“Automating Writing from Androids to AI”

The Writing Program at Case Western Reserve University will host Annette Vee, associate professor of English and director of the Composition Program at University of Pittsburgh, for the Edward S. and Melinda Sadar Lecture in Writing in the Disciplines. Vee will present “Automating Writing from Androids to AI” Monday, Dec. 11, from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. in the Tinkham Veale University Senior Classroom.

Generative AI platforms, such as ChatGPT, have suddenly thrust the automation of writing into the public spotlight. Machine-learning techniques behind large language models, such as the GPT series, may be new; however, for centuries, humans have attempted to automate writing using mechanical, spiritual and logical means. The automation of writing parallels a longer history of automation, yet with a twist: each of these attempts to automate writing also implicated a kind of artificial human intelligence. Writing is uniquely human, and as such, it has served as a touchstone for scientific and literary imaginations focused on replicating human intelligence. This presentation puts current conversations about AI writing in historical context with 18th century automata, 19th century spiritualists and 20th century computer scientists to probe both what writing meant in previous eras as well as dominant assumptions of what it meant to be human in these eras.

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About the speaker

At the University of Pittsburgh, Annette Vee teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in writing and digital composition. She is the author of Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming is Changing Writing (MIT Press, 2017), and co-editor of TextGenEd: Teaching with Text Generation Technologies (WAC Clearinghouse, 2023). She has published on computer programming, blockchain technologies, intellectual property and AI-based text generation. Her current book project, Automating Writing from Androids to AI, examines why and how humans have sought to automate writing across history.