Disclaimer: This was written by a human (Ginnye) and not ChatGPT. Want to get more human-powered content? Sign up for my email newsletter here!
Have you heard of ChatGPT?
Just kidding! If you’re in the marketing or writing community you’re probably sick of hearing about it. Seriously, it’s everywhere and everyone is talking about it. Engineers, programmers, teachers, marketing professionals, content creators, tech philosophers, and of course, writers.
If you’re not familiar, ChatGPT is a chatbot that uses natural language processing to generate content, images, and code. I.e., you type in a question or request to ChatGPT and it responds in a conversational manner. It’s akin to chatting with the bots on websites that always pop-up and ask if they can help with anything. Except ChatGPT is operating with wayyyyyy more data and they won’t pass you off to a customer service representative if your question stumps it.
Programmers are marveling at its ability to help debug code in a matter of seconds and content creators are impressed that it can write a blog post that is indistinguishable from a human one. Imagine if something that normally takes you half a day could be done in a matter of minutes?
But with all powerful tech, there are a lot of concerns and questions. Especially amongst writers, marketers, and content creators. Including:
- Will AI chatbots replace human writers?
- Will the internet and book market be flooded with AI writing?
- How can writers compete with AI generated content?
Well friends, I have lots of thoughts on this one. So let’s dig in!
Some basics: What is conversational AI?
ChatGPT is a type of conversational AI, but not all conversational AI is ChatGPT. (Anyone else having flashbacks to standardized testing prep?) Conversational AI is technology that talks with users. It can be a chatbot, but it can also be a virtual assistant. Either way, it uses data, natural language processing, and machine learning to replicate human speech.
Since ChatGPT’s release on November 30, 2022, other tech giants have jumped into action, anxious they’ll be left behind in the conversational AI race. Everyone wants a version of an AI-powered conversational model that can generate text, images, or other assets.
Google announced they’ll release a version called Bard and then previewed it (somewhat disastrously) at an event in Paris. The release date is still TBD, but many tech folks speculate it’s not up to the same caliber as ChatGPT. Also running in the AI chatbot race is Chinese tech giant Baidu, who recently announced they’d release a version called Ernie Bot in March 2023.
At best, these AI programs will revolutionize how we search for and process information as well as how we create content. At worst, bias in the data training could generate harmful or inaccurate responses; the internet will be flooded with AI content and void of fresh ideas and voices; and writers will be obsolete.
So why is everyone freaking out about ChatGPT?
If you’re new to the ChatGPT conversation you may be asking, so what’s the big deal? Why is this different or significant from any of the other thousands of AI tools and products?
One reason ChatGPT is receiving a lot of attention is because of the fast adoption. It reached over 100 million users in just a few months. Remember, it’s only been out since November 2022! For perspective, it took TikTok about nine months after launch to reach those numbers. ChatGPT is still so popular that you often can’t access the website because it’s at capacity.
Secondly, it’s beginning to shift how we think about search. Right now the basic process is you visit Google (or your search engine of choice), type a question or some keywords, and Google returns a list ranked by what they think is reputable and relevant. But with ChatGPT, you ask a question or give a command and it returns a response. Here’s an example:
It can also help with tasks like debugging code and editing content. Copy and paste a blog post into ChatGPT and ask it to edit the text. It’ll provide suggestions on spelling, grammar, syntax, clarity, and organization. Something that search engines can’t currently do.
What are the limitations of ChatGPT?
Like anything, ChatGPT comes with limitations. Some of which should be taken into consideration if you’re planning to use the tool for anything other than pure amusement.
- It can’t access the internet
Unlike Google or other search engines, ChatGPT isn’t crawling the internet to find the latest and most relevant information. Instead the responses are generated from the data that ChatGPT is trained on. So don’t expect ChatGPT to be providing groundbreaking answers, research, or resources.
- It’s only trained on data through September 2021
Similar to the limitation above, don’t expect ChatGPT to be a know-it-all. At the moment, it’s only been trained on data through September 2021. Meaning it only has access to information pre-September 2021 and can’t provide answers past that. For example, I asked it who won Super Bowl LVII and this is what came back:
- Incorrect responses
Just like a human, ChatGPT does its best to provide accurate information but sometimes it’s…bullshitting. You might be asking: But if it’s trained on billions of data points, how can it be wrong? Well, natural language processing systems (like ChatGPT) are taught to analyze patterns in text, identify said patterns, and then use that information to predict a logical response to a given sentence. I.e., it’s trained to complete the sentence based on statistical probabilities.
Which means it’s pretty good at seeming like its providing a great response, but sometimes it’s inaccurate. It’s like that one friend in the group who always seems like they know a lot, but really they’re just confident speakers. The lesson? Always cross-reference the information before you act on it.
Will ChatGPT replace writers?
Now, the question we’ve all been waiting for: will conversational AI with text generation capabilities, like ChatGPT, replace writers and other content creators?
My opinion? No.
While they can generate content quickly and somewhat accurately, their limitations don’t allow them to create art. Art is a unique voice or perspective; an opinion or experience; and the power of story.
ChatGPT can’t describe what coffee smells like or the exact shade of the evening sky out your window. ChatGPT can’t tell you how the repeal of Roe v. Wade, or the crypto meltdown, or the release of Hogwarts Legacy impacts it. ChatGPT can’t write about falling in love or losing a friend or finding your purpose.
