Future Storytellers

“When we have AI that’s able to write a good story, that’s it. That’s when humanity is done. We’ll officially be obsolete. Of course, Elon Musk is really invested in AI at the moment, and if anyone can do it, it’s that guy.”

The above snippet came a conversation with one of my colleagues at the University of Melbourne. We both work for the Faculty of Business and Economics, her background is as a journalist, now working in communications, while I’ve landed in the role of Marketing and Content Coordinator. It’s a title I’ve been thinking about a bit lately, when you look at them independently, those words don’t seem to mean that much- they’re essentially buzzwords. When you add them up, the result is a mysterious title that doesn’t really tell you it’s function. When people ask me just what it is I do, I have to pause for a second.

“Honestly, it’s a lot of fun”, is usually what I say.

I write, coordinate video production, organise photoshoots, and recently, have been hosting my first ever podcast. There’s also decent dose of social media in there. I essentially work as something that’s part journalist, part copywriter, part producer, and occasional photographer. It’s a few different hats, all stitched together, but in the end, it’s all based on words. The magic, catch-all word in this instance, is “content”.

Working at a university, particularly in business and economics, the phrase “Future of Work” is one that comes up quite a lot. Now that I’ve finished a Masters in writing, and have spent some time as a writer in the workforce, it’s been interesting to think about just what that means, and what that future might look like.

It’s no secret that the nature of work is changing. It’s widely accepted that students are now being educated for jobs that don’t exist yet, a proposition that’s both thrilling and daunting. But what does this mean for writers?

First off, I’m happy to have a day job, one that keeps me with food and a roof, and gives me opportunities to not only write, but experiment with other forms of storytelling and mediums, all that “content” I was talking about (one of the concepts that came up a lot during my degree was “transmedia storytelling”, something I’m very interested in). It’s rare that writers are given access to things like film-crews and podcasting studios – until you hit it big that is – so I’m thankful in that regard.

There are the considerations that come with job security as well. The jury still seems to be out on AI, but my thinking on this is that it’s not a bad time to work in the creative industries. Imagination and lateral thinking impress me as areas where computers might have a way to go before catching up (although I hear they can paint now). I’m inclined to agree with the above sentiment, I think when our jobs as creatives come under threat, it’s a much more telling sign of the times than simply my employability.

There’s a Catch-22 that comes with that though, the more opportunities that open up to writers and storytellers, the more demand will be placed on the skillset. When comes the point where it’s not just about pen and paper, or even keyboard, but camera, microphone, or whatever it is that comes next (perhaps those neural-implants we’re always hearing about). Will future storytellers strictly be “content producers”?

New mediums are exciting, and they create endless opportunities for new modes of storytelling, but there’s going to be a demand for writers and creatives to stay sharp, and tech-savvy in the coming years, which I actually think is a good thing. My only hope – and here I risk sounding like I’m 27 going on 70 – is that there is still space in the world for novels when I’m in my golden years, and not just 15-second neural blasts.

As a final note, I think there’s a better than good chance Elon Musk is a Bond villain. Ten years from now they’ll unearth his evil Volcano lair, and we’ll hear about his failed attempt to blow up the moon.

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