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Why fear and fawning over ChatGPT reflects a crisis of confidence among communicators


In the world of content and creativity, originality is priceless, and it’s the underlying driver of value for PR agencies operating at the premium end of the communications market. Yet, if my LinkedIn feed is anything to go by, a large section of the communications industry has become obsessed with a platform that regurgitates recycled ideas and content, albeit with industrial efficiency. Some fear ChatGPT will take our jobs, while others marvel at its ability to construct coherent arguments as if they are seeing fire for the first time. 

As far as originality is concerned, ChatGPT is the content and creative equivalent of knock-off designer handbags being sold on the side of the street. At a distance they look impressive, but under closer inspection they are nothing more than cheap, plastic imitations of the exquisite design and craftsmanship they attempt to impersonate.  

Examine the high-water marks of creativity showcased at the PRCA Award Winners of 2022, and none of those campaigns would have been imagined by ChatGPT. For lower value highly replicable content applications, which do not depend on originality, ChatGPT’s content and idea recycling is fine. But for clients seeking to cut through the quagmire of noise that intensifies day by day, relying upon recycled content and ideas is the creative equivalent of firing blanks.    

As a creative aid, ChatGPT has enormous potential. Just like many technologies before it, AI will help bring additional superpowers to communicators and the creative process. Helping us to move faster and be more nimble in how we adapt to rapidly changing circumstances by aiding us with research, analysis and testing of hypotheses. All valuable stuff, helping to bring light and perspective to topics faster so we can see all the angles. But this enhances human potential—it doesn’t replace the very essence of what makes humans so uniquely equipped to be creative and original.  

As Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee note in their book, The Second Machine Age, "Ideation, the recognition of patterns in a broad context, and the most complex forms of communication are cognitive domains in which humans still have an advantage.”  
While capable of impressive feats, to fear technologies like AI or excessively fawn over the often rudimentary tasks they complete shows either a serious lack of appreciation of the unrivalled power of human creativity, or a crisis of confidence seeping through our industry. This holds true for future versions of this technology, which will undoubtedly improve and spark new waves of fear and doubt, because it is inherently built to trawl and recycle the originality that has gone before it.  

We have a saying about content development at Tyto, which is that when acting on behalf of our clients, we have a duty to “contribute not pollute”. We have a responsibility to contribute original ideas and content; not add to the pollution of low-value, unoriginal, regurgitated material. ChatGPT, and AIs like it, have the potential to industrialise content pollution. They do not have the potential to trump human creativity and originality. 

Should we be scared? Should we have anything more than craftsperson’s appreciation of another powerful technology tool to aid us in our work? No, we shouldn’t. For our identity as an industry is bound up with creativity and originality, not the industrial recycling of yesterday’s ideas and content. The more original ideas we are contributing, the more creative value we are generating for our clients. If, however, you are not contributing original ideas and content (which I highly doubt), then yes, you should watch your back. 
Want to know what ChatGPT thinks about Generative AI and Human Originality? You can read its – yawn – viewpoint here.