March 4, 2023 by  Ashley Guberman

Machines are already better than humans at several narrow tasks, even if one of those tasks is your job.  But comparing people to machines is the wrong way to look at both.

Don’t compare people to machines.
Compare people with machines to people without them.

The better comparison is between humans with tools and humans without them.  Since we picked up the first rock as a weapon, tools have always extended the reach, power, and capabilities of those who use them well, and that will not change.

AI is simply the latest tool to capture public attention.  Claims that AI will replace content producers, copywriters, or marketers are overblown.

The evolution of writing will not be a machine with a better algorithm.  Instead, it will be a machine working in tandem with a human operator who knows how to maximize the value of what the machine can produce.  History bears this pattern out repeatedly.

  • Word processing did not eliminate typing.
  • Spell check did not eliminate the need for vocabulary.
  • Grammarly did not eliminate your need to write the first draft.
  • AI may produce a decent draft and do it exponentially faster, but it will not eliminate the need for a human being to prompt it with intent and evaluate its output.

Look at what jet engines did to aviation.  It was a massive improvement in transportation, but it only improved one component of flight: Thrust.  That gave us more speed and carrying capacity.

AI in copywriting will give us more content, in less time, with less effort.  But without a skilled operator crafting effective prompts, or a customer evaluating results, we will find ourselves with all thrust and no vector.

It will be like putting a jet engine on the back of a VW bug.  Sure, it’s cool, but it is highly impractical while grossly underutilizing what the engine can do.

Don’t underestimate the value of a skilled operator.  For example, I can put my kids in the cockpit of a SR-71 Blackbird using a powerful flight simulator called X-Plane.  They cannot take off independently, but if I get them into the sky, they firmly believe they know how to fly the plane.  They hold that belief until they crash somewhere in the Grand Canyon.  

Likewise, we’re putting people in the cockpit of AI tools, and suddenly, they think they know how to produce compelling content.   But in the case of writing, take-off requires a clear intention and purpose behind your prompt.  Landing requires a careful evaluation of what constitutes value in the eyes of your audience.  

Value is an assessment
Made by a customer
That you offer produces more satisfaction than the alternatives
Including the alternative of doing nothing.

Bob Dunham

At least for now, human beings are still the primary customers for AI-generated content. That means that human eyes are responsible for assessing quality and satisfaction with the output.  

In my own work as a professional copywriter, I focus on the StoryBrand framework for producing content that resonates with my client’s audience.  Multiple other frameworks are equally valuable.  The benefit I’m finding from AI is that the same process I use for constructing the elements of a messaging framework can now be used to automatically construct highly specific prompts that help with the ideation process.

It’s not about AI replacing my role as a copywriter.  Instead, it’s about using my skill as a copywriter to get more value from the latest set of tools.  

People with tools will always be better than people without tools.
This will remain true even as the quality of our tools continues to increase.

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