So I was listening to an episode of T.Rex Talk titled Artificial Intelligence vs. Natural Dumbness and it gave me some interesting things to think about. Years ago I suggested that the jobs that would be endangered by artificial intelligence would not be the ones that we’ve always expected would be, and over the past year of rapid advancement in AI we have seen that to be the case as artificial intelligence has gotten quite good at things like writing and drawing, it is better than most people. But the question to ask is not whether AI is better than us at these things but whether or not we were any good at them in the first place.
I’ve only recently begun using AI, just for thumbnail images for the articles I post on Substack and I do it because I suck at drawing. If I want a unique image I don’t possess the skills necessary to make a good one, I’m better off just having AI do it over and over again until it comes up with one I like. This does not mean that AI is better at making art than humans are, it means that it is better than me, a human who lacks artistic skill. Is it better at art than the best artists of our time? No. Of course a computer will always be able to do things faster than a human but that doesn’t mean that a computer is better, it is more economical but speed does not equal quality.
Of course art has always been a fairly uncommon skill, there have never been a significant number of people great at it, and more importantly making a living off of it. This is not the case for writing, it is a skill that everyone is made to develop in school and is a part of virtually every office job there is. It is something that we should all seek to get good at and if a computer is better at writing than you are you should be concerned.
Take a look around the internet and see how people are suggesting we use Chat GPT to aide in productivity when it comes to writing. I have yet to see anyone suggest using a fully AI generated piece of content for anything important (because they don’t want you to think or admit it can replace you) but it is quite common for people to suggest using AI to write an outline or even a rough draft for you to start the writing process. Of course you’ll then spend time adjusting that to look how you want it to but I feel like doing that will take the same amount of effort as simply writing an outline. Writing an outline is not that hard, and offloading that work to a computer is an act of laziness rather than productivity.
Now I do recognize that because writing is my hobby I could be a bit out of touch here, but writing, along with reading, is a basic skill we should all have and seek to improve. Assuming you have already done your research and have an idea of the points you want to argue you should be able to throw together an outline for a three to five page essay in less than twenty minutes. We should all be able to do this, not because writing is something that we are all doing all the time but because reading should be. If we are regularly reading thought provoking things then we should be able to mimic that in our own writing, at least at a low level. This is essentially how AI learned how to write, it just analyzed a large amount of writing and is trying to copy it.
The reason that AI is able to write things that look like a human could have written them is that we have gotten worse at both writing and reading. To quote the podcast episode that got me thinking about this topic, “When AI is getting smart at the same speed people are getting dumb that [is a problem.]” AI is good at content generation because it is better at it than the average human but that isn’t a high bar, it never has been but it is even lower today. Compare the average person of today’s writing skill to that of the supposedly uneducated soldiers sending letters home during wars fought one and two hundred years ago.
Honestly I don’t really find AI all that interesting, it isn’t doing anything that I’ve ever really thought would be impossible and I don’t think we’ve even hit the ceiling of AI’s capabilities yet. What I do find interesting is peoples’ reaction to to AI. Hollywood’s writers have all gone on strike and a part of their motivation for this is to protest the fear of AI taking their jobs, this is the wrong reaction. When we see that AI could be doing things better than we are we shouldn’t go out and try to ban the use of AI, that just proves the enemy’s point. Instead we should seek to prove that human abilities are still worth investing in, we should seek to be better than the machines and perfect our craft. This may end up being a loosing battle, the self checkout is much more efficient than a human cashier at any grocery store, but that doesn’t mean that we should put up the white flag without a fight.
Remember there are still things that AI can’t do of course it will never become sentient, but probably the most important of these things it can’t replicate is your unique skills, your unique perspective and your unique human instinct. Increase your skills so AI can’t replace you, so your life won’t become meaningless, and so we won’t loose your natural intelligence in a world filled with artificial dumbness.