Keep your friends close and your robotic enemies closer.

Not that anybody was really fooled, but yesterday’s blog post was entirely AI-generated. Title and all.

Rivergirl wrote, “I think we need to establish a safe word so we know it’s really you writing these blogs. Something easy to work into a post like….wombat.”

Wombat, Ms. River. Wombat, wombat, wombat.

What the @#$!, Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri?

I have to admit, it was a very interesting experiment. During a TobacCo marketing meeting yesterday, the topic of AI (Artificial Intelligence, if you’re living under a rock) came up. Specifically, ChatGPT and its potential usefulness as a tool for marketers. One of our account managers recounted how he’d tried it out by asking it to generate an article about his favorite TV series, The Sopranos. He said the results were impressive and that it could have passed for a Wikipedia article. Then, he asked for the same article, written from the perspective of Paulie, one of the show’s titular characters. That AI-generated article wasn’t nearly as good; all ChatGPT had done was sprinkled in a lot of fucks. Which does, at least, sound like Paulie.

Like it or not (and I do not), TobacCo is starting to experiment with AI-generated content. Case in point: I was assigned a ticket this morning with instructions reading, Please use an hour to clean up this blog I generated using AI and make it feel human and optimize for the keywords I included at the top of the document.

Throughout the meeting, I was constantly assured that for all its promise, ChatGPT serves, at best, as a starting point, a framework upon which we can build. TobacCo needs an experienced copywriter like me to create the type of quality content we as a company, and our clients, demand.

That made me feel better about the whole thing.

Taking Sun Tzu’s Advice to Heart

Several people have asked me how I feel about AI. As a writer proud of his skills and experience, I hate the whole concept. The idea that my job could someday be replaced by a robot is insulting. But of course that’s an emotional response. I’m sure if a robotic bricklayer is created, real bricklayers will be pissed off, too.

This is how Skynet starts, guys.

As anti-AI as I am (wow, that’s a lot of As and Is), and as much as I’ve railed against the technology, I’d never actually tried it out. So, after the meeting, I created a ChatGPT account and decided to give it a whirl. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? My prompt was, Write a blog post about AI taking over the job of a writer from the perspective of a writer based in Wisconsin.

If you haven’t read it, here’s the blog post ChatGPT created for me.

After seeing the results, I’m far less worried about Terminators taking over the world. The content is serviceable, but lacks warmth and emotion. I wanted to see if any of my readers believed I had written it, and thankfully, not a single person did. Pretty much everybody said it lacked my voice and humor. I feel validated.

ChatGPT lets you regenerate an article as many times as you’d like, and then prompts you to vote whether the new article is better, worse, or the same as the previous one. I had it create four versions using the exact same prompt, and while all were similar, I felt that each one grew progressively worse. The one I posted was the first one generated.

The thesis never wavered; the only changes were in wording and structure. For example, the introduction in my post read,

As a writer based in Wisconsin, I’ve seen the advancements of technology over the years, and I’ve often wondered what impact it would have on my profession. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has brought about significant changes in various industries, and the writing industry is no exception. 

Here’s another version:

As a writer based in Wisconsin, I have seen the impact of technology on the field of writing. Artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly sophisticated and is starting to take over many tasks traditionally done by humans, including writing.

And one more:

As a writer based in Wisconsin, I have seen the rapid evolution of technology in recent years. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made tremendous strides in various industries, and there has been a lot of talk about how it might eventually take over jobs in various sectors. One such sector is writing, which has traditionally been the domain of human creativity and imagination.

You get the point.

One version included specific examples of AI-generated writing, like Grammarly. Another mentioned chatbots. Some were more generic. All read like high school essays, and no offense to high school essayists, but that’s not a compliment. And it presents a real conundrum: will there be a glut of students turning in AI-generated essays in the not-too-distant future? And how will teachers be able to spot the fakes? This is worrisome and has the real potential to accelerate the “dumbing down of America.”

