When I was in 12th grade, my flute teacher Mrs. Contino told me that when she was in school (roughly 1957) her teachers told her that a big problem in the future would be the over-abundance of leisure time and the failure of humankind to use it well.
I’m not sure about you . . .
But I’m definitely not suffering from an over-abundance of leisure time.
Recent events (Here’s an example: New York Times Headline on Monday: Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach) caused me to remember that odd conversation with Mrs. Contino from way back in 1996.
“That had to have come from somewhere,” I thought. “She wouldn’t have just made that up, would she?”
At least one technological advance came in handy today, when I googled and found the answer. The abundance of leisure time was a prediction detailed by John Maynard Keynes, in his paper Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930).
The second sentence of the second paragraph is shockingly relevant, 93 years later.
“We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another,” it says.
Again, we’re a mere 7 years out from the predicted arrival of distressingly abundant leisure time and, I don’t know about you, but I’m not even close to suffering from it.
Do I detect some aspartame in this newsletter?
Am I even a copywriter if I don’t broadcast my opinion on ai (artificial intelligence) writing services?
These are “services” or apps that run on algorithms that instruct the programs to scan all kinds of publicly (though NOT NECESSARILY public domain, so yes, they’re basically stealing) text and then generate writing based on additional prompts you input like:
“Write me an article about how to grow tomatoes.”
If a robot can write those articles, the very same articles I started my business with 15 years ago, why would I link to them?
They’re a tech tool and I write about tech tools. Ya might as well go read about them.
When I was in Minneapolis last week, there was a vendor promising to get your website to the top of google (which is a myth, see this article) and one of their main tools was to add to your website blog posts written by Jasper, the ai tool.
When you read those ai generated posts, you will sense that they’re artificial.
It doesn’t mean I’m necessarily against this type of tool (although I’m not big on scraping copyrighted material to power the tool).
A tool is only as valuable as the person operating it. (We’ve all heard that.)
Give me an axe and you’ll lose the axe throwing tournament.
You also need the right tool for the job. We’ve all heard that, too.
Here’s my take on ai writing: use it, if you feel ethical about it, if you want, to generate ideas. To feed the services some prompts and see what they come up with. Springboard from there.
Use ai to recombine your own words to churn out a very simple turn and burn “how to water plants” article. (And then proofread and hort info QA it because bots can’t actually think and they are only as smart as what they scrape.)
I linked to those services because, for juicy writing, fun, engaging, personal, human words that make us feel and take action, we ned humans, not bots.
A bot won’t give you a deep dive on Harry Styles’ style as it relates to craft vs content. (If you’re interested in this ai discussion, do go read that newsletter. It’s related.)
Only a human can relate everything to Harry Styles.
A self-fulfilling meme
Surely you have seen this meme or a version of it.
“I forced a bot to watch over 1,000 hours of Hallmark Christmas movies and then asked it to write a Hallmark movie of its own. Here is the first page.
If you have watched a Hallmark movie you know why this meme is so funny.
If you have not, I recommend watching the one with the Rockettes because everything with the Rockettes is better.
Here is a secret about that meme and its original version.
THAT SCRIPT WAS NOT WRITTEN BY A BOT.
THE AI MEME TO END ALL MEMES WAS (WERE – THERE ARE MANY VERSIONS) WRITTEN BY A HUMAN.
Here’s how we can tell:
Twitter user @JanelleCShane wrote,
“Neural nets learn by example. If you show it 1,000 hours of video (assuming 120,000 unique 30-sec Olive Garden commercials exist), you’ll get video out, not a script with stage directions. Notice that this script has the same main characters and scenario the entire way through. An actual neural net’s story will tend to meander dreamlike because it forgets what it was doing[…]Neural nets also have trouble constructing complex sentences, unless its data contains lots of examples of that particular type.”
A bot can write a passible 5-paragraph essay.
A bot can cobble together paragraphs about how to water tomatoes, generally.
It takes a human to really tickle our funny bones.
At least, it does for now.
What’s in it for me? (And by me, I mean you.)
The reasons I wrote about ai this week are that I want you to understand what AI can do and what it cannot.
What you might be able to use it for and what you can’t count on it for.
I want you to know why you shouldn’t be scared of it as long as you are putting your best human foot forward.
I want you, as a writer, and as a business owner to what makes you exceptional, weird, a little liquid death-like.
I want you to see beyond the charlatans selling you easy fixes to constantly changing problems, to hitting constantly moving targets.
Hopefully this helps.
f you want some other great resources for learning the confusing language of tech, I found some good ones for you. Just scroll down.
Each newsletter always has a mix of fun and functional links.
Learning to speak tech
If you listen to nothing else this week, please listen to episode 1 and episode 2 of a two-parter with Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley on Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast. Then read their book. You will FINALLY understand what an algorithm is.
Canva Pro for building PPT slides.
It has saved me 4-5 hours per talk. This is their tutorial on how to use the service.
A repeat but so good!
Laugh your face off. (Youtube link)
What IS that color? A free hex color generator
Wow! That was a lot!
I’m late for GardenComm happy hour so if a link doesn’t work, grant me patience and google it.
Write back and send me your favorite meme. I covet them.
Hope to see you at iLandscape in a few weeks!
P.S. Here’s my favorite robot story. In the end, he wanted to be human. I think there’s a there there. What do you think?