3 Ways You Are Better Than A.I.

I’ve been reading a book called, “The Armchair Economist,” by Steven E. Landsburg.

It kind of reads like a slightly more academic prequel to Freakonomics, having been published a decade earlier in 1993, but still using economic principles to explain different things about the world, many of them counterintuitive.

Things like…

Why celebrity endorsements increase sales, even when the endorsements convey no information about the product. (p. 14)

Why a world where paper is recycled results in a world with fewer trees. (p. 98)

Why believing that Amazon’s (or any large company’s) income is not taxed is incorrect and only proves you don’t understand how taxes work. (p. 156)

Personally, I could read this kind of thing all day.

For reasons I don’t understand, I am endlessly fascinated by the kind of random minutiae that allows you to walk up to a distant relative at you nephew’s wedding and say, “Did you know that requiring employers to give their nannies paid holidays and sick days results in some nannies being let go and lower wages for the ones that remain?” (p 143)


Random minutiae aside, this book serves as a great example of things we all need to keep in mind as we create and share content as a means of getting hired as professional service providers.

Specifically…

Professor Landsburg (University of Rochester) is very sure about what he thinks.

I don’t know enough economics to question it; there are many parts of the book where I can just barely understand his explanations. But I’m confident there are qualified economists out there who would dispute certain points.

But he’s an expert, and experts take a position. Yes, some people may disagree with him – that’s how we know he’s doing it right. (Nobody disagrees with vanilla ice cream.)

Your content needs a point of view, too.

Between you and me, I don’t like Professor Landsburg. He spends a lot of time pointing out why other people and publications are stupid or wrong.

At one point, he even goes so far as to dedicate a full 11 pages to eviscerating (SAT word!), by name, a guy who wrote an article he didn’t agree with. (Although he did preface that section with the sentence, “A fiasco of this magnitude merits wider recognition,” which I have to admit, I loved.)

But that’s fine. His authentic personality comes through on every page. He doesn’t need me and I’m sure some people love him. If you want the fans, you need to risk the haters.

I haven’t opened an economics textbook since college. I’m not interested.

Even so, in the guise of “interesting counterintuitive everyday stuff,” Professor Landsburg has been teaching me economics.

He leans heavily on stories.

About trees, railroads, shoplifters, seatbelts … everyday stuff through which he explains bigger concepts.

None of the stories matter. But without them, I never would have made it past page five.

Our content needs stories too. Not because anyone cares about our kids, or our TV viewing habits, or our friend who loves tequila. But because we humans can’t help but pay attention to this kind of thing.

When you mix stories with the professional information you want to share, not only do you separate yourself from the pack (nobody but you has your stories), you make the entire thing way more interesting and understandable.

If you haven’t noticed, A.I. has gotten pretty good at spitting out information. Okay, it’s wrong a lot of the time, but it’s getting better every day. 

Even so, and for now, at least, it’s all still vanilla ice cream – no voice, no stories, no strong point of view.

I don’t know how long our human advantage is going to last, but I do know this: If you are not incorporating those kinds of things into your content, I already don’t need you.

I’ll be at my nephew’s wedding if you’re looking for me.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever disagreed with vanilla ice cream? Explain.
  2. When was the last time you attended a wedding?
  3. Do you write Artificial Intelligence as AI or A.I.?

Share your answers below…


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31 thoughts on “3 Ways You Are Better Than A.I.

  1. Michelle Morris, CFP®, EA

    1. I am not a big fan of any ice cream because I have cold sensitive teeth. Which is why you probably won’t ever see me having ice cream at your annual bash.

    2. Feb 2023, Phoenix, for my nephew’s wedding. I don’t think I reviewed nanny compensation issues with anyone. But it did take a lot of restraint not to scream when my annoying brother-in-law was telling me how he invested his IRA.

    3. AI

    That book sounds right up my alley.

    Your Michael the Marketer song is fabulous!!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      It seems we all have an annoying brother-in-law! (Hint: If you don’t have one, it may be you.)

      Reply
  2. Terry Matlen

    1. Have you ever disagreed with vanilla ice cream? Explain.
    No, but vanilla ice cream disagrees with me (I have lactose intolerance)

    2. When was the last time you attended a wedding?
    I hate weddings or any formal events, but I have one coming up at the end of August. I guess it’s time to shop for a new dress. I hate shopping for clothes. I hate wearing formal attire.

    3. Do you write Artificial Intelligence as AI or A.I.?
    I HATE AI text but…I do use it for making images – for my newsletter/social media

    Michael, this was a GREAT blog. I keep trying to insert personal stories but they just don’t come out right. I’m too wordy.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I try to use the Stephen King approach of eliminating “unnecessary words.” It’s amazing how much can often be removed! Have fun at the wedding.

      Reply
      1. Terry Matlen

        Is that from his book on writing? I’ve thought of getting that. I need to work on this wordiness, but you’re so clever, coming up with seemingly everyday occurrences and tying them into marketing.

