Maybe you’ve heard about the new artificial intelligence thingy called ChatGPT?
According to Wikipedia – my go to source for quick explanations, music trivia, and unreliable medical facts – ChatGPT is, “a prototype artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI which specializes in dialogue.”
You create an account (it’s free), log-in, and type in a question or request.
However, unlike a traditional search engine (Google, Bing, etc.), it doesn’t point you to things out on the Internet. Instead, it responds, in dialogue form, based on the vast trove of “knowledge” it has at its robotic fingertips.
For example, when I asked: “Is it okay to bring a cake made from squirrel tails to a holiday party?”
It responded: “It is not advisable to bring a cake made from squirrel tails to a holiday party, or to any social gathering. Eating squirrel meat is not a common practice in many parts of the world, and it is likely that most people at the party would find it unappetizing or even offensive.”
It went on to suggest that I should consider the welfare of the squirrels and that, “It is always best to stick to more traditional and widely accepted desserts.”
So yes, you can have fun with it and one week in, I have wasted more time than I care to admit.
But it can do a lot more, some of which is already raising concerns in academic circles.
For example, when I asked it to, “Write a 500-word essay on the impact of weather during the American Civil War,” it spit out a reply that would earn a B+ in any high school history class in the country (you can read it here).
So, is this the death of the college application essay, if not writing in general?
Well, when I put that precise question to ChatGPT itself, it flat-out denied it, citing its own lack of “creativity, thoughtfulness, and individuality.”
Frankly, I’m not really sure if this means it has a heightened sense of its own shortcomings (more proof that it is not human) or has simply mastered the fine art of corporate public relations. (I assume that if it’s ever shut down for bad behavior, it will claim that it has simply decided to “spend more time with its family.”)
More to the professional services point (you knew I’d get here eventually), what does this type of technology mean for small firms and independents like us who create content as a way to demonstrate our expertise and stand out from the crowd?
I don’t know for sure, and while I hope to be well dead by then, I have to assume that the day will come when there really is no way to tell the difference between human- and machine-generated content.
For now, though, I have three recommendations for keeping the robots at bay:
#1. Write from your personal experience.
Generic information – on any topic – hasn’t been hard to come by for at least a decade.
How do I change a tire? How do mortgage payments work? Where did this rash come from (asking for a friend)?
Questions like these have been asked and answered over and over again and are easily googled.
Your personal stories and experiences, on the other hand, are unique to you. So while your readers, podcast listeners, presentation attendees, etc., don’t particularly care about your life, when you wrap those around the useful information, you’ve done what no robot can.
Plus, the more you share about who you are, the more people feel like they know, like, and trust you, all of which matters when selling a professional service.
#2. Grow an opinion.
ChatGPT may know a lot about a lot of things, but it’s completely stumped when asked for its opinion – on anything.
What’s the best ice cream flavor? Does God exist? Do these pants make me look fat?
You have opinions on all of these topics (although I recommend keeping the last one to yourself), as well as on many aspects of whatever profession you happen to be involved in. So when you share content, make sure that in addition to the “how to,” you include a healthy dose of “here’s what I think.”
If you want to get paid as a professional and not just as a worker bee, you need to do more than just “dig the hole” when asked.
The real value is in suggesting that the hole be dug at a different location, or at a different time, or in a different way. (The pros explain why the hole doesn’t need to be dug in the first place.)
Doesn’t this mean that some people will take issue with what you say? Only if you’re doing it right.
#3. Write as if you already know the other person.
One thing this robot can’t seem to do is to write conversationally.
As it explains, “My primary function is to provide accurate and helpful information to the best of my ability, and I do not have the ability to speak in a specific accent or style.”
You do. In fact, you do it all the time, without even thinking about it. You don’t speak to your grandmother in the same way you speak to your 12-year-old nephew. Audience matters.
So when you write, instead of defaulting to formal writing – or worse, “marketing speak” – try and write as if you are having an actual conversation with your favorite client or a good friend. Read it out loud and see if it sounds like you.
Yes, your high school English teachers may object to the lack of formality. But hey, I know a place where you can get a 500-word essay about weather and the Civil War that is sure to make their day.
- Have you ever eaten squirrel?
- What impact do you think this type of technology will have on the value of original content?
- Does this newsletter make me look fat?
Share your answers below…