From congressional hearings to the picket lines of striking screenwriters, Artificial Intelligence, or “AI,” is a growing concern. This technology now affects nearly every industry and is advancing in sophistication. Of major concern to educators, professional writers, and content developers, are AI writing programs like ChatGPT. By the way, the program’s full name is “Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer” – I know, right?
As you might guess, I’ve been asked repeatedly if I ever use AI to write this column. With obstinate conviction, I say now and for always, I do not now nor will I ever use AI to write anything for this column, for my publishers, for my communications clients, nothing – ever.
Now the Gen Zs and Millennials are probably saying, “he’s just a crotchety old white guy who hates technology.” Nonsense! As a matter of fact, my educational background is in engineering and computer science. I started programming computers when I was in high school and worked in the tech industry for many years. I have a few AI devices in my office and a lot of advanced equipment for creating and editing audio and video productions. Suffice to say, I’m no Luddite.
My concern with AI writing generators isn’t the technology. In fact, I can see where it could really be helpful in some industries, with human guidance. But the idea that it should be used to replace professional writers to save money is just ridiculous.
A professional writer doesn’t just chuck out any old bunch of words that fit a set of parameters. Writers must craft their message based on the intent, the audience, the purpose, and the desired outcome. Not to mention that AI programs don’t have to worry about paying the mortgage, feeding a family, or having a purpose in life.
In 1967, the original Star Trek TV series aired an episode called, “The Ultimate Computer” wherein the Starship Enterprise had been fitted with a highly sophisticated AI computer that would take over the operation of the ship, rendering the crew unnecessary. In one pivotal scene, the computer informs Captain Kirk that he is “non-essential personnel,” causing him to question his position and future relevance.
Always the conscience of the show, Dr. McCoy, in an effort to console the Captain, reminds us, “We’re all sorry for the other guy when he loses his job to a machine. But when it comes to your job, that’s different.” It might be a science fiction show, but McCoy was spot on.
Predictably, the computer malfunctioned, killing hundreds of people and Kirk outmaneuvered the computer’s logic to save the day. The moral of the story was that computers make efficient servants, but lack the intent, humanity, conscience, understanding, or compassion needed to really replace us.
Today, many professional creative jobs may be facing the kind of fate factory workers did some 30 or 40 years ago when they were replaced by robots and computer-controlled manufacturing systems. The main difference this time is that creative professions like writers, artists, graphic designers, and filmmakers are harder to automate. Yes, they can generate similar work, but there’s no human inspiration behind it.
One day, AI may advance to the point where it achieves consciousness, allowing for creative inspiration. But for now, despite what the developers say, I think spontaneous creativity is well beyond its grasp. Without human inspiration and personal experience, the words are empty, the art expressionless, and the designs meaningless.
I don’t know where AI is going, but I know I won’t be helping it get there. Unlike some digital marketers and other agencies out there, I can’t, in good conscience, use AI generators to produce my work, then charge a client for it. That’s like letting someone else do your homework but still accepting a good grade. It’s fraud, plain and simple – even if you tell them you’re doing it.
We have no idea how AI will affect future jobs or industries, the legal or ethical issues, or which advances will forever change them. Maybe AI will make us all obsolete someday and terminate all of us. Till then, I’ll keep writing so look for me next week because to quote another AI, “I’ll be back.”
Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at www.gldcommunications.com.