Here’s What Creative Work Looks Like When AI Is the Content Director

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

Now that we’re all in the thrall of ChatGPT or Dream Machine or whatever the latest model is called, it’s time to think long and hard about how we, the dumb humans who are being replaced, will get paid in the future.

The outlook is grim.

Take this lovely BBC story, for example. “AI took their jobs. Now they get paid to make it sound human.”

Writer Benjamin Miller – not his real name – was thriving in early 2023. He led a team of more than 60 writers and editors, publishing blog posts and articles to promote a tech company that packages and resells data on everything from real estate to used cars. “It was really engaging work,” Miller says, a chance to flex his creativity and collaborate with experts on a variety of subjects. But one day, Miller’s manager told him about a new project. “They wanted to use AI to cut down on costs,” he says. (Miller signed a non-disclosure agreement, and asked the BBC to withhold his and the company’s name.)

A month later, the business introduced an automated system. Miller’s manager would plug a headline for an article into an online form, an AI model would generate an outline based on that title, and Miller would get an alert on his computer. Instead of coming up with their own ideas, his writers would create articles around those outlines, and Miller would do a final edit before the stories were published. Miller only had a few months to adapt before he got news of a second layer of automation. Going forward, ChatGPT would write the articles in their entirety, and most of his team was fired. The few people remaining were left with an even less creative task: editing ChatGPT’s subpar text to make it sound more human.

By 2024, the company laid off the rest of Miller’s team, and he was alone. “All of a sudden I was just doing everyone’s job,” Miller says. Every day, he’d open the AI-written documents to fix the robot’s formulaic mistakes, churning out the work that used to employ dozens of people.

This is absolutely going to be the future for all of us creators. How we negotiate this future will define the difference between a creative future for humanity and a flood of gray slime that will slowly but surely subsume our brains.

Here’s the thing: creatives like us need to fight back. Whether it’s unionization or some other solution, writers, editors, and other content creators need to figure out a way to take back control of our own professional lives. Slow acceptance is not an option.

We are approaching a turning point when it comes to AI content. The bosses — and I mean everyone with a budget — will always turn to AI for their creative work for cost savings. Just as motion capture slowly replaced traditional animation, AI will knock out a swath of the content industry thereby leaving millions out of work. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, just imagine a world in which the worst manager you ever had thinks she is the best writer in the world because ChatGPT can write 2,000 words in 40 seconds. Will she still hire a copy editor? A copy writer? A journalist? A designer? An artist? Absolutely not.

Barring any kind of real backlash, that’s the road we’re headed down.

Want to know how this all ends if we don’t react?

Read the BBC article:

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“We’re adding the human touch, but that often requires a deep, developmental edit on a piece of writing,” says Catrina Cowart, a copywriter based in Lexington, Kentucky, US, who’s done work editing AI text. “The grammar and word choice just sound weird. You’re always cutting out flowery words like ‘therefore’ and ‘nevertheless’ that don’t fit in casual writing. Plus, you have to fact-check the whole thing because AI just makes things up, which takes forever because it’s not just big ideas. AI hallucinates these flippant little things in throwaway lines that you’d never notice.”

Cowart says the AI-humanising often takes longer than writing a piece from scratch, but the pay is worse. “On the job platforms where you find this work, it usually maxes out around 10 cents (£0.08) a word. But that’s when you’re writing, This is considered an editing job, so typically you’re only getting one to five cents (£0.008-£0.04) a word,” she says.

“It’s tedious, horrible work, and they pay you next to nothing for it,” Cowart says.

If you think you can survive on that then by all means give it a try. Otherwise, let’s figure out an alternative and begin controlling our own destinies.

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