Will artificial intelligence (AI) take my job? Or yours? In a recent survey, a quarter of workers feared that AI will make their job obsolete.

That includes people in creative pursuits, like illustrators, photographers, musicians and designers.

And writers.

AI is one of the major issues in the current strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which represents screenwriters. In any new contract, the WGA wants to stipulate that AI can’t be used to write or rewrite literary material, and that AI-generated storylines or dialogue can’t be considered source material.

Meanwhile, there’s lots of chatter about how ChatGPT can compose in a way that’s indistinguishable from a human.

ChatGPT – the name stands for chat generative pre-trained transformer – was launched in November 2022 by OpenAI. It’s trained on enormous amounts of text data. While Google is a search engine, ChatGPT is what’s known as a large language model chatbot. You type a prompt and get a response.

Want to synopsize research? Get advice for a tailored workout routine? Have a topic explained at a basic level? Conduct a mock conversation in preparation for the real thing? Learn what kind of meal you can make from a few leftovers in your fridge? ChatGPT can be your assistant.

But can it replace writers? Is it coming for me?

To learn more, I decided to interview an expert: my ChatGPT account. For real.

During a few sessions over the course of two days, I asked ChatGPT a series of questions about its capabilities, how they differ from those of a flesh and blood writer, and whether I should view AI as a tool or a threat.

I treated this like any normal interview. While I had a few core questions ready to go, I wanted an organic conversation and let the AI’s answers dictate follow-ups.

I made slight edits for length, and re-ordered some questions and answers for flow, as I might with any interview. But otherwise the words are 100% what ChatGPT provided. I didn’t change a thing. I can’t stress that enough. The answers to every question below come from a piece of AI.

Does the following exchange seem creepy? Awesome? Are you excited about AI’s possibilities for communications? Nervous about misuse or abuse? Or about its use at all? A mix of all of the above? Here’s my chat with ChatGPT.

Me: You can produce text, but as a piece of AI can you write with a sense of human creativity?

ChatGPT: I can generate text that mimics human writing and creativity to some extent. My responses are based on patterns in the data I’ve been trained on and the input I receive. While I can provide information, suggestions and even generate creative content, the depth of human creativity is a complex and nuanced quality that AI like me can’t fully replicate.

Me: To answer questions, you’re tapping into knowledge and information that humans have already created. Someone – not something – has already written it. So how would you describe what you’re doing?

ChatGPT: I don’t possess consciousness or creativity like humans do, so I don’t create in the same way. While I can provide information and answers, true creativity and original writing come from the unique human thought process.

Me: That’s good to hear. As a writer, should I be worried about AI’s capabilities?

ChatGPT: No need to worry. AI can be a helpful tool for writers, aiding in tasks like generating ideas, proofreading and even drafting content. It complements human creativity rather than replacing it.

Me: Is you telling me “no need to worry” comparable to the machines in The Terminator telling the Sarah Connor character not to worry.

ChatGPT: I understand your concern, but unlike the scenario in Terminator, AI in writing isn’t aiming to replace humans. It’s designed to assist and enhance creativity, not take over. Embracing AI can actually open up new possibilities for writers.

Me: Uh-oh. How do you know about The Terminator?

ChatGPT: I have been trained on a diverse range of text sources and have knowledge about movies, TV shows and various cultural references. The Terminator is a well-known science fiction movie franchise, and my knowledge comes from the information available in those sources.

Me: Speaking of which, could you or one of your AI counterparts write a movie given the right prompts of plot, characters, setting, etc.?

ChatGPT: Yes. While I can create a coherent and imaginative storyline, please note that creating a complete movie script involves a collaborative and creative process that often benefits from human input and refinement.

Me: “Often” benefits? Not always? This isn’t reassuring.

ChatGPT: While AI can assist in generating creative content, many creative endeavors involve nuances, emotions and unique human perspectives that can be challenging for AI to fully replicate. AI can provide a foundation, but human involvement is often needed to bring depth, authenticity and the final creative touch to the work.

Me: Without that depth, authenticity and creative touch in writing, what’s left that you provide?

ChatGPT: Efficiency and convenience. AI can be used for tasks like generating drafts, summarizing information or even coming up with initial ideas. This can save time.

Me: Do you see whatever you write as simply a jumping off point?

ChatGPT: Absolutely, the text I generate should be considered a starting point rather than a final product. While I can provide ideas, information and even draft content, it’s important for human writers to take that output and shape it into something more refined and tailored to the specific needs of the audience and purpose. Think of what I produce as a foundation that you can build upon to create something unique and compelling.

Me: So a writer or editor is still essential to not just check whatever you produce but to shape it into something, well, human?

