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Is AI the next great disruptor or a snake eating its tail?

Posted by Dan Hatch on 14th February , 2023 in The Write Fit
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Everyone seems to be obsessed with AI-generated content at the moment. For those of us in the business of creating content, that’s easy to understand. Disruption has finally come for us, like it has come for almost every other industry in the past few decades. For some of us who ended up in content marketing by trying to outrun the disruption in newspapers, there’s an eerily familiar sense of foreboding.

But is AI-generated content necessarily the fifth horseman of the apocalypse?

At the risk of placing in a public forum a hot take that will ultimately not end well, here’s my summary of where things are currently at.

  1. This is just the beginning for this technology, so we’re going to have to get used to it. Microsoft has already launched an AI-powered update to its Bing search engine, “to deliver better search, more complete answers, a new chat experience and the ability to generate content. We think of these tools as an AI copilot for the web.”
  2. AI-generated content already has its evangelists, even in the writing community. Over at The Self-Publishing Formula, an online community for self-published authors, they’re recommending using AI content generators to create headlines and marketing bumf. Perhaps this is an area where we could be embracing the technology?
  3. Publishers are reassessing open access to their original content. Popular Australian political satire site The Chaser has just announced they’re putting their content behind a free paywall, specifically to stop its archives being used by AI to create content that could one day actually do its writers out of a job. We might yet see a lot more of this. After all, AI is crawling everyone’s original content to do what it does.
  4. AI-generated content is only as good as the information it is trawling to create its content. Google learned this the hard way last week, when the launch video for its Bard AI product included incorrect information about the James Webb Space Telescope, wiping millions off its share price. This is a good reminder of the importance of quality control, including actual human editors and proofreaders.
  5. At this point, AI-generated content cannot add value for your customers. By its very nature, the content can only be derivative. It can’t interview people; it won’t include unpublished or original research; it can’t do any of the kinds of things that make your content, your platform, a destination for customers. This may change as the technology improves, and you could certainly add those elements into AI-generated copy before you publish. But, at the moment, you’re still settling for second best.

For me, the Chaser’s response is the most interesting. There’s a massive legal question around copyright to be resolved—and not just for writers. Artists and other creatives have the same concerns about AI using their intellectual property, too.

As I say, these could end up being hot takes that age badly. But at its simplest level, if everyone starts publishing AI-generated content, then that content becomes a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy—a snake eating its own tail. Meanwhile, those of us producing original content are subsidising the AI-users through our creativity.
What are your thoughts?

Dan Hatch
14 February 2023


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