Let’s get this out of the way first: the product’s name is dumb. I’ve heard enough people stumble over the name, get it wrong, or not remember it at all to know that, from a marketing perspective, the name sucks. In case you’re interested, it clumsily stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer.
But we’re not here to talk about product names. This company, OpenAI, and its principal product, the aforementioned terribly-named invention, has been slathered all over the news for weeks now, and any company that is even vaguely associated with AI has seen their stock explode higher.
I’ve been acquainted with OpenAI for many years before the rest of the public, principally because one of my beloved children was their youngest hire in its history. So young, in fact, they had to engage their attorney to create documents so they could hire a minor in the first place. The point is that I’m not coming to this subject as a naïve nay-sayer. In spite of all appearances, I don’t just roll my eyes at anything new. Just about any truly revolutionary product that has come along in the past fifty years, whether it’s home computers, the iPhone, the Tesla, etc. I’ve been one of the very first people to buy it. But I think this ChatGPT thing is blown utterly out of proportion.
One clue is all the tacky come-ons that have hit the market telling people how they can make a fortune with this technology. I know there is an enormous industry of hucksters that appeal to the double-digit IQ crowd as ways to get rich quick. Every single one of these come-ons flies in the face of common sense and basic economics, but their target audience is too stupid to see they are being snowed.
I actually listened to a few of these godawful things, which I’d never done in my entire life, and they are hysterically bad (and unfathomably popular). One of their money-making ideas is:
- Start a copywriting business;
- Find clients who want you to write marketing copy;
- Have ChatGPT do the work for you, even if you don’t know anything about the subject
This is wrong on so many levels, not the least of which is that everyone and his brother already knows you can feed ChatGPT with a query and have it puke out middling text as prose. No one is going to pay you to type in a query and copy/paste them the results. Jesus.
Of course, technology and mindless hype are no strangers. We’ve seen it countless times, whether it’s 3-D printing, crypto, or NFTs. Of course, these days, the videos about making money with NFTs has changed its tone somewhat from the madness of 2021.
Since all this new AI stuff is about generating content, let me tell you something about a person who has made a livelihood out of generating content for decades. I starting writing for national magazines when I was 15; I wrote my first published book when I was 16, followed by a couple dozen more. I’ve done about 33,000 blog posts (literally). I’ve written a screenplay, a novel, and created a dozen video documentaries. There’s plenty more than that, but you get the idea: I know something about content creation.
For years, I’ve received emails every single day from companies and individuals that want me to publish THEIR content (because I’ve got a platform to do so) and they’ll even pay me for the privilege. I’ve deleted 100% of these thousands of emails, because I have no interest in their crap. The world is FLOODED with content, 99% of its garbage, and the LAST thing anyone is going to actually pay for it……………MORE content!
The idea that some lame-brain is going to type in a sentence into ChatGPT, have it puke back a page of text, and then SELL this work product is nothing less than pathetic. It simply isn’t going to happen. I’d feel sorry for all the dummies watching the aforementioned videos and thinking they’re going to cash in on this thing by being let in on some “secret” (which, oddly, is secretly being shared with the entire planet).
Remember the Segway? When it was about to be introduced, there was incredible buzz about this mysterious new product that was coming out. No less a person than Steve Jobs declared that cities would be built around this technology. (I’m not kidding). Time magazine declared of the Segway that wit would be the device that “will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.”
SPOILER ALERT: the guy who invented the Segway died (literally by riding his own Segway off a cliff), the company went out of business, and the product is seen as an embarrassing artifact of a bygone era. Cities were not, in turns out, built around this goddamned thing. It made a nice appearance (a segue, if you will) in the Weird Al video “White & Nerdy”, but that’s about it.
Now don’t get me wrong. ChatGPT (God, that name………….it hurts just to type it) is here to stay, and it’s definitely going to put some people out of work, or at least compel them to find something else to do for a living. In fact, I don’t think it’s the (good) writers out there who need to worry: I think it’s the graphics designers that are immediately at risk from AI products.
See, I’ve experimented with a variety of AI websites, some of which generate words, and some which generate images. The ones that generate images are the amazing ones because, paradoxically, even though pictures seem far more complex and sophisticated than black-and-white text, they actually far vastly easier for a computer to conjure up, because we humans read a tremendous amount of information and nuance in the written word. Writers pack a tremendous amount of information in a page (at least the good ones do), whereas impressive images are relatively easy to generate by AI systems. If you want to have your socks blown off, just go to YouTube and search for “AI Generated Images” or “AI Generated Websites” and be amazed. If I did graphics for a living, I’d be terrified.
As for the AI mania right now, it will diminish soon enough. The hype machine did a great job generating billions and billions of fresh dollars for OpenAI to suck down from investors, and I think ultimately companies like Microsoft that are buying into this product are going to be pleased with their investment (and could actually give Bing a shot at taking away meaningful market share from Google).
The world is changing under our feet, and some humans are absolutely going to be displaced by the likes of ChatGPT, but I think the near-term reality is far, far less sensational than the press machine is making it out to be.