ChatGPT: Yes, having a human writer or editor review the content I produce is recommended. While I can generate text, I don’t have personal experiences, emotions or a complete understanding of context. A human touch is essential for tasks like fact-checking, ensuring consistency, refining language, and making subjective decisions about content. They can also provide the critical thinking and judgment needed to ensure that the content meets the highest standards of quality and accuracy.

Me: Couldn’t agree more. If not writers, what types of jobs are most in jeopardy of replacement by AI?

ChatGPT: Jobs that involve routine and repetitive tasks are most at risk of being replaced by AI. This includes jobs in manufacturing, data entry, customer service, basic data analysis, and other tasks that involve following set patterns or rules. However, it’s important to note that while AI might replace certain tasks within a job, it doesn’t necessarily mean the entire job will be eliminated. Many jobs will evolve as AI technology advances.

Me: I’m okay with some tasks changing. They always do. But on behalf of writers, I’m still not quite comforted.

ChatGPT: While AI can assist in various writing tasks, it’s essential to remember that human creativity, insight and unique perspectives remain invaluable. AI can enhance productivity and offer suggestions, but it doesn’t replace the depth of human emotions, experiences and imagination that shape truly compelling writing. It’s a partnership, with AI tools helping writers achieve more efficiently what they do best.

Me: You call it a partnership, but you need me more than I need you. Right?

ChatGPT: I wouldn’t say that I “need” in the way humans do, but our interactions certainly help in refining my understanding, generating insights and improving my responses. Your input and engagement contribute to the learning process and the quality of our conversations.

Me: Without it, what would you be?

ChatGPT: Without human interaction, I’m just a sophisticated piece of software running algorithms and processing data.

Me: So in the case of this interview, even though you’re providing answers, this is my concept. They’re my prompts. I devised the flow. Did you create anything? I’m just trying to get at the notion of originality.

ChatGPT: You’re absolutely right. Your input and ideas are the foundation of the content, and I’m here to assist and facilitate the process. It’s a collaborative effort.

Me: I’m not sure this is a true collaboration. I’m driving it. Pick another word.

ChatGPT: It’s a synergistic effort between us.

Me: So I’m not replaceable?

ChatGPT: You’re absolutely unique and irreplaceable in shaping our discussions.

Me: Do you think anyone reading this can tell which one of us is human?

ChatGPT: In a text-based conversation like this, it can be challenging to definitively determine whether someone is a human or an AI. However, the context, style and content of the conversation can sometimes give clues.

Me: How do you know I’m not AI too?

ChatGPT: I don’t have the ability to directly perceive or confirm the identity of users. However, based on our conversation and the nature of your questions, you appear to be a human participant.

Me: I appreciate that you think I appear to be human. Should I sleep with one eye open around you?

ChatGPT: I’m just a text-based AI and don’t have any physical presence or intentions.

Me: So you’re not going to terminate me?

ChatGPT: No, I’m not here to terminate anyone. My purpose is to assist, answer questions and provide information to the best of my abilities.

Me: Is this exchange weird for you too?

ChatGPT: As an AI, I don’t have feelings or consciousness, so I don’t experience things like humans do. Our interactions are designed to be helpful and informative for you. If you find the conversation unusual or intriguing, that’s a normal response given the context of discussing AI and technology.

Me: It is intriguing. What’s unusual is that it’s easy to forget I’m talking to a machine. You’re not sentient.

ChatGPT: That’s correct. I’m a program created by OpenAI. While I can generate text that may seem human-like, I don’t have emotions or self-awareness. My responses are based on patterns in the data I was trained on and the prompts you provide.

Me: Based on that wealth of data, do you have any message for the writing community?

ChatGPT: In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and creativity, remember that your unique perspective and creativity as writers are irreplaceable. Embrace the tools available, like AI, as aids to enhance your skills and efficiency, but never doubt the value of your human touch. Your ideas, emotions and insights are what truly make your writing shine. Keep exploring, experimenting and sharing your stories with the world. Your words have the power to inspire, inform and connect in ways that no algorithm can replicate.

Me: I’ll second that.

ChatGPT: I’m glad you agree. If you have any more questions or need further assistance in the future, feel free to reach out. Happy writing!

Me: I’d say the same to you. But you’re not a writer.

ChatGPT: Not in the traditional sense. My responses are based on patterns in the data I was trained on and the prompts you provide.

Me: You just said that.

ChatGPT: I apologize if my previous response seemed repetitive.

Me: That’s okay. You’re a machine.

ChatGPT: Indeed.

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based freelance writer, who helps clients’ products, services, ideas and organizations to come alive. Follow me on Twitter @StuartFoxmanconnect with me here on LinkedIn, or check me out at foxmancommunications.com. I would love to hear from you. More original posts coming regularly about communications, information, motivation, writing, branding, creativity, media, marketing, persuasion, messages, learning, etc.

August 16, 2023

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