AI Competes Against Humans in the Medium Writers Challenge

Four entries were created by artificial intelligence using keywords provided by the organizer. How did it fare against human writers?

Lance Ng

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Source: Andrew Lozovyi on depositphotos

A long time ago, I read somewhere that judges in an abstract art competition had awarded the top prize to a painting, which, unbeknownst to them, was actually painted by an elephant in a zoo.

On July 29th, 2021, Medium announced a ‘Medium Writers Challenge’, giving away cash prizes totaling US$100,000. Four finalists would each get US$10,000, and one among them would get the grand prize of US$50,000. 100 other “honorable mention” entries would also get US$100 each.

I’ve worked in the intersections of content creation and technology for the last six years of my career. And I’ve been an avid writer my entire life — both for work and self-expression.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) had already brought about a machine capable of taking on humans as a wordsmith.

So I decided to submit four entries generated by AI, posing as ordinary works, to see if it could ‘trick’ the judges and win some of the prizes in this writing contest.

Perhaps you’ve also read them without realizing they were written by a machine? (As at the date of publishing, two of the AI articles got past human curators and were distributed by Medium. One article also earned 2 fans and a comment.)

Forged by AI

I used an online service call Article Forge to create the stories. It uses an AI engine to generate articles based on the keywords you’ve chosen. Based on my research, this service was the best AI writer I could find.

For the writing contest, Medium had given four keywords to writers — Reentry, Death, Work, Space.

Each keyword came with a guiding prompt. For example, the word ‘Reentry’, was given the below prompt.

REENTRY

Tell us about an experience you’ve had coming back to something — or someone — after time away. What changed in your absence? How did you change? What are the funny moments, faux pas, discomforts, and…

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