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How long before AI takes my job as a copywriter?


The grinding gears of progress are actually a meat grinder. Sooner or later they come for your job.


Unless you don’t have one. Or won’t take one. Or are like cousin Eddy from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, living in poverty because you’re holding out seven years for a management position.


Anyway, the question on the table right now is how long before AI takes my job?


Several ghostwriting clients have requested articles about AI as relates to their particular industry. The articles I’m being asked to write are an interesting mix of acknowledging that a shift is happening, while delicately tiptoeing about embracing the inevitable while reassuring readers it’s a good thing and no, you won’t lose your livelihood to AI.


“AI won’t isn’t a replacement for humans. It augments us,” is the mantra. “AI needs us for prompts and input. It can make us more efficient and effective.”


Let’s set aside Chaos-GPT which was developed to destroy humanity, and consider that statement. Right now, that’s still kind of true, but I’m not sure if it will be in a few months. Days. Minutes. Set a Google Alert on AI and you’ll understand what I mean.


Anyway, in order to write about AI, I have to begrudgingly sign up for various AI tools—something I didn’t want to do—so that I can understand them. This one is from a free account in Copy.ai:


AI response text

It’s just too easy.


It feels like cheating, denying the cranial struggle and further weakening the little gray cells that have already been decimated by internet searches, smartphones, and Wikipedia. It’s not terrible output by any means, but I feel terrible about it. (This doesn’t mean it won’t make a sweet research tool for the last-minute client deadlines, not gonna lie, though some AI tends towards scraping and plagiarism more than others.)


These are the kinds of ads I am served up in various places now:


AI advertisement

I know of a few bloggers who are open about using AI to generate all or significant portions of their personal blogs, making a point of noting the good output they’re getting. I’m guessing there are probably a lot more writers doing it but unwilling to admit it publicly.


For the record, I write my own stuff.

I would have to, in order to have sentences this convoluted.


Even further, my photos and art are made by a human. If I use AI to create art, perhaps at gunpoint, I will let you know.


“I’m not actually worried about the whole AI thing,” I told my friend.


That’s not based on thinking it can’t have an impact on what I do, but simply that I’m not going to spend time worrying about it. My long-held theory—that if you’re willing to clean toilets you’ll have a job of some sort—is a theory that still sticks in my head; many an office toilet I’ve cleaned and would do again. People gotta eat and when they do…job security.


“I’m glad I’m not a young person heading into college right now,” he replied.


That I agreed with.


After watching “Borrowed Future” about the nightmare student loans have become (a documentary every high schooler and school counselor should be required to watch), and the woke garbage being served up on campuses, I’ve been in the I-don’t-know-if-I’d-go-to-college-now camp for a while. I’d already heard one man tell of how his daughter, in her second year of studying graphic design in college, had switched majors because she saw the writing on the wall when it came to the cost of her education in contrast to its value if AI took off in the design world.


So I’m not worried, but I have zero doubt I could be replaced.


All the talk about how AI still requires the human touch to guide it and prompt it and train it may be true as far as we’re aware now, but it’s growing by leaps and bounds. And as we all know, as science fiction goes, so do we a few decades later.


The question for me, regarding the content we find on the internet, is if AI would make a notable difference from the mechanical way we’ve gone about generating that content before its overt arrival.


I’ve spent years writing about topics I knew nothing about, filling the internet with horrid SEO-keyword-filled listicle posts heavily contaminated with:


  • Lots of white space.

  • Lots of bullet point lists.

  • Awkward headings and copy arranged solely to contain SEO keywords.

  • A fair number of headings to break up the copy.

  • Short sentences that are easier for people to read.


Speaking of headers…


People have been making junk on the internet for a long time, so why not let AI do it cheaper?


One of the things I appreciate about Substack (the platform I am using to write to you here) is that, so far, it is subscription-based and not ad-based.


