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We all need a reality check on ChatGPT

Words of wisdom from veteran adman Ramsey Naja

I’m not worried about AI. Seriously, I am not. As a matter of fact, there is a host of things that worry me on a daily basis, mostly connected with my family, their wellbeing and the effects of advancing age on my organs and, frankly, ChatGPT and its friends don’t feature.

What could make me add artificial intelligence to my list of anxieties, however, is the prospect of having to deal with the tiresome and familiar sense of panic that excitable early adopters are instilling on marketers and the industry at large. We’ve been through it before, damn it, and the pathetic, pointless drama we had to endure recently with the metaverse and NFTs (remember these?) should have prepared at least the more cynical ones amongst us.

The scenario has become a classic: it starts with foaming-at-the-mouth predictions (“it will change everything”), develops into disaster-movie narrative (“everyone will lose their jobs”), before settling on doom-laden, apocalyptic conclusions, usually consisting of “(insert industry/area of interest) is dead”. The problem here is that there are people who actually listen to this tripe – or, worse, act on it.

Let’s be clear: AI is a deeply-troubling subject as far as humanity is concerned. But right now, and in advertising at least, it is a fantastic expedient for getting… started. It is brilliant at establishing swiftly what common sense – and history – would dictate, so we can come up with ideas that push that common sense envelope.

Pure gold

Here’s a silly little example: in order to find the perfect visual that would illustrate a ground-breaking concept, we used to leaf through stock images’ books and scan them. Soon after, we got online picture libraries. Then we had online picture libraries with cross-referenced search. And we still had to photoshop whatever we had in mind. Today, we just ask the bloody thing to find and put the whole lot together and, within minutes, we would get a pretty good early impression of whether that idea works or not. In what should be an idea-centric industry, this is pure gold.

Is it going to mean the end of some jobs? Well of course it will: for one thing, I very much doubt you’d still need humans to vomit inane social media ad content when robots can vomit it more efficiently. But is it ultimately going to kill us all? Now that would be a more philosophical question, or one for legislators to address.

My personal perspective is on a bit of a tangent: what I fear would kill us is a perfect cretin, equipped with a two-way earpiece that’s connected to a ChatGPT and who, briefly at least, can appear like an absolute genius – and reap the rewards accordingly. Because that would signal the ‘cretinisation’ of humanity as a whole and the rise of the intelligent, maybe sentient machine.

Because such a scenario, unlike Hollywood would have you believe, would represent the actual, albeit slightly anti-climactic, win for the robots. Meanwhile, in the immediate future, what would be even more troubling is the same scenario, but with a politician attached to that ChatGPT-attached earpiece. Now this, for me, would be something to worry about.