Above is from the most recent
issue of the Economist.
And here's an actual tweet I stumbled upon last week:
going to nuke the bottom third of performers in jobs done on computers — even creative ones — in the next 24 months."
The tweet goes on: Salaries will plummet. Organizations will get drastically smaller. "Old, slow" people will be replaced by "half-priced young
folks." (A characterization that manages to insult both ends of the workforce at once.)
...Invest in your abilities "massively"!
...And don't forget the
Disaster upon disaster. A mushroom cloud rising out of a volcano powered by a tsunami of fireballs that are infected with Covid-19.
* * *
There was some sound advice in the original Twitter thread. Like "you're [sic] ability to be nimble and learn new skills is all that matters."
But it was wrapped in so much hysterical hyperbole that you had to shovel out bucket after bucket of roiling hysteria to find it.
I'm exaggerating for fun. I'm hyperbole-ing the hyperbole. But just a bit.
It earned 3,740 Likes. 1,194 Retweets. And at least one LinkedIn post, which is where I saw it. (Hi, Paul.)
Lots of chatter around a fundamental question:
😈 AI is the devil that will undermine our credibility, steal all our jobs, and leave us penniless and destitute living in cold-water walk-ups; or
😇 AI is a sweet gift sent from the angels that will help us be more productive and creative and allow us to retire to our yachts in the Mediterranean Sea, wearing deck shoes made of dollars bills.
If that sounds familiar it's because I've written about this before... and I guess the Economist's editors are on my list. 😊
* * *
Angel? Devil? Good? Bad?
Asking if AI writing tools are good or bad is like asking if the Gutenberg press is good or bad.
Asking if the internet itself is good or bad.
Or asking if TV remotes are good or bad for legs that get less of a workout running back and forth from the couch to flip between Ted Lasso and Succession. (<-- The two best-written shows right now; I will die on this hill.)
AI is both.
AI is neither.
It's just here.
It just IS.
* * *
Nuanced thinking on the internet (or anywhere) does not get the same attention as categorical, black-and-white certainty. Our
brains crave the drama—the exaggerated cues researchers call supernormal stimuli.
And maybe the nuke/no-nuke framing is effective for that reason alone?
Because it raises consciousness faster and more dramatically than a less hype-fueled conversation would. A more realistic comment might say something like "there is a potential that maybe job loss might be more drastic than we are prepared for, possibly."
Normally I'm a fan of colorful, bold writing. You know that.
But in this case:
bold + a triggering issue + uneasy audience = clickbait
(Hat tip to Robert Rose.)
The ideas become binary thinking that
serves literally no one. The "A" in AI comes to stand for "Armageddon." And we're back to the mushroom cloud backfiring infected fireballs.
* * *
Remember that ChatGPT stands for "Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer." AI is great at transforming. Not so great at originating. (Not really.) (Christopher S. Penn talks about this.)
I believe AI will transform writers... not just writing.
AI has elevated the bar for us all.
Can you write better than the robot? Two choices:
- No? Let's work on that. Here's a good place to start.
- Yes? Then how can you use what the robots don't have—your insights,
emotions, experiences, creativity? How can you use the tools as a way to transform yourself?
* * *
There's another conversation that we should all be having here—without using words like "nuke" and without the fireballs and tsunami and mushroom cloud.
AI is evolving quickly. It is already disrupting the jobs of people who think for a living (people like you and me... but also visual artists, lawyers, architects, programmers).
As the tech gets better... what happens to those jobs? And what happens to
thinking? I mused about it here. And Paul Roetzer offers some practical thoughts here.
* * *
I'll leave you with this thought, which is the same advice my driving teacher Harry gave me decades ago as my nervous hands gripped the wheel of my mom's Toyota Corolla. I poked the Corolla's nose into traffic. Cars rushed by, like a tsunami of fireballs ready to nuke the front end of the vehicle.
Harry chucked me on the arm.
"Hey!" he said.
"Keep your head up and your wits about you! Do the best you can. I'm here for you, right beside you. Breathe. We've got this."
* * *
Last week I highlighted sentences I loved. I promised a Part 2 this week. Your positive response to that issue was so overwhelming that I decided to make it a
regular feature. Some weeks I'll feature sentences. Some weeks, an approach. This week, we'll look at a sentence I loved for a specific reason.
HOW TO WRITE LIKE THE ROBOTS CAN'T #1
A sentence I read recently from Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his Pump Club newsletter, in response to a reader question of how to avoid being a
grumpy old guy:
"I also want to let the people who have been here since the beginning that you might hear some familiar responses. We're adding 100,000 people a month and I don't want them to miss anything, and some of these answers will always be the
Why I love this: You might think that this sentence is nothing special. In some ways, you're right. But "great writing" in an age of AI means writing that doesn't sound like an actual tool wrote it.
Let's dig in...
One of the challenges in writing an
regular email newsletter is balancing the needs of both long-time subscribers and newer subscribers.
I like how in his answer Arnold balances like a ballerina on a unicycle if the unicycle were also on a tightrope.
Yep, says Arnold, I've shared my perspective on how to not to age into a grumpy old guy many, many times. (I've been a subscriber for only a few weeks and I've seen it.)
He states right away that his response might be "familiar." And in doing so he is subtly doing two things:
1. Making existing
subscribers who are "familiar" with his answers feel like insiders (and forgive him the repetition); and
2. Letting new subscribers know that he doesn't want you to miss the good stuff, the classic Arnold POV!
I guess he's also doing one more thing: That flex of "adding 100,000 people a month."
Then again, he's Arnold. He's used to flexing. (LOL)
How this might be even better: If I were Arnold's editor, I'd probably make it tighter, less of a rambling run-on sentence.
Then again, that voice.
You can hear it, right? The Austrian lilt to a
voice that sounds like it's traveling over a rough road, spitting gravel from its wheels.
It feels like it was written by Arnold... or maybe transcribed from him? So maybe that's the point.
➡️ The audio edition of Everybody Writes 2 is now out.
➡️ The agenda for the
MarketingProfs B2B Forum is fresh off the WordPress. [Code IKNOWANN saves you the most-e$t]
DEPARTMENT OF SHENANIGANS
Is there a better euphemism than this one?
(Thanks to Christine Gritmon.)
A few places I'll be.