So here I was, December of last year, happily writing away, thinking “yea, I could do this until I’m old and gray”.
Then, like the rest of you, I started hearing about generative AI, and ChatGPT in particular.
I had clients email me, utterly amazed at it. One used it to write a poem for his daughter. Another used it for a wedding invitation. I wandered over, and asked it to write me an article about a topic I had just written about.
I was impressed at the speed it put together a boilerplate article. And right away, I felt like a horse and buggy driver* at the dawn of the internal combustion engine age. Uh oh…
(*fun fact – the name “Furman” actually derives from a carriage driver…)
But really, I could all of a sudden see myself on the unemployment line. I mean, how can I compete with that? I hated that AI was targeting me and my fellow writers first – didn’t see that coming at all.
Well, I now feel better, and I’m now friends with AI. For a few reasons.
First, like many of you already know, my initial impression and amazement hit a wall. AI is incredibly fast at spitting out something basic. But, again, as many of you now realize, it’s not really that good. I would put its capabilities somewhere around the “writes a boring Christmas letter” skillset.
Plus, there’s another issue. If ten people (say you and nine competitors) all ask AI to write your web copy, will it all sound the same? And how do you actually know if it’s good? In addition, I found the more I use my creative writing skills in prompting, the better the result is.
In other words, even if AI gets you going, you still kind of need to be a writer to make it good – before, during, and after. So in a sense, I feel safe, work-wise. For now.
However, that does not mean AI isn’t affecting today’s copywriting world. It is.
I have noticed my more basic work – like short product descriptions and similar – has ceased to exist. This isn’t a huge hit in and of itself, but as any businessperson knows, sometimes the lower-level work is your “in”.
Add to this a very real fact: AI is at the beginning stages. It will get better. I would NOT suggest that a young person get into copywriting. I’m smart enough to see the writing on the wall (ha!)
But – and here’s the rub – it’s coming for all of us.
(note: AI can’t write that previous sentence without massive prompting work. The “-and here’s the rub-“ aside takes personality and a level of engaging thought it doesn’t possess… not yet anyway.)
Let’s be blunt: If you sit at a desk, AI is coming for you. Not today. Not tomorrow. But it’s coming, and it’s coming fast. Think about it – what does an accountant really do? He or she uses a pre-defined set of rules and applies them to finances. Same with a lawyer and the law. Even a doctor – AI can probably diagnose someone better than a doctor. 90% of my doctor appointments are basic tests the nurse does, and just talking to the actual MD for a minute or three. That’s it. And forget management…. I mean, decision making related to sales, personnel and revenue? AI will do it better.
Unless you primarily work with your hands, you will start feeling the AI heat sooner than later. And even “hands” people are in trouble as robotics gets better. But that’s a ways off – I’ll probably still be needing a plumber in a decade. But someone working with spreadsheets and numbers and talks and makes decisions… there’s no “white collar” job that is safe.
Where does that leave all of us? I don’t know. But we’re going to find out. I know it’s uncomfortable to think about. Think about it anyway. Especially if you still have 20+ years left in your working years.
For now, I co-exist with AI, and I use it from time to time. It gives me ideas, it’s excellent for research, and it can get me unstuck when writer’s block strikes. For now it’s a tool. A growing tool, but a tool nonetheless.
We’re still a bit away from SKYNET and HAL9000. I hope anyway!