There are plenty of arguments to be made against AI, from the philosophical — that it’s removing a critical part of the creative process, the human architect — to the ethical, the concern that millions of jobs will be replaced or eradicated altogether. But while these ideas are both distressing and entirely valid, it’s also important to take the sour with the sweet, so to speak…
Imagine the recent leap forward in AI tech as a career-destroying tsunami hurtling toward the coast. Peer towards the beach and you’ll find most creatives paralysed with fear at the water’s edge, mouths agape as the distant wave roars on the horizon. These unlucky folks have two choices: sprint futilely to higher ground, or buy a surfboard and ride the wave to the nearest mountaintop.
In this article, we’ll dispel your fears and explain why the latter option (while equal amounts frightening and radical) is arguably the better choice.
Repositioning AI: The Ultimate Collaborator
While it’s undeniable that artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT, Bard, Midjourney, and Dall-E are transforming industries and job landscapes, it’s important to recognise that AI doesn’t necessarily mean the end of human creativity and employment or the end of the world — for now at least. In fact, when harnessed correctly, AI can augment human potential in ways that were previously unimaginable — part of the reason why our agency is so enthusiastic about AI-powered SEO.
To illustrate our point, let’s head back in time. In the early 20th century, the chainsaw revolutionised the timber industry. It could cut through trees with incredible speed and efficiency, greatly reducing the need for manual labor. Taking inspiration from another of history’s greatest inventions — the car — it also incorporated one of humanity’s favourite combos: the internal combustion engine, and an inherent risk of death through misuse, causing a chef’s kiss of approval from beard-sporting, muscle-bound men the world over.
However, as badass as the chainsaw was, it too sparked concerns similar to those we have about AI today: would it eliminate jobs and render lumberjacks obsolete?
History has shown us that the chainsaw did not lead to the extinction of lumberjacks. Instead, it brought about a transformation in the industry. Lumberjacks adapted to the new technology by focusing on higher-skilled tasks, such as precision cutting and timber selection. They also expanded into related fields like forestry management and equipment maintenance. They upskilled.
We could learn a lot from the kind of fears that those lumberjacks first had when facing mechanisation, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do now.
AI Fear 1: Safety
Chainsaws were initially considered dangerous and difficult to handle. Lumberjacks, who were accustomed to using traditional hand tools like axes and crosscut saws, were understandably concerned about the risks associated with this new, powerful tool. Ignoring the serendipitous potential for classic films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and American Psycho, what did these new safety concerns mean for the world at large?
These safety risks, while valid, didn’t halt the adoption of the chainsaw by the logging industry, but the dangers were too great to be ignored. Lumber companies recognised the need for comprehensive training programs. They provided personal protective equipment, and as chainsaw technology advanced, safety features like chain brakes and anti-vibration systems were incorporated. Companies also encouraged a culture of continuous improvement, where safety protocols were regularly updated based on lessons learned from accidents and near-misses. To misquote Mark from Peep Show, it was “health and safety gone normal”.
The adoption of AI presents similar challenges, but these obstacles can be overcome. Here’s how:
Education and Training: Knowledge is power. Newcomers to the technology often falsely assume that conversational AI systems ‘think’ and ‘feel’ as humans do, and this is a significant factor in the push against tools like ChatGPT. Understanding how the technology works isn’t just a good way of dispelling ill-informed hysteria either, it’s crucial to harnessing the tech’s full capabilities.
Ethical Guidelines: While the misuse of AI tools might not result in a severed limb, ethical guidelines are still crucial. This involves defining boundaries and principles that ensure AI is used responsibly and doesn’t compromise privacy, security, or fairness. This said, the definitions for ‘ethical use’ are still being hotly debated, and this has led to a growing number of uncensored chatbots gaining popularity.
