We often hear of advances in artificial intelligence, but it’s only how we use it that determines whether it’s a blogging threat.
If you were to ask people what they consider to be the greatest blogging threat, you’d probably hear plenty of answers. I would guess artificial intelligence might not rank high on the list. There are far other “threats” to blogging — like the growing number of distractions we already face — that are bigger.
I don’t think artificial intelligence itself is so much of a blogging threat. I think the threat comes in the way bloggers embrace the technology.
Or more specifically, I think it comes with how much they embrace the technology.
I found a review online the other day that mentioned a specific blog hosting service that is apparently rolling out some new AI interface. I’m not linking to the article because I don’t want to promote the service itself.
But the writer, in his review, made the comment that you don’t even have to write your own content. That raised my hackles immediately. To be fair, he elaborated. He said that you do have to do some of the work. After all, you have to create the prompts on topics you want the article to be about. So there’s some effort on your part required right off the bat.
As he put it, you give the artificial intelligence an inch, and it runs the mile for you.
Also, to be fair, he then said that he didn’t mean to say that you should just post whatever AI spits out for you in its raw form. I found that to be a relief. But the relief went away immediately when I read the parenthetical addition he made to the sentence, which was something along the lines of this:
…although you totally could because the end results are surprisingly good.
That, friends, is where he lost me…and not just because he used the redundant “end results” when results would have sufficed.
Effort isn’t a four-letter word
I experimented with AI a while back for a post about grammar. I went into the experiment curious about how well AI would compose a post. But to be clear, it was never my intention then or now to ever allow AI to write my posts for me.
I call this blog Patrick’s Place, not ChatGPT’s Place. If I weren’t going to write these posts, I wouldn’t run this blog. For that matter, I wouldn’t pay the expense it takes to continue operating this blog. Instead, I suspect I would call a halt to the proceedings immediately.
For my experiment, I asked ChatGPT to compose a post about grammar. I wanted to see how well — or how badly — the resulting article might be. I had heard people rave about how “surprisingly good” they’d seen it perform.
So I gave it this simple instruction:
Write me an article about common grammar mistakes.
It immediately began typing up an article, starting with this title:
10 Common Grammar Mistakes You Should Avoid
Listicles — articles composed of lists — tend to do fairly well for blogs, depending, of course, on the topic. I didn’t ask for a listicle, but I found it interesting that it chose to format it as such.
You see, since I never planned to just post whatever the platform composed as-is, I took the time to carefully read each point.
And I found a huge problem right off the bat. In the very first item on the list, in defining subject-verb agreement, it reversed what was a correct and incorrect choice in its examples. So the first item in the list already had an error.
I couldn’t have used this article as it was if I’d wanted to. Fortunately, I had no such intention.
But if I found myself in need of an article and turned to ChatGPT in a pinch and then posted whatever it came up with, I would have found myself with egg on my face.
Egg I would have deserved.
The blogging threat isn’t with AI
How many of us enjoy calling a business and winding up dealing with a computerized answering system that gives you options it wants to give you? Do you enjoy having to press a string of numbers and then still not reach another human being?
It’s not that most humans at phone banks are particularly helpful. But at least they’re humans. If we have a legitimate problem, a human at least has a chance of being able to empathize and make a value judgment based on getting us the help we need the fastest.
A computer won’t necessarily do that.
By the same token, do we really want to read articles on blog sites written by artificial intelligence? Wouldn’t you rather read an article written by another person?
OK, I’ll admit that some human writers aren’t quite as adept at the English language as they should be. I’ll give you that. But I’d rather take a grammatical faux pas by a person over a well-composed fact error from a machine any day.
The blogging threat isn’t artificial intelligence. The threat comes with the laziness that allows someone who operates a blog to copy and paste content they didn’t write and present it as their own without even checking and verifying.
I’m sure that already happens often. It shouldn’t. Ever.
The day I decide that’s the route to go is the day I’ll hang up my blog.
That, I think, is the least I can do for the blogosphere.