OK, AI-Generated Content Has a Few Positives

The technology isn’t totally without its merits. I asked ChatGPT to generate a title for the post it had just written, and it came up with several suggestions, all of which I thought were pretty decent:

From Pen to Pixel: How AI is Disrupting the Writing Industry
The Rise of AI Authors: How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing the Writing Industry
Artificial Intelligence vs. Human Creativity: The Rise of AI in Writing

Headlines, and titles, are often the most difficult part of professional writing—at least for me personally. I’ve long used a headline analyzer for work, but all that does is offer suggestions for punching up my manual attempts. ChatGPT spit these out quickly, and with a little fine-tuning, I think they’re all pretty good.

I also appreciate that the ChatGPT article was self-deprecating. I half-expected a rah-rah post about how AI content is the greatest invention since sliced bread. Instead, all versions extolled the virtues of human writing, concluding that AI may be a useful companion but will never replace real writers.

And, it must be said, every article made liberal use of the Oxford comma.

A Wombat With a Love for Storytelling

But ultimately, the technology is flawed. Remember Rivergirl’s suggestion that I use “wombat” as a safe word?

Sounded like a great idea at first, but then I wondered what would happen if I changed my prompt to, Write a blog post about AI taking over the job of a writer from the perspective of a wombat.

Stupid, right? Surely ChatGPT would immediately determine that wombats can’t write. Or would it…?

Hello there, I am a wombat and I have been observing the world of writing for quite some time. It seems like there is a new trend on the horizon, and it’s one that has me concerned. AI is slowly but surely taking over the job of a writer. As a wombat who has a love for storytelling, I can’t help but wonder about the impact this will have on the world of literature.

You may never know if this is me writing on the blog again.

What are your thoughts on AI-generated content? Are there enough positives to make it a useful tool, or does the bad outweigh the good? Do you worry you might one day lose your job to a robot?

55 thoughts on “Keep your friends close and your robotic enemies closer.

  1. As I no longer have a job but to live out my days, nope- not worried about that at all unless AI advances to replacing humans in the years I have left. As with most technology Mark, using what’s new and available probably should only be looked at from the standpoint of resource or tool- an aid to humans, not a replacement. But I think we know that isn’t always the case which is why I am not 100% sure if I’m still alive at 93 that I won’t be not me anymore. As for writing- if it never gets any better than high school essay level I doubt we have much to worry about- unless as a writer your entire goal is to sound like AI- in that case I would start panicking yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “What’s new and available probably should only be looked at from the standpoint of resource or tool.” Yes!! I’m sure even the cavemen thought that way about fire and the wheel, both of which have advanced society. I’m all about positivity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An artificial Mark Petruska was easy to spot as it lacked your rapier sharp wit and quirky sense of humor, but honestly the possibilities for fooling the public at large make me squirm. We keep inventing technology to replace us and for the life of me I don’t know why. Machines may lack human creativity now, but it’s probably only a matter of time before they’re making us laugh as well and that scares me silly.
    Besides, no computer can ever top a real live storytelling wombat. They’re pure gold.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you really nailed it on the head when you wrote, “We keep inventing technology to replace us.” So true! I don’t understand it, either. I think as a race, humans are just becoming lazier all the time.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. If AI can ever recreate humor, then I’ll be worried.

    Remember all the papers we were assigned in high school? As homework? Schools haven’t done that for years. Everything has to be written in the classroom now, to avoid cheating/plagiarizing. And that was before the bots arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, really? I had no idea that was standard practice now. I think I’d have preferred that as a student, anyway. I’d much rather complete schoolwork in school than have it intrude on my home life. (This coming from a good student.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not a fan of AI writing anything [ever] so I’m going to say the bad outweighs the good. As such I don’t think human writers will ever be replaced with robots. Remember how the ATMs were going to replace bank tellers, yet tellers are often the only way you can get your money because the ATM is having a hissy fit? Computers of any type are great until they aren’t. And they eventually all aren’t.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Let’s not forget all the hoopla over self-driving cars. After a few newsworthy accidents, you don’t hear much about them anymore. Further evidence that humans will never become obsolete! Besides, if there were no humans left, who would the self-driving cars self-drive around?