Continuous Monitoring: Just as every chainsaw should be subjected to a regular servicing schedule, AI algorithms and processes should be continually monitored and refined to minimise errors and unintended consequences. Of course, this responsibility primarily falls on the shoulders of those who maintain the AI systems — we see this in the regular updates and improvements made by their developers — but it’s up to us, the users, to report any bugs.
Can using AI in your day-to-day tasks be risky? Yes. But it can also dramatically improve your efficiency, and when used carefully, the risks are negligible.
AI Fear 2: Job Security
Many lumberjacks feared that the chainsaw’s efficiency would lead to a reduction in the demand for manual labor. They worried that their jobs might be at risk as companies sought to cut costs by halving their workforces. If you’re working in the creative field yourself, this may hit a little close to home.
Chainsaws did indeed make the physical act of felling trees significantly more efficient, but this didn’t mean that anyone could pick up a chainsaw and become a skilled lumberjack overnight. Lumberjacking remained a highly skilled profession that required expertise in tree identification, precision cutting, and safety protocols. In fact, the complexity of handling chainsaws safely and effectively meant that experienced, trained lumberjacks were still in high demand — happy days!
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled “Only Bad Writers Should Fear ChatGPT”, and speaking as a writer myself, it’s a sentiment I’m keen to echo, because while the tool can generate content with unmatched speed, the work it does produce is simply a regurgitated amalgamation of articles published elsewhere on the web. The algorithm is fundamentally incapable of infusing its writing with a unique perspective because it doesn’t have a perspective to share. When it comes to AI-generated content, there are no hot takes.
And while image-generation tools like Midjourney can spit out photo-realistic assets in seconds, they’re also frustratingly imprecise. Ask Dall-E to create an image of a goblin, for example, and you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the results. Request something more precise though — perhaps you’re looking for a cross between a griffin, a termite, and an eel, pictured running amok in a parallel dimension where buildings are made entirely of burnt marzipan — and the finished product might not be quite what you had in mind.
Want accurate text in your AI-generated image? Be prepared to jump through a number of hoops. Want Midjourney to generate something slightly risqué in nature? Sorry, that’s against the terms and conditions. In contrast to our boundless (and often R-rated) human imaginations, the capabilities of artificial intelligence are constrained.
However, even with those points acknowledged, there’s plenty to be said for the usefulness of these tools in the creative process itself. ChatGPT for example is fantastic at generating article outlines. It can also provide formatting suggestions, give relevant quotes for use in the piece, or even be used to check for any grammatical errors — in many ways, it’s a writer’s best friend. Similarly, if your artistic ability is lacking, tools like Dall-E allow just about anyone to generate an approximation of whatever’s trapped in their imagination. This can then be passed onto a trained designer, or if you’re a dab-hand with a paintbrush, used as a means of creating that initial spark of inspiration for your next masterpiece.
So let’s be clear — If you’re a talented writer, artist, filmmaker, or musician, AI will only replace you when its intelligence equals our own, and frankly, when that day arrives, job security will be the least of our concerns.
AI Fear 3: Skills Transition
Understandably, the lumberjacks who had spent years honing their expertise with traditional tools were reluctant to undergo the learning curve associated with those fancy, new-fangled chainsaws, but here’s the rub — they didn’t have a choice. Logging companies simply couldn’t afford to ignore the benefits of mechanisation, and it’s a similar story in the present day, just replace burly lumberjacks with granola-fed digital creatives.
Here’s a sentence I’m confident you’ve never read before: Mastering the operation of a chainsaw is a million times harder than learning to use an AI tool. Why? Because the conversational nature of these tools is designed to be as accessible and intuitive as possible. In fact, the only people who believe they lack the knowledge to integrate AI into their workflows are those yet to attempt it.
If you’re yet to take the plunge, let me describe how to use ChatGPT:
Step 1: Ask it to generate whatever you want by writing your request in practically any language, and hit send.
There are no other steps. It’s that simple.
The massive buzz around AI technology extends beyond the content these tools can produce, it’s also due to how easily they can be controlled. If you understand how to send an email, you’ve already got the skills you need to get Midjourney to recreate the Mona Lisa. It’s mindblowing.