        Reply
        1. Michael Katz Post author

          Yes. It’s a helpful and interesting book. He talks about his life as a writer and shares a lot of writing tips along the way.

          Reply
  3. Lana Walker

    Have you ever disagreed with vanilla ice cream? Explain.
    I’m too busy with chocolate ice cream to disagree with such an inferior thing.

    When was the last time you attended a wedding?
    People still have weddings?!

    Do you write Artificial Intelligence as AI or A.I.?
    AI

    Reply
  4. Jean Feingold

    I have never had a personal relationship with vanilla ice cream so I cannot disagree with it.

    The last wedding I attended was my next door neighbor’s about 16 years ago. She died last month after too many years of illness.

    AI – An unrequested aside: I have one writing client who does not allow writers to use AI in the articles they assign and specifies that in every contract. They do not pay more as a result.

    Reply
  5. Leighanne Burnett

    Have you ever disagreed with vanilla ice cream?
    Nope – love it actually as it’s the base for my favorite ice cream flavor, chocolate chip.

    When was the last time you attended a wedding?
    2023 was the year of the wedding in our circle: 3 weddings in a 3 month window (May 20 – July 23 – Aug 6). My daughter’s in May and two of her childhood friends each got married, too! LOVED every minute of it celebrating with great friends that are like family!

    Do you write Artificial Intelligence as AI or A.I.? AI

    Thanks for the reminder to keep adding personal stories to our newsletters!

    Reply
  6. Lindsay Gower

    *Vanilla ice cream is the BEST because it likes getting dressed up! Glamorous in a silver bowl with raspberry sauce, frivolous with chocolate chips and marshmallows, or all wild with a banana and the accoutrements of a split.

    * The last wedding I was at, I wasn’t at. I couldn’t go to my nephew’s wedding because of vicious chronic pain my doctors were sussing out. They sussed: I was recovering from surgery on the Wedding Day. The family sent me lots of pictures and then his sister and my brother-her-uncle called on the way to the reception to fill me it. I was so happy that I was (a) Out of pain, and (b) In the loop!

    * I write AI because I don’t want to take the time to add in the periods. However, I wish people used the periods! AI looks like a guy’s name. I guess I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to take the time to add in the periods.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Agreed on AI. In fact, my brother’s name is Al, so I always enjoy headlines like, “Al is coming to take your job….”

      Reply
  7. Jeff Johnston

    When I first moved to Ecuador in 2008, I disagreed with vanilla ice cream vociferously. Mainly because they put coconut something or other in it, which made it taste like vanilla coconut ice cream. I like coconut water, and I cook with coconut oil. I draw the line at vanilla coco nut ice cream.

    Fortunately, Ecuadorian ice cream companies have upped their game. Too bad I don’t do dairy any longer.

    Reply
  8. Keanisha Mona Johnson

    I’ve heard about AI and how writers use it to write, and it’s supposed to be faster and better. I’ve never used it, I agree that we need to use our own minds and AI as a tool to help,but not to take over

    Have I ever disagreed with ice cream? I’ll have to say if it’s just plain with No toppings, then yes l.o.l.

    The last time I attended a wedding was in 1993 when my aunt was getting married but I did get invited to a 60th Wedding anniversary!

    I’ve never used AI, just heard about it

    Reply
  9. Nicole Taghert Bergstrom

    Vanilla IceCream: Our film production company was BERGSTROM TAGHERT FILMS.
    For an ad in Screen Magazine, we drew a. pint of ice cream container:

    BERGSTROM HÄAGEN TAGHERT DASZ.
    Film

    At the bottom below the pint: Any flavor but vanilla

    Otherwise we love vanilla ice cream!

    My daughter’s wedding, October 2023 *****

    I’d like to say, AI ç’est moi. haha

    PS website under digital construction but it still stands kinda sorta

    Reply
  10. Gina Longo

    1) No, I love vanilla ice cream! Breyer’s Natural Vanilla is the best.
    2) 2012, in London…. unless you count attending my sister’s wedding via Zoom in 2020. Does that count?
    3) I write it as AI, although now that you mention it, I should probably write it as A.I. instead. That said, I absolutely refuse to use AI (or A.I.) in any way, shape, or form, and while I may end up being the lone voice in the wilderness, I’m going to stand my ground on this one. I’m far from a technophobe, but I have serious ethical issues with AI (or A.I., take your pick). 😉

    Reply
    1. Gina Longo

      Comment edited to read: I refuse to use AI/A.I. deliberately, but I wouldn’t be surprised (and I would be disappointed) if I’ve used it unintentionally. Search engine results come to mind, even though I try not to use Google.

      Reply
  11. Tracey

    Yes, when a dessert in a restaurant comes with vanilla, I usually ask if they have chocolate. And usually they don’t so I suffer the vanilla.

    My son got married in April, so quite recently.

    My employer is a SaaS company and our product utilizes AI, which is how they write it. So that’s good enough for me.

    Reply

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