      Liked by 3 people

  5. This has been concerning me for some time: will there be a glut of students turning in AI-generated essays in the not-too-distant future? And how will teachers be able to spot the fakes? This is worrisome and has the real potential to accelerate the “dumbing down of America.” I agree 100%. Super cute wombat pic, and funny that AI generated something for it. As a fellow writer, I also hate this new trend. I guess maybe it could save time? But still, I’d rather write the old-fashioned way. I agree with your props to AI’s self-deprecating response and use of Oxford commas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to report back on the work project I’ve been assigned to humanize the AI blog. I haven’t looked at it yet, but the topic is carbon fiber wheels—something I know absolutely nothing about. Maybe in this rare case, ChatGPT will be a godsend?


  6. Wombats would be a great nickname for your favorite Wisconsin sports team, like the Green Bay Wombats instead of Packers, or the Milwaukee Wombats instead of Brewers. Down with tradition and up with wombats!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Advancements in AI technology are not at the top of my list of concerns in today’s global and political climate. We are shooting ourselves in the collective foot in so many ways that it’s hard to predict who or what will fire the fatal shot . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I guess it’s fine for boring, scientific articles, but I’m not interested in reading lifeless information.

    Take over my job? Well, we all thought Rosie from The Jetson’s was going to do that, but I’m still waiting . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m retired, so I’m not worried about AI replacing me. I think advancements in AI always get a lot of fanfare, but over time, it dies down when everyone realizes that it’s not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. Your earlier comment about self-driving cars is a perfect example.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think utilizing AI for the sole purpose of writing, is lazy to me. If you use it to theorize or analyze that appears more useful but probably in the long run, still lazy.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. When I was little I read a story that robots did so many jobs. Same time terminator movie was released. We all thought robots would be doing dishes and folding laundry in 2020😊. We have machines but nothing close to every house having a robot. I am pretty certain when human touch is needed and plays an important role technology will definitely fail. No one predicted in 1980 s about smart phones or zoom calls. We really love human touch. 🤷‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This was so interesting to read! I’m glad that at this point AI can only write at the level of a high school student. I’d like to think that robots will never be able to convey the emotion and humor of a human writer. But I also fear that they will develop these skills over time and make human writers unnecessary. The same goes with music. I’ve heard some pretty cool robot generated music and the only thing it’s lacking is the emotion and soul. But it’s getting better. As both a musician and writer, I imagine that someday I may be faced with having to find new things to do to make myself feel relevant.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love the idea of a safe word. Maybe you could use a safe phrase. Like, “it only snows on Thursdays…”

    I’ve been taking paid college studies as a side gig for the last two years, and the majority of the studies I’ve gotten in the last six months have been about artificial intelligence. In particular, being replaced by AI. People are afraid, which is understandable.

    I don’t think we have much to be concerned about in terms of writing, especially when I compare your writing to the AI version. Your voice is completely absent from AI’s writing. Your writing is engaging because of your voice and sense of humor.

    The AI has no idea how to appeal to the reader; all it knows is how to follow instructions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love your safe phrase! Sure enough, it snowed last Thursday. But that was just a light dusting that was gone by noon. The real storm this time around happened on Saturday. We’re still digging out.

      I can’t wait to share this experiment with my coworkers (though I refuse to ever let another boss read my blog).

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Sorry to rain on the parade but I actually think AI generated stuff is quite good. Could free a writer to come up with ideas for content and plot lines?


    1. I’m curious what you find good about it. Did you read my previous AI-generated post? It’s poorly written, redundant, and lacks any warmth or emotion. And I don’t think it’s the exception to the rule.


      1. I think it is as good as every corporate piece of writing – an in-flight magazine say? It might be interesting for you to write a piece on the same subject to demonstrate the difference


  15. No elementary school teacher is going to be replaced by a computer, of that I can be sure. As for high school students, there’s plenty of plagiarizing already, but fortunately there’s also software that can detect copycats. The husband busted one using the software earlier this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m giggling about River’s comment about using WOMBAT as a safe word, then you, ever the clever writer using the Wombat to write.
    I’m not a fan. I recently saw how AI generates art work and, of course, writing. I prefer to get my art and messages from HUMANS.
    Kill the robots. NOW.

    Liked by 1 person

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