Much to the chagrin of everyone around me, I talk about AI a lot (as does the rest of the team here at Seeker — check out Alistair’s take on the topic) and I’m constantly surprised by how few people have actually taken tools like ChatGPT out for a test drive before forming their (usually skeptical) opinions.
The fear of the unknown plays a huge part in the resistance against AI, but let me assure you: if you’re smart enough to read this blog post, you’re more than capable of generating AI content.
AI Fear 4: Using AI Tools is ‘Cheating’
In 2023, anyone with access to the internet can now edit photographs instantaneously, without the use of complex editing suites, author (mediocre) 2,000-word blogs in 5 seconds flat, compose a song on the piano with a single prompt, or even ‘create’ Rembrandt-esque masterworks quicker than it takes to boil a kettle. But does any of this really count as art?
It’s a truly fascinating subject for debate, and it’s one covered in great detail by The Harvard Gazette. In the piece, various artists from different disciplines attempted to answer the question for themselves….
- Saxophonist Yosvany Terry comments: “When you hear [AI] compositions […] they lack surprise, emotion, and even silence. Emotion in music is important, and AI is not there yet”.
- Architect Moshe Safdie agrees: “In terms of art created by AI, I don’t think we can call it art. […]If you ask AI to make a garden with hideaways, clearings, and planting arrangements for all the seasons, I think it’ll do that very well. But if you want to have a garden arranged in a way that is magical and pleases you, I’m not sure it can do that.”
- Animator Ruth Stella Lingford isn’t so sure: “[T]he melding of images from different sources, with large elements of the random, closely approximates some aspects of the creative process. AI is acting like a sort of collective unconscious, and I do find some of what it produces very interesting.”
My opinion? AI art is art, but it’s not good art. Spend enough time in AI art communities like r/aiart or r/deepdream and what you’ll notice is that while all of the pieces are visually appealing — often quite beautiful in fact — the knowledge that there’s no deeper meaning, no quirky backstories or tragic genius behind the works leaves a hollow sensation. At the risk of sounding rather pretentious, there’s a lack of substance. And while this might not necessarily be a hot take, it is nonetheless a perspective, something that ChatGPT won’t ever be able to deliver.
Whether you like it or not, AI is here to stay. Pandora’s box has been opened, and much like the introduction of the chainsaw, resistance to this new technology will be futile. The key to making the most of these tools? Treat them as exactly that — tools. ChatGPT, Midjourney, Dall-E — all of these tools are giving the illusion of creation. In reality, they’re generating reflections and distortions of human expression; collages crafted from the near-infinite archive of art locked in the endless gallery of the internet.
I used ChatGPT to plan this article, Grammarly to give it a once-over edit, and the thumbnail image for this blog was generated using Midjourney. To deride these creative shortcuts as ‘cheating’ would be nonsensical. Would this article have been possible without the use of these tools? Absolutely — but it also would’ve taken longer to publish, and I think that’s partly where the line between ‘fair use’ and ‘cheating’ lies.
But before we finish up, let’s bring things into focus. Having mulled over the question myself, I’ve come up with three general rules to keep your use of AI fair:
- Be transparent: If AI played a significant role in creating or enhancing a piece of content, make it clear to your audience that AI was used.
- Enhance your abilities: Use AI tools to augment or enhance your creative process rather than replace it entirely.
- Don’t rely on it: Reflect on whether your use of AI is helping you learn and improve your skills. If using AI aids in your development as a creator, it can be considered a legitimate tool for growth rather than a shortcut, but if you’re using it as a crutch, your time may be better spent honing your craft.
So there you have it, 4 fears dispelled, and plenty of reasons why AI might not be the techno-apocalypse the media likes to frighten us with. For more on the use of AI, check out Liv’s superb writeup on how to use AI to level up your SEO strategy, or read her enlightening interview with our SEO Director, Annika.