Thursday 26 January 2023

Being Human - Why We Don't Use AI

I keep on seeing these ‘man versus the machine’ posts online. While some extol the limitless positive applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), others fear it is about to take over their jobs; worse still, it’s plotting to kill them dead. I love science fiction as much as the next geek, but I do know the difference between the science that’s real and the stuff that dwells in the deepest, darkest recesses of the creative mind.

Anyway, there’s been a lot of talk of late about ‘AI copywriters’ taking over from human copywriters, so I thought it might be a good idea to explain why we don’t use AI in our work here at Word Ferret and, in addition, why we’re not afraid that we’ll be obsolete by the end of next week. But first, a bit of background information about AI and copywriting.

What is an AI Copywriter?

There's no such thing. There are AI copywriting tools - content generators - but there’s no ‘copywriter’. Calling such a tool a writer is akin to calling a calculator a mathematician. There are various write-ups online about these tools being able to produce copy at the press of a button, but they cannot do so without human intervention. They do not write; many simply analyse pre-existing content on a given subject from the web (or elsewhere) and produce ‘new’ copy based on that analysis. Put simply, they glean, digest and regurgitate.

So, we’re not talking about HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. We’re not talking about the autopilot AI in a space rocket or the Terminator robots either. We’re talking about tools that perform narrow tasks.

According to the blurbs, AI copywriting tools can produce great copy in seconds. Well, it may well produce copy at the drop of a hat, but you have to tell it what to do first. So, you have to have an idea of what you want to it to ‘write’ about and then input all relevant information. And it’s also recommended that you proofread, edit and humanise whatever content the AI produces. So, that claim - great copy in seconds - is more than a little misleading. AI may manage to produce brief or simplistic content at speed, but it simply doesn’t produce well-researched, polished copy; humans do that.

Why Human-Sounding Isn’t Human Enough

AI exhibits human-like intelligence; it is not human. Whilst AI may produce writing that is grammatically, logically and factually correct,* it lacks what you might call the ‘human touch’. It has no individual awareness, lacks empathy-based social skills, and it possesses no individual creativity or intuition. It has no personal tone and lacks subtlety and nuance. It lacks what you might call soul.

When the blurbs out there talk about AI producing text that sounds like a human, it sounds very impressive. But do you ever think to yourself, ‘ah, but some humans are incredibly boring’? Well, it’s true; some of us are as dull as dishrags. And are we all accomplished writers? What type of human is AI writing like? If you’re looking for something to read, do you ever say to yourself, ‘meh, just give me something that sounds like a human wrote it’? Of course you don’t. There’s a reason why you’ll choose one writer over another; humans don’t all sound the same, have the same skills and knowledge, and we don’t all produce the same writing.

We human beings, whilst we may well look to the writing of others for information or inspiration, produce work that is unique to us. We write unique content based on our own unique experiences. We have unique voices. AI content tools, on the other hand, rely on input to generate human-sounding copy; the result is a factual* but flat, logical but limited, correct but over-simplified approximation of human writing.

Human beings are not made up of logic, facts and figures. We have emotions, and we want to feel something. Perfect punctuation is a plus, but it’s not enough to grab or maintain the attention of a human reader. If you want your audience to engage with you, you need to provide content that human beings can relate to; AI, at the present moment in time at least, cannot do this. It can produce brief product descriptions, but it’s not up to writing compelling stories or heartfelt emails, or producing persuasive sales pitches.

Human customers have come to expect a deeper, more meaningful - more human - experience when they engage with a company, and a human-sounding software program cannot produce writing good enough to fulfil that expectation. 

Why We Don’t Use AI at Word Ferret

Put simply, we don’t feel that using AI copywriting tools is necessary or appropriate in what we do. When we’re hired to produce a piece of writing (or edit or index content), the client is hiring us - we individual, sensitive, creative (sometimes a little mad) humans - to carry out the work. We enjoy what we do, we want to produce the best writing possible, and we want to be responsible for producing every last bit of it. Basically, we want our little ferret prints to be all over every aspect of everything we do.

Some copywriters feel that AI tools can help you to break through creative blocks and spark new ideas. Well, to each his own is what we always say. Here, we have fellow humans to help us with bouts of writer’s block. We can bounce ideas off each other, edit each other’s work, swap ideas and collaborate on research. It’s part of our process. No AI needed, just friendly co-ferrets.

Why We Think AI Won’t Take Our Jobs

As I said above, AI copywriting tools are not capable of producing well-researched, polished copy that has the ‘human touch’. As long as we do our very best to remain interesting, informative, competent - as long as we keep on being human - AI is no competition at all.

To learn more about what we offer, please pay us a visit at the Word Ferret website.

* Update:

After this post was written, I spent quite a bit of time with ChatGPT, and I came to the conclusion that it cannot be relied on to produce factually correct copy; it makes stuff up. You can read more about my findings in these posts:

ChatGPT Is Not as Clever as You Think; or, How to Write Like an Almost-Credible-Sounding Idiot

ChatGPT Is Set to Get a Heck of a Lot More Stupid

Would I Lie to You? - ChatGPT's Tenuous Relationship with Facts