I'm a professional writer, and I'm not scared of ChatGPT
- Jake Meth is a writer who thinks AI tools like ChatGPT aren't the threat writers think it is.
- Meth says churning out articles quickly to attract attention on search engines is what AI is good at.
I've read a lot recently about how the emergence of ChatGPT heralds the end of professional writers like myself — but I'm not afraid. Actually, AI tools like ChatGPT make writers like me even more valuable.
How could that be? Well, it's simple.
ChatGPT is really good about writing things that are good
At the same time, it's really bad at writing things that are great.
Most of us, by now, have seen the examples of what ChatGPT produces. Compared to other written AI available to the public up to this point, it's impressive. If you're looking for answers to fairly uncomplicated questions that require a lot of data to be processed, it's a valuable tool.
This is a major threat to writing professionals responsible for pumping out a lot of content on a daily basis. That type of writing was already commoditized before ChatGPT came along. Now, it's even more obvious that churning out articles quickly to attract attention on search engines and social media is not a specialized enough skill to separate you from competitors.
We're already seeing this play out, with BuzzFeed and CNET announcing that they're deploying AI to help with article creation. Watching the rapid adoption of AI like this gives writers ample reason to fret over what's next.
I don't see current AI replacing me
I specialize in writing op-eds for clients, and the work I do for clients is only partially based on my writing ability. I don't even consider myself to be that great of a pure writer. If you're seeking someone to compose beautiful passages that bring tears to readers' eyes, you'll have to look somewhere else.
But this isn't a problem for me. My clients aren't looking for a novelist; they're looking for someone to help them achieve their goal of becoming a respected thought leader. I know how to bring out the best ideas they have in order to write compelling op-eds in their voice.
Such specialized skill sets abound in the professional writing world. They are as varied as they are deep. Good journalists know their beat better than anyone else, and they have a broad stable of sources they can tap whenever they need inside information. Speechwriters are exceptionally skilled at considering the interests of an audience, and tailor speeches for their clients accordingly.
ChatGPT and other AI programs aren't the best — they're just averages of what already exists
Many of us have seen the clever poems ChatGPT cooks up. But beyond the initial shock comes the realization that these poems are just averages, approximations of what a passable poem looks like based on billions of examples. Truly talented poets, and other creative writers, will be fine.
ChatGPT can't do any of these things. If at some point it can, I'll probably be long gone. Maybe the rest of us will be, too.
The reality is that skill in professional writing has very little to do with writing, and very much to do with all of the things writers do when they're not sitting at their desks that makes what they eventually write so fantastic.
I'm not scared of AI, because I'm using it to my advantage
I do what I do far better than AI can, which distinguishes me from other professional writers who haven't found their lane.
I empathize with them. As with all technological change, the prospect of job displacement is real and frightening.
But at the same time, it's important for us to dig into why we became writers in the first place. The goal was never to simply process and regurgitate information. It was to communicate concepts and ideas that inform, tickle, surprise, educate, and exhort.
From my time in the media, I've seen many writers check out because they're being asked to do mindless, repetitive work on low pay. From that perspective, maybe ChatGPT is a blessing, a messenger unwittingly sent from the AI gods to remind us to take pride in our craft again.
Here's my advice for any writers currently cowering in the shadow of ChatGPT
Specialize. And if you're already specialized, specialize even more.
Think hard about what you're particularly good at. Even if you're writing tweet round-ups during the day, you must have something that you truly care about or can do considerably better than others. Lean into that as much as you can. And if you truly don't feel that you have anything unique to offer, start developing a niche—or start looking for a different field of employment.
These are harsh truths. But this isn't about fairness. It's about protecting yourself from obsolescence and evolving your skills to better match the modern economy.
If you can do that, you don't have anything to worry about.
Jake Meth is the founder of Opinioned, an op-ed writing and strategy firm for thought leaders.
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