ChatGPT and Generative AI; it’s the burning hot topic of the moment, spawning carousel upon carousel of homogenous content in the increasingly fecund landscape of LinkedIn. Lauded as the future of human development, AI is becoming ubiquitous at an alarming pace. Its proponents claim that it is the biggest step towards freedom that we have seen since the industrial revolution. But when we look a little closer, is AI and its hyper efficiency at producing content really the best thing since sliced bread?
Sliced bread VS freshly baked
To examine this question further, I’m going to break it down into an analogy that can be almost universally understood. Bread; a constant from continent to continent, and a food that transcends culture and cuisine. For most, bread plays a big part in their life, but the sliced, mass-produced variety isn’t necessarily doing them any good…
Home(made) is where the heart is
Picture this; you’ve just arrived in Paris for a well-deserved weekend break, and you’re walking down a quiet backstreet in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the midday sun gently caressing your shoulders. All of a sudden, you are stopped dead in your tracks. Your nostrils are greeted by the most sublime smell known to humankind; freshly baked bread. The aroma embraces you in a gorgeous, warm hug and gently leads you towards its place of origin; an artisanal bakery whose windows are filled with golden loaves, shiny buns and delightfully crusty baguettes. Once inside, you exchange pleasantries with the baker in broken Frenglish, and timidly ask for a 'baguette au fromage', pointing to the drool-inducing object of your desire behind the protective glass counter.
The baguette safely secured in a brown paper bag, you head towards the nearest green space, where you carefully spread out your jacket before settling down, legs crossed, to eat. As you bite into the bread, time stops. In that very moment it is just you and this godly flour/yeast hybrid, as flavour rushes your mouth and turns each and every taste bud up to maximum power. The experience is more than just eating. It’s emotional, and if the bread is really really good, it’s downright spiritual. Have you ever experienced that feeling with two slices of Hovis pressed together sloppily with a scraping of low-fat spread and a slice of claggy cheddar? I can guess the answer, and I’d be willing to bet it’s a two letter word.
It’s the same for any creative pursuit. Sure; you can ask ChatGPT to write your copy in a certain tone of voice, or design a blog post, or create a picture in whichever style takes your fancy. But what about the artistry? The craft? If there is no emotion in, surely there is no emotion out? The same input creates the same output, which makes it almost impossible to elicit an emotional response from the consumer of the content. On the other hand, if you ask a copywriter to write words for your brand from scratch, you’ll benefit from their unique human brain going through the whole creative process, in the same way that you’ll savour the bread that has been kneaded by the loving hands of the devoted baker.
What’s easy for you isn’t necessarily good for you...
Whilst sliced bread is convenient, it’s not actually that great for us in the long run. It lacks the nutritional value of homemade bread, is often pumped with health-harming ingredients, and has to be supplemented with multiple side snacks in order to satiate our hunger. Conversely, a homemade loaf, carefully kneaded, shaped and finished by hand, is much more likely to fill a hole; both in terms of hunger, but also emotionally.
As humans, we tend to default to the easy option in order to conserve energy for important things, like securing our next meal. But although our hunter gatherer days are long behind us, the temptation to take the shortcut remains, meaning we’ll likely choose the sliced bread even though it doesn’t actually benefit us. In a similar vein, many people are swayed towards ChatGPT as the path of least resistance, despite the fact that it won’t actually produce the best results; or anything remotely original. Effort, emotion and innovation are the ingredients that set human-produced copy and art apart from their machine-made counterparts.
So you can keep on eating the sliced bread and asking ChatGPT to do the work for you, but it’s never going to satisfy your customers’ craving for human connection and fulfil your greater need for purpose.
Your baker cares; the bread machine doesn’t.
The joy of the bakery isn’t just in the bread; it’s in the experience. Visit your local bakery and you’ll feel the reassuring realness of it all. The chitter chatter, the hustle and bustle, the baker who knows your name, knows what you usually order, and most importantly; cares. To your baker, you’re a person, not just a number. They run their business for people like you, to provide you with little moments of joy and to quietly add value to your life, one delicious baguette or bun at a time.
Meanwhile, to the supermarket behemoths which sling out millions of identical plastic-wrapped loaves on the hour, you are nothing but a number, a data point in their database to be used nefariously by their ‘loyalty’ schemes to get you to part with even more cash.
And you guessed it; it’s the same story with human creatives versus ChatGPT. When you choose to work with a copywriter, they will put their heart and soul into your words. Your success becomes their success, and they truly care about the outcome of their work. When you put a prompt into ChatGPT, care doesn’t feature in the equation. It simply trawls the work that has been done by millions of creatives beforehand, and pieces it together in a jarring imitation of a human voice. It doesn’t give a monkeys about your business, your story or your purpose. And that shows in what it puts out; words without emotion, which will likely fail to connect with your customers in the same way as the human alternative.
Want something specific from your baker; a crustier loaf or perhaps an ingredient to be added or skipped? The chances are, if you pop in and ask nicely they’ll be able to deliver your baked goods just how you like them, and you’ll both be happy with the result. If you work in marketing or design, you’ll know that feedback between client and creative is as important as the work itself. It’s a collaborative dance, performed to get to the finishing point in which both parties are fully satisfied. A copywriter or designer worth their weight is able to understand a level of finesse in the feedback that a computer just wouldn't. Sometimes (read; often!) clients aren't able to articulate what it is that makes them tick, "it just feels off".
Discussing this in a human to human conversation can ensure you’re left with copy or creative that is exactly what you were hoping for. With Chat GPT, if you are not laser sharp with your prompts, you can go round and round in circles, never quite reaching the summit of success that marks the project as complete.
Craft over convenience; why human creativity is the key to connection
In the same way that artisanal handmade bread will never cease to be superior to sliced bread, I truly hope that human made art is not usurped by the mass-produced content of Generative AI. As a species, we are fuelled by curiosity, creativity and ultimately, pursuit of purpose. Our brains are capable of incredible feats, and have been responsible for every single masterpiece throughout history. Decades, even centuries, of human endeavour have now been hijacked for questionable purposes, feeding the bank accounts and god complexes of tech giants ahead of our own vital human needs.
Whilst ChatGPT and its competitors might be able to speed up processes and churn out more in very little time, you have to ask yourself; to what end? Surely quantity over quality should not be the driver of our creative decisions. Uniqueness, nuance and human ingenuity may take more time to generate, but ultimately these characteristics are what allow us to strike a deeper emotional chord in the humans who are consuming our work. Think about it; every loaf of supermarket sliced bread you buy is identical, uniform in shape and thickness, and ultimately forgettable. Each hand-baked loaf in a bakery is slightly different, and knowing that it has been made by hand, purely for your eating enjoyment, makes it all the more special.
At the risk of sounding trite, it’s important to remember that beauty is in the journey, not just the final destination. The creative process is a huge ingredient in what makes a brilliant story, a tear-inducing piece of music, or an inspiring work of art so powerful. Remove the thought, the problem-solving and the overcoming of resistance, and you’re left with a shiny but hollow imitation of an original; a fake baguette used for display on top of the counter, with none of the brilliance of the real bread below it.
Love or loaf it; AI is here to stay, but it doesn't have to be your bread and butter
So what's the solution? It's clear that sliced bread has its uses, but its not and never will be a replacement for its artisanal, hand-made ancestors whose existence made it possible. And the same applies to words produced by AI, which are based on massive banks of original human creativity and incalculable hours of human effort.
If you care about keeping the integrity of what it means to be human alive, choose craft over convenience. Your copywriter (or baker) will thank you.
*Disclaimer: no chatbots were used in the writing of this blog post 😉
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