They continue to come out with features that help writers and creators continue their work and earn some money while doing it. In introducing a new “Notes” feature, they mentioned this (emphasis mine):


Many of us have grown so used to talk of hellsites and doomscrolling—while wondering if social media is driving us mad—that we have forgotten that the internet can be good. […] There was a time when social media was fun more than frightening. But there’s no going back to the time of Blogspot and LiveJournal. The goal cannot be to Make the Internet Great Again. The incumbents are entrenched, there are more than 6 billion smartphones in circulation, and the AI genie is out of the bottle. But we can go forward.

Going forward is fine unless there’s a cliff in front of you, but I digress.


Substack did a great job describing the early internet and the joys of those days, but you don’t have to be a Luddite to feel queasy about AI and what it will do to internet content.


To be fair, humans have been writing crap on the internet for a long time. When content is designed to sell instead of inform, that’s what you get. Even informative content on most websites is about getting you into the sales funnel somewhere.


At client request, I’ve written about, without any expertise or real knowledge, the following things:


  • Backyard swing set construction

  • Squatty potties

  • Purchasing land in Thailand

  • Employer tips for managing employees

  • Becoming an SEO master

  • How to become a success in your career

  • Etc.


How does it feel to know the websites you’ve been gathering some of your helpful recommendations and tips are from people like me who don’t really know what we’re talking about?


AI probably couldn’t do worse, frankly, though if it’s learning off of that content, I guess maybe it could.


But why not use AI to churn out that junk at reduced prices instead of shipping it to some writer in North Dakota, having messy dealings with a human being? Internet writing has been clickbait for a long time, so why pretend a machine couldn’t do it just as well?


I understand the draw of using AI to generate writing if staying relevant as a thought leader was important and my model was simply creating “fresh content” to bring search engines to my page due to SEO witchery.


That’s not my model, though.


Is the human model about to sunset out?


My writing model is spending 4000 words telling you about the time I wandered through a wheat field or the local mall and heard something of interest, extrapolating some larger life’s lesson in totally inappropriate and inapplicable ways.


My model doesn’t sell.


It doesn’t drive the internet.


I get unsubscribes all the time from people whose reason is they don’t have the time to read it, or they find the content uninteresting.


I totally understand. I barely have the time to write it.


I don’t follow subscribes/unsubscribes too much. We were more easily entertained back in the late 1990s, when I started writing my blog, with far fewer places to read content online. In an outrage society (which is what we are now), few folks have the interest or time to ponder my thoughts about cooking and cutting carrots.


And so I can’t compete with AI, no matter how many times I write for clients in these waning hours before I become extinct, reassuring their readers that AI won’t replace people, promising them that the real shift is in being able to write great prompts as the must-have skill of the future (see also: AGI, artificial general intelligence, to get an idea of how quickly the prompt requirement is going away).


What’s odd about AI is that we are championing the incredible creative potential while what we’re really tapping into is the average.


You can get a good idea in a few moments from AI, or you can wait weeks and have an above-average and unique one come to you in the shower. It’s that speedy output that I can’t compete with. Average content is still impressive when the speed of its arrival is instant.


And it is a literal average, a sum-total.


AI (so far) creates using a model trained by human programmers and by scraping the near-entirety of the output of humans on the internet, including (and probably especially) the gutter.1 (Start digging around on the surprising responses early AI gave, and how offensive and crude it could be.)


It is, after all, the sum total of online content. The information superhighway is a filthy road with lots of trash in the ditches. I guess we get the AI we deserve.


The average quality of AI output can be seen threaded in an interesting blog post about the banality of AI writing. After reading it, I was led to wonder: so what if AI writing is banal?

Doesn’t our culture sort of like banal?


The non-sequitur confuses. The blunt and honest answers cancels. The surprise ending doesn’t lead to 42,000 profitable Marvel Universe movie sequels.


No word yet on the fun legal battles of plagiarism, copyright infringement, and content ownership of all of this AI output being churned out on blogs and websites. There is a pleasantly upsetting irony in realizing that AI is pulling together the efforts of human creativity and using it to squash it in the future.


Perhaps I’m not as worried or scared about AI as I might be if I had a different eschatology. But in God’s Word, he told us how things end.


AI is not the winner.


 

1 Not all the content scraped on the internet is good, and not all of AI is purely computational, either. The former is a fact, the latter is a theory regarding the spiritual dimension.

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