By Jake Davis
Transient

Wikipedia, the scourge of teachers who still give writing assignments (as if students still had a chance of becoming literate), cannot rely solely on the blood, sweat, and wikitears of its editors alone. There's simply too much content: as of now, that'd be over four million articles in English alone, plus at least as many in other languages. The English edition, if you printed and bound it, would fill almost nine library shelves. So, according to a recent BBC News Magazine article, the Internet encyclopedia now runs with the help of bots.

Essentially, the bots have to be used because of the logistical massiveness of the encyclopedia. Its contents can be edited by all the people who read it—which means, if you think about it, they should be as tagged, graffed, and marked up as the stalls in your favorite dive bar: FREE ART DEGREES, DREAMERS should be written next to every figurative roll of toilet paper on every page of Wikipedia, right? Somehow, it's not.

The relative cleanliness of Wikipedia is due in large part to the bots—armies of them lurking behind the scenes, looking out for changes to articles that are irrelevant or offensive. Gone are the days when you could squeeze "phuque" into your hometown's demographic chart or kill a lunchbreak by putting dick jokes into Anthony Weiner's page, and gone are the days when you could put the name of your arch nemesis on the list of prominent war criminals. So much for those shitzingigz.

Of course, Wikimedia stresses the fact that the bots are not calling all the shots, and that human editors are necessary to retain the polish—such as it is—of the site. And you might think that that is going to be the case for a while. Except you're probably wrong. Bots are already writing effective articles, covering things that no human would really want to write about. Like little league games.

Once the robowriters start breaking into a more general writing field—I'm guessing that romance and thriller genres will be the first to see commercially viable, algorithmically generated content—the literary landscape will change at an even more rapid pace. You thought eBooks were the end of novels? Wait till a bot compiles a narrative specifically honed on your Amazon buying habits.

In response to this technological marvel, writers will probably become more formally experimental, seeking to convey in ways that escape conventional tropes. (Yay. For. Poetry.) And their audience will probably take renewed pleasure in standing in the same room with them, knowing that the words they savor are the work of a fleshy primate. (Hasta la vista, mass-culture.)

Image: but does it float