TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook asks: In A Keyboard-Free Future, What Happens To All The Writers?

I wrote this post with my voice. I made no changes, save for a few typo corrections, and used no keyboard. That’s probably why it’s so bad.

It’s an experiment of mine. The hypothesis is whether or not a keyboardless world will change writing. And make no mistake, at some point we will live in a keyboardless world.

His concern: writing “gets rid of the voice entirely”, and speaking has a lack of editing. There’s also a quote from Paul Graham that more or less says speaking doesn’t generate ideas as well as writing does, because there’s less consideration.

Crook continues:

In short, good ideas don’t come from saying them, they come from writing them. They come from quiet thought transferred silently over to print.

This isn’t the case for many people. A future entirely lacking some kind of editing mechanism would, of course, be hellish from a publishing standpoint. However, I know—and I’m not going to name names—a number of fairly prominent writers who primarily use speech input to get their initial ideas down. Some feel more comfortable speaking, whereas others simply aren’t fast enough to type their thoughts into a software package. Although I myself don’t often use speech software (bar for subbing, having the iMac read back my work), I nonetheless sometimes find myself firing a kind of stream-of-thought into whatever writing package I’m using (not least when writing for this blog). This isn’t terribly filtered, and, as Graham puts it, I spend “no more time thinking about each sentence than it takes to say it”. But that doesn’t matter when the person crafting a piece of written output then spends subsequent time honing and editing it. Like with every other creative medium, it’s the edit that’s so often important with the written (or spoken) word.

Crook ends with a thought that makes sense, and then another that perhaps lacks vision:

Or more likely, will software be built for our constant writing, deleting, and rewriting?

Only time can tell for certain, but I know one thing without a doubt. Speaking this post, even without any corrections, took far longer than writing it would have.

Without doubt, we will continue to see interfaces improve beyond someone having to be tied to a keyboard, in precisely the same way that DTP apps in the 1980s moved us on from having to laboriously manually correct typewritten documents. There’s so much scope in gestural interfaces twinned with a kind of artificial intelligence—being able to select a chunk of your voice-input text and tell the application to move it, delete it, or change it in some way. On that basis, while I agree with Crook’s concluding line, I suspect it’ll be sooner rather than later before we have more intuitive and natural means of creating text than restricting people to how fast their fingers move over a QWERTY keyboard.