The rise of generative AI like ChatGPT has prompted me to reflect on what it truly means to be human. As these technologies continue to advance at what seems like a lightning pace, we are forced to explore the nuances of creativity and consider whether these qualities are indeed unique to human beings. Characteristics that have been associated with being human include things like intelligence, creativity, problem-solving, and emotion. Generative AI uncannily seems to exhibit these traits, at least it gives us that perception. And like humans, generative AI can also be spectacularly incorrect (and very confidently so). If an algorithm can now write in a way that is compellingly human-like, what does that mean for us?
Image: AI Chat thought I was dead.
I recently stumbled across an employee manual from a company where I worked 20 years ago. The writing style, though it came from a pre-AI era, still closely resembled the cold, impersonal language often associated with machine-generated content. The document, likely assembled from a template, was devoid of any distinctive voice or warmth. Its primary purpose was to convey factual information and provide legal protection for the company.
This realization led me to an interesting conclusion: perhaps this type of writing is better suited for machines to produce. After all, does anybody really read the employee handbook anyway?
As Albert Einstein once observed, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” This serves as a reminder that advancements in technology can sometimes overshadow our human values and priorities, leading to potential negative consequences.
Martin Luther King Jr. echoed a similar sentiment when he said, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” His words emphasize the need for a moral compass to guide our technological advancements, ensuring they are used responsibly and ethically.
Generative AI is no exception to this rule. While the technology’s capabilities are undeniably impressive, there is a growing concern that it could lead to job displacement in various fields, particularly those that involve repetitive tasks or minimal creativity.
I have discovered that the more I engage with generative AI, the more inspired I become to write, create, and delve into the distinctive qualities that set me and my writing apart from content produced by algorithms. In many ways, frequent interactions with AI chat have prompted me to reflect on the process of capturing thoughts and refining them. As I navigate through a series of prompts to enhance the outcomes of AI-generated content, I find myself applying similar techniques to my own writing, meticulously editing and refining it for improvement. This experience has not only enriched my writing skills but has also allowed me to better appreciate the unique human touch that distinguishes our creative output from that of machines.
The rise of AI has also encouraged more critical thinking about the broader implications of technology in our lives. For years, we have been swept up in the excitement of new inventions, from smartphones to social media, without giving enough thought to the potential drawbacks that accompany these innovations. They simultaneously connect and isolate us. It’s important that we examine both the positive and negative aspects of technology in order to make informed decisions about its implementation and use.
As we grapple with the implications of AI and other emerging technologies, several questions come to my mind:
- Why is there more concern about the potential impact on the livelihood of creatives like authors and artists from AI, but not so much for bank tellers whose jobs have been displaced by ATMs or retail clerks displaced by self-checkouts?
- What does it mean to create something? If you are using AI tools to help you write or create images, did you create it? And how does that really differ from things like Grammarly, Photoshop, or the automated editing features of your smartphone camera?
- What new career opportunities will emerge from the AI boom? With each technological shift, previously unimaginable careers have been born. For instance, the work I do today wouldn’t have been possible before the internet. A hint at future possibilities might lie in the art of crafting prompts: if you visit sites like flowgpt.com or the /chatgpt subreddit, you can find incredibly imaginative prompts designed to make generative AI produce remarkable results. Even with the power of these tools, it still requires human creativity to truly achieve the most captivating outcomes.
Ultimately, the key to navigating the complexities of AI and other emerging technologies is to strike a balance between embracing their potential benefits and being mindful of their potential risks. By finding the right balance, we can stay informed about these technologies and discover ways to utilize them to augment our capabilities, instead of perceiving them as a substitute for our own skills and creativity.