Post updated, May 2023.
You’re probably too young to remember the Luddites.
I’m not talking about the 11-piece folk orchestra but the group of disgruntled textile workers who went around smashing up the machinery that made them redundant. This caper began in the 1800s (and no, even I’m not old enough to remember that). The concern that new technology will steal jobs has not gone away though. The 21st-century’s weaving loom is currently ChatGPT.
You have no idea how many times I have written ‘ChatGPT’ incorrectly. Certain words seriously twist my melon.
What is ChatGPT?
Eventually, I had to copy and paste ‘ChatGPT’ so I got the spelling right throughout this article.
ChatGPT is a chatbot. (I know—total disappointment. I too was expecting something far more exciting but then I always am. I need to learn to lower my expectations.) Although it is a mere chatbot, it’s allegedly a really clever one because it has the ability to understand and answer open-ended questions—which is more than any of my romantic partners could ever do, that alone is impressive. It has the potential to do good. For example, it can help folks that struggle with literacy, it can write code (not sure I’d trust it to do that just yet) and it can perform the donkey work that we don’t want to do, like keyword research.
Should content writers be shitting a brick right now?
You’re expecting some glib, snobby writer’s answer, something about being human and creative and superior… oh, you just wanted the short answer? Well, it’s not that straightforward but sure, the short answer is no.
But perhaps, at this present time, mediocre content writers might be seriously touching cloth. I’m talking about the peeps defecating banal perfunctory blogs, those people should be worried because ChatGPT seems to write that crap effortlessly—and by default. Conveniently, banal and perfunctory just happens to be 95% of B2B content so no doubt there will be hordes of business owners and content farms (disguised as agencies) positively clucking to get their hands on it. Because why pay a human to write shitty blogs when they can get AI to write shitty blogs? For the lazy, disinterested, unethical organisation, ChatGPT will seem like the content-writing silver bullet.
I do sound a little snobby but stick with it, I don’t think what you think I think.
Here’s what it can’t do: create.
When we first got our hands on ChatGPT, we asked it to write poems and funny stuff—a sort of humanity test and I was no exception. The first thing I got it to do was pen a poem in the style of Bernard Manning:
“In a world so politically correct,
Where jokes are met with disdain and reject,
I’ll tread the line, walk the tightrope,
With words that provoke and give hope.”
It goes on…
“There once was a lad from Manchester,
Whose jokes could make your laughter stir,
He’d poke fun at people, every creed,
From up north to down south, indeed.
With a cheeky grin and a twinkle in his eye,
He’d push the boundaries, make us all cry,
Tackling taboos, without a care, Bernard Manning, the king of his lair.”
In areas, it doesn’t scan all that well. And the narrator’s position changes from the first-person narrative to the third-person narrative, still, it’s an impressive effort. My biggest beef though, is the tone, which it’s mistaken for biographical information. So I asked it to try again but this time using the voice of the obnoxious comic and the subject I chose was cheese…
“Now, gather ’round, you cheese-loving folk,
For a tale that’ll leave your taste buds spoke.
I’ll take you on a journey through dairy delight,
With a voice that’s loud, and jokes that ignite.”
Ok, I’m almost hearing his accent now but it’s missed an opportunity to rhyme ‘spoke’ with something about being ‘woke’—I mean, c’mon! And this is the thing, ChatGPT is not that clever yet. It can’t write a poem about cheese, in the voice of Bernard Manning and in the style of his humour. And we’re unlikely to ever get that; ChatGPT won’t engage with anything misogynistic, racist or homophobic and unfortunately that’s all of Manning’s material.
Sure, the world doesn’t need Bernard Manning-style poems but that’s not the point, this is: AI can’t make art. ChatGPT doesn’t think and it doesn’t feel, not in the sentient way we do. It has no human experience—no history—no trauma, which all contribute to the creation of art. The kind of AI that can learn consciousness is still the stuff of Science Fiction. So whilst these bots are smart, they are and will be for some time, a rubbish version of ourselves, certainly in terms of using an imagination to create something original. We might have some fun with Midjourney but most wouldn’t hang AI-generated images on our walls. Instead, let’s focus on how current AI can help us with the drudgery of our day-to-day.
ChatGPT is the tool, not the craftsman.
AI is not the panacea for all our business writing ills. ChatGPT is only as good as the human operating it. In real-life content situations, it doesn’t know your audience and it has no clue how you speak to them. If you lean on it too much, you’ll come a cropper (and fall flat on your arse), hence this lovely little heads up:
Worryingly, ChatGPT’s answers can look authoritative but be wrong.
“We have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.”—not a quote about the state of modern-day politics but from the creator of ChatGPT, Sam Altman.
ChatGPT will improve, and just like any search engine, it will grow in its sophistication. But like Google, it pulls its information from the internet. And we all know how unreliable that information can be. If you choose to write your actual published content with it, you’re going to be spending quite some time fact-checking source material. I would urge against using it to write your PhD—or anything that requires trusted intel. Humans do their research before they write blogs/articles/white papers/PhDs so think again if you imagine AI is going to save you time.
ChatGPT and SEO.
AI-generated content goes against Google’s guidelines. So if Google finds out the blurb on your website has not been created by a person, Google could potentially penalise your ranking. But unless Google has developed code to detect AI content, you might get away with it. Wanna take that risk? I’ll leave that response with you.
Nothing has changed when it comes to quality. Google still wants you to provide the best possible information for search—content that is well-crafted and can be trusted, irrespective of who’s making it.
“SEO is dead!”
Now we have ChatGPT, I’m hearing SEO is on the way out. Before we consign it to the graveyard (along with blogging and selling) let me add my tuppence: search will live on but probably not as we know it (Jim).
ChatGPT (and AI in general) will change the face of SEO. Search will become more bespoke. SEOers, like content writers, don’t need to worry just yet. I keep my ear to the ground and the big names in SEO are embracing AI but thankfully in a measured realistic way.
Look, Neil still bangs on about SEO…
Search is going to get better for humans as the bots continue to understand our queries more effectively. And depending on your point of view, that’s either thrilling or terrifying. As Microsoft merges Bing with ChatGPT and creates the ultimate search engine power couple, Google scrambled to fast-track its equivalent: Bard. (Bard, really? Just imagine how bad the other suggestions were.) And no, that launch didn’t go so well.
Hold your horses.
Proceed with caution when the majority get fired up about the next big thing (my thoughts immediately turn to Clubhouse).
Quite often that next big thing is like those wank fireworks you could buy from your local newsagents. All that hype on the packaging: ‘This is the most fuck-off rocket known to humankind!’ and it wasn’t. What you actually purchased was a pathetic squealing noise and a bang no louder than the pop from a day-old party balloon.
Yes, AI has been in development for years, also yes, we knew the day would come when the tech would be scarily good but it still has a way to go. Remember how virtual reality was going to change our world? The film, The Lawnmower Man came out—scaring the living shit out of us, and then nothing. Thirty years later, Zuckerberg rebrands it and it is again, going to change our world. Yawn.
Look, crocheted jumpsuits were fairly zeitgeisty in the 70s. Peeps in the 50s were sure we’d now be driving flying cars. We can forecast the future all we want but we haven’t yet figured out how to accurately predict the future. But what we probably can expect, from ChatGPT at least, is more errors and teething problems.
If you’d like a writer that also thinks, get in touch.
I’m a freelance business content writer at The Sarky Type®. My thang is SEO-informed blurb that sets your words on fire (ablaze with LOLs and engagement not to be confused with real fire that destroys everything in sight. Metaphors are better when they don’t require explanation. Note to self).