AI: The People Gap.

Quick question. In the future, will a blog post written by AI be valued differently from one written by a person?

In fact, expand that to any creative works: video, graphics, imagery, and audio. If they are made by AI, does that make them worse? Less valuable?

The easiest opinion in May of 2023 is - yes. No question. Without a doubt. How could the work of a cold, calculating, and ruthlessly efficient machine be anywhere near as valuable as that which has been handcrafted by a person.

I want to argue the opposite. Not to be contrarian, but because a friend of mine pointed this out to me the other day. Technology gives us vastly better outcomes than people do.

Think about it. Right now, we are cynical about ‘technology’ because we have finally seen that the altruistic “make the world a better place” dribble that’s fallen out of every tech bro’s mouth in the last ten years was a line they threw away as they walked to the ATM. Cashing in on our misery by fuelling everything from misinformation to mainstream addictions.

But even though this behaviour is being revealed for what it is, the ATM is the best way to dispense that cash. An ATM is fast, efficient, and completely accurate. It works day and night. It doesn’t take breaks. It does what you need when you command it. I know people’s growing sentiment is that we must return to the good old days and have people do everything. But that’s just going to be worse.

I bet the last time you set out to go to the bank at 3:30PM in the afternoon, you abandoned your plans because you knew the people who work there shut the doors at 3:59PM. Not only do you know you can’t get your problem resolved in that short window, but you also know that they will not keep those doors open even if there’s a robbery in progress.

Yes, it’s nice when people are involved in the transaction when you get stuck and need help. But when you need to get something done, technology in our modern age is by far the helper the 1950s were dreaming about.

Take this blog post. If I had to use a typewriter, the ideas I’m sharing now would never see the light of day because the pigeons that needed to deliver it only work Mondays. Or at all, since it’s cold and it won’t be warm again in Melbourne till December 27.

My point is this, technology is great, it’s helpful, it’s accurate, it’s reliable. A blog post with the help of ChatGPT (version… not version 3, at least) will be written faster, have fewer grammatical errors, and incorporate concepts that would otherwise have been left out because I’m not clever enough to work them into the narrative.

Are there issues with ‘technology’, the blanket term I’ve used to describe most human progress for the last thousand years? Absolutely. From data leaks, the prolific spread of propaganda, and the separation of society into targetable market segments. Our technologies have become so convenient that it’s come at the cost of our communities, culture, and general trust in others.

But dealing with these issues of trust and which ideas should spread, I’d say, aren’t much different to Gutenberg having to decide what to print on his new press. Even as time passes and our tools change, our problems are the same because they all revolve around people.

That’s a good thing. Because as much as people can be locked into the addiction of scrolling and endlessly searching for a micro-dose of dopamine. People still have the power to change the technology and the norms we associate with their use.

Besides, for most people, scaled and democratised technologies will help their businesses. Back in “the good old days”, to be in business, you needed a shop front, a lathe, and for everyone in town to know you could make stuff. Now you need all that plus a website, Google profile, and a presence on LinkedIn. But guess what? As a result of being on Google and LinkedIn and having a website, you’re more findable than ever. Business can come to you sooner because those walking in the door know what you do, and they could find you.

Tools such as ChatGPT and Canva, plus whatever apps most of us will settle on using for image generation, video clip development, and the inevitable incorporation of an AI tool into the MS Office 365 suite. Imagine all those working together, taking your new product and automatically creating your launch copy, landing page, ad campaign, images, and promotional videos. For the average business in 2023, this level of sophistication is revolutionary. A big, positive improvement.

Will there still be artisans? Yes. Definitely. Why? Because that’s how humans work. When one avenue for creativity is enhanced with automation, we find the next thing to make and use this new-better way to make it.

Let’s go to one of my favourite examples. Cars. Thanks to technology, Tesla can print a thousand new vehicles this week. Every new appliance they call a car rolling out of the factory rolls out with the same plastic, uninspired yet technologically consistent design as the last.

It’s also thanks to technology that a new Rolls Royce - which will take 6 months and not 6 minutes to make - will be a better car because of the machinery used on the production line.

My point is that true artisans will benefit from AI and the new tools and technologies we are inventing. Handcrafting copy, taking a photo, designing a graphic, and producing a video is still there for people who want to do it as a hobby or try something that a standardised and generalised platform cannot do.

Because when we want to experiment and create something different, when we’re working on something that cannot be prompted because we don’t know yet what it is you’re making, you want as much help as possible when venturing into the unknown. AI is a flashlight that helps us illuminate just a little more of the tunnel ahead. Helping us navigate problems we haven’t seen before.

It’s people and systems working together - as they have been for a while - to fill a canvas we’re all painting together.