacement.

So, in the context of Technical Communication, does the advance of AI mean that our trade is doomed to extinction as well?

Recently, I have listened to a podcast by Seth Earley who dwelt upon Technical Communication and AI and claimed that the representatives of this profession are rather doomed to lifelong employment.

Seth Earley is an expert with over 20-year experience in Knowledge Strategy, Data and Information Architecture, Search-based Applications and Information Findability solutions. Besides, he is a CEO of Earley Information Science (EIS).

Seth says that AI really has a lot of potential, but the technology is not very mature. The business need for using it is still to be clearly defined and understood. In addition, there is a misconception that AI can easily solve your problems by processing a large amount of messy and unstructured content; that it can make sense of it, learn from it, or figure it out. People do not understand nuances and the mechanism behind how AI works.

In fact, we should think of chatbots as a channel to content, data, and knowledge. They are aimed at solving specific problems. To solve these problems it is necessary to build user personas in user journeys, devise a large number of use cases, and then see how to serve the needed content in the given context. It is important to decide how to chunk the information to make it retrievable. Chatbots are not alive creatures 🙂 The magic is in how the content is structured and rationalized to meet the user requirements, and that is where Technical Communicators are needed.

Unfortunately, Technical Communication is often perceived as a necessary evil. Some people reckon that documentation is written because it has to exist and, in fact, nobody needs it. However, it is really important content needed to support a product.

Technical Communicators play a vital role in the development of AI applications. In his article “AI, Chatbots, and Content, Oh My! (or Technical Writers Are Doomed—to Lifelong Employment), Seth calls Technical Communicators ‘subject experts’, who are the most equipped to address the content requirements of chatbots. He states that we will be even in greater demand today than ever before, and will continue to be as these technologies evolve. AI works best when people give it very carefully curated content and a lot of carefully researched data about the user who needs this content.

He agrees that we are at an inflection point in human history, and AI is going to impact labor, employment, and jobs. But history shows that every technical revolution creates a multitude of new jobs and enhances the demand for the existing ones. At the end of the podcast, Seth gives some useful recommendations on how we, Technical Communicators, can prepare ourselves for the future with AI:

  • Look at chatbot frameworks
  • Understand how Natural Language Processing and Natural Language Understanding work
  • Improve our skills in Information Architecture and Knowledge Engineering
  • Create
  • Experiment
  • Prototype
  • Demonstrate capability

From my perspective, it would be reasonable to listen to the opinion of the expert and not to panic prematurely. As Technical Communicators, we should argue our worth and be proactive. In addition, we should not consider AI as a weapon against us. Instead, we can take advantage of using it. To find out how, have a look at our article “InfoDev in the future.

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