What’s the Point of Reading Writing by Humans?


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One of the stultifying but ultimately true maxims of the analytics movement in sports says that most narratives around player performance are lies. Each player has a “true talent level” based on their abilities, but the actual results are mostly up to variance and luck. If a player has, say, the true talent to hit thirty-one home runs in a season, the timing of those home runs is mostly random. If someone hits a third of those in April, that doesn’t really mean he’s a “hot starter” who is “building off a great spring”—it just means that if you take thirty-one home runs and toss them up in the air to land randomly on a timeline, sometimes ten of them float over to April. What does matter, the analytics guys say, are plate appearances: you have to clock in enough opportunities to realize your true talent level.

For much of my career, I was the type of journalist who only published a handful of magazine pieces a year. These required a great deal of time, much of which was spent on minor improvements to the reporting, structure, and sentences. I believed that long-form journalism, much like fiction or poetry, possessed a near-mystical rhythm that could be accessed through months of intensive labor. Once unlocked, some spirit would sing through the piece and touch the readers in a universal, truthful way.

Then, about two years ago, while working at the New York Times, I began writing and publishing thousands of words a week. My main motivation was health care: I had been a contract employee for years and had very little income stability. But also, from an authorial standpoint, I was curious to see what would happen if I just started churning. Would my sentences deteriorate? Would I lose my sense for what was good or bad?


https://media.newyorker.com/photos/64272c349715a584f9e5385e/master/w_1920,c_limit/JCK_AI_Writing_4.jpgIllustration by Nicholas Konrad / The New Yorker



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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. christinenovalarue
    Apr 12, 2023 @ 06:57:44




  2. Sikiladi
    Apr 15, 2023 @ 09:33:09

    Interesting perspective. Don’t know what’s the point of reading and writing but we continue to do so actively.



    • Mohenjo
      Apr 16, 2023 @ 01:11:16

      I read for enjoyment and knowledge, and write for fulfillment!

      Liked by 1 person


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