The human experience is creative, nuanced, messy, painful, textured, confusing, beautiful, and personal. That’s art. And AI can’t create that. No matter how many data points it’s trained on.
So no. Conversational AI like ChatGPT will never replace writers. Because writers create art.
Will the internet or book market become saturated with AI content?
Inaccuracies aside, ChatGPT and future conversational AI with text generation capabilities are an inexpensive and efficient way of creating content. Blog posts, social media posts, scripts, emails, even books. Instead of paying for content or spending hours writing your own, you can type in a request to ChatGPT and have something in a few minutes.
I anticipate we’ll see a flood of mediocre or inaccurate content hit the internet in the next few years.
Individuals and companies, seeking to reduce costs and produce more, will lean into the powers of AI content. The result will be even more content to sift through on social media, more blog posts hitting RSS feeds, and even more emails to clear out of our inboxes. It’ll become an art to scan a piece of content and determine if it’s worth your time.
But we’ll learn.
Just like how we learned to scan, judge, and filter through the millions of other content items we see everyday. And I think what we’ll learn most of all is that content from a human is vastly more interesting and valuable.
How can writers compete?
If you’re a writer, content creator, or other person who makes their living with words, you’re probably wondering: how do I stay relevant and compete with AI writing?
As I’ve touched on in this post, there are limitations to ChatGPT and things that humans are inherently better at. Like having opinions, access to sensory information, experiencing complex emotions, and being able to interpret things happening in real-time. These are the things that will demonstrate that human writing and content is more engaging and important.
Here are 3 ways writers can stand out from AI content:
- Hone your voice
ChatGPT (and I imagine the other models that follow) is designed to be factual and objective. It’s specifically engineered so it’s not biased in the information or responses it shares. Which means that it’s not humorous or snarky or bubbly or nerdy. And when you’re not humorous, snarky, bubbly, nerdy, or anything, you aren’t able to form relationships with your readers.
Think about your favorite authors, writers, or other content creators. They typically have a distinct voice, tone, and message right? Even if it’s sharing a post about how to boil water, they’ve probably added their own unique flavor to it. And because they have a voice that resonates with you, you’re a reader.
So, hone your voice and lean into it.
If you’re not sure what your writing voice is, try thinking about how you speak. Are you polite? Funny? Exclamatory? Sarcastic? Precise? Informal? Do you use certain phrases, dialects, or words? Use this as a basis for developing your voice and then think about who you’re speaking to (aka, your audience) and if they’d respond well to that voice.
I believe that people will engage with and prioritize content with a strong voice rather than “fluff” content that is neutral.
- Express your opinions and share your experiences
While ChatGPT does a decent job of staying objective (though even that’s up for debate), it’s not designed to qualify or give opinions on the information it surfaces. The best it can do is auto-complete what it thinks is the most logical response based on the data it’s trained on. Which is less of an opinion and more like an echo of someone else’s opinion.
Similarly, ChatGPT has never experienced an event in a human way. It may know about the COVID-19 pandemic, but can it tell you about the sensory and emotional experiences of sheltering-in-place? Or the uncertainty of not knowing if your family and friends were safe? Or going into your job every day because you’re an essential worker and wondering if you might come in contact with the virus?
Here is where humans have a distinct advantage. ChatGPT can generate statements and facts. But it doesn’t have a unique or distinctly human point of view. Writers and content creators should use their human viewpoint to form relationships and build community with their readers.
- Use the power of storytelling
Another thing ChatGPT isn’t great at? Telling stories.
Story is an essential part of human history and psychology. We are literally hardwired to love and respond to stories. It’s how we share information, social values, advice, and experience things we might not have access to. It’s also how we learn about ourselves and find our place in the world.
Writers and content creators should use the power of storytelling to write meaningful content.
As I mentioned above, I anticipate we’ll see an uptick in content on the internet as ChatGPT (and other conversation AI with text generation capabilities ) write more efficiently and with reduced costs. However, it’s not going to be great. The blogs, posts, and eBooks it writes will be the type of SEO fluff that is technically correct, but not very engaging. This is where humans have the advantage.
When we share a story, when we give a human face to the thing we’re talking about, it creates a connection. And it creates interest. We’re vastly more interested in other people than a blog stuffed with keywords.
ChatGPT and conversational AI is not to be feared. While our gut reaction to AI technology that can write content is to assume it’ll render writers obsolete, we’re far from that.
The technology is relatively limited when compared to a human’s processing power. We may not be able to absorb millions of data points and reconfigure them on command, but we can experience sensory information. We can form opinions, insights, and significance. We can write with our unique voices and share our experiences with the world. We can create art.
What do you think? What are your thoughts on ChatGPT or conversational AI? Are you concerned or excited for how this will impact your writing work? Let me know in the comments below or send me a note!
2 responses to “Will ChatGPT Replace Writers?”
Great blog, Ginnye. I’m sure you’ve heard of the program GPTZero created by Edwin Tian a student at Princeton. It works like the programs to detect plagiarism. Some of my colleagues in my British writing group have used it and said it seems to work well.
Thank you so much Paul! I enjoyed writing this one and glad to hear you enjoyed it as well. I’ve heard of GPTZero but haven’t played around with it yet. I read that Edwin Tian created it in one day–which is amazing! I think in the future (after ChatGPT and other conversational AI has been around for awhile) we’ll be able to differentiate between human writing and AI writing. The same way everyone thought virtual assistants were indistinguishable from human speech and voices and now we’re all pretty good at telling the difference. It’ll be interesting to watch!