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Creatives Should Embrace AI, Not Fear It

Human fingers and robot fingers with a brain icon in the middle.
A lot of writers, artists, and other creatives are worried that new generative AI products will replace their skills. I say we should use them to make us un-stoppable.

The explosion of generative AI products in 2023 has a lot of creatives nervous. Will AI products like ChatGPT and DALL-E put writers and graphic designers out of work? Can AI compete with human-authored pieces in complexity, vibrancy, and soul? Is the hour that the robots replace us at hand?

The good news is that the answer to all three questions is “no.” Or at least “not yet.” The better news is that creatives such as writers, artists, editors, musicians, and more have actually been handed a great gift in the form of generative AI. These new products have the potential to help us enormously rather than destroy our livelihoods.

Generative AI is a Helpful Tool, Not a Threat

Suppose that instead of being an ethereal creative type for a living, you’re in the business of building houses—architect, carpenter, construction worker, take your pick—and a revolutionary tool that could help you build homes faster, better, and cheaper, you’d probably be very happy about that. Think of generative AI as the most helpful belt sander ever invented.

You may object, “But a belt sander can’t build a whole house. ChatGPT can write entire articles like yours in just a few seconds. It’s already one of the most published authors of books in history.” And yes, I agree generative AI can create finished products in no time fast. But it’s not ready for prime time yet (more on this in a minute).

I should also clarify that I’m not saying you should use services to create articles, art, or whatever out of whole cloth and publish them under your name. That would be a silly thing to do. I’m saying that the real power of AI for creatives, amateur and professional, lies in its ability to enhance your creative workflow, not do your work for you.

You’re Probably Already Using AI Anyway

Robot typing on a computer keyboard

Let’s think back to the long-ago time of early 2022. In those days, not many people knew the capabilities of generative AI. And yet, AI-powered products were already all around us. Grammarly uses AI to correct spelling and grammar as well as make suggestions for writers regarding clarity, engagement, and delivery. Writers worldwide have been using Microsoft Word’s host of AI-enabled features, such as Microsoft Editor, which uses AI to correct spelling, grammar, and writing style, and Ideas in Word, which suggests ways to improve writing, including alternate phrasings and added context, for years. Additionally, Word’s Translator, Resume Assistant, Dictation, and Focus Mode all contain AI elements.

And it’s not just writers that have been benefiting from AI for years now. Artists, designers, and photographers that use Photoshop have had multiple AI products at their disposal for quite some time. Content-Aware Fill allows photo editors to fill gaps in a canvas based on the images in a layer. Select Subject uses AI to detect the central focus of an image and analyze it for factors including color, contrast, and edges. Sky Replacement identifies the sky in an image and can replace it with another—turning day into night, for example.

Video editors have a plethora of AI tools available to them as well. In Final Cut Pro, you can use AI to analyze footage and the program relies heavily on AI to apply color grading and stabilization effects to the raw footage. Another popular video editor, DaVinci Resolve, uses a Neural Engine for advanced image processing to apply to facial recognition, object tracking, and motion estimation tools. And these are just the tip of the iceberg regarding AI-powered video editing.

These examples spread across all manner of creative endeavors as well. Whether you’re a musician, 3D modeler, fashion designer, etc., there’s a high probability that you’re already using AI-powered tools to create your products. The latest iteration of AI technology is simply the next step on that road.

AI Can’t Do the Hard Work For You Yet

A dramatic android crying because it can't own patents and lacks basic human rights.
Sarah Holmlund / Shutterstock

Granted, while all the tools I cite above are AI-powered, none are technically generative AI, which people worry about. The big difference between established AI tools and generative AI is that the ladder can create new content seemingly out of nothing. And again, these new tools are impressive in what they can do. But you only have to compare what a human can do with what generative AI tools are currently capable of doing to see that we’re still a way off from the mass layoff of all human writers.

A great example is that Review Geek published last year titled “Should You Buy an iPhone 14, as Written by an AI”. The piece was a demonstration of the abilities of the AI writing service Article Forge. A few months later, after I spent a good amount of time with the iPhone 14, we published my review. I invite you to read both articles and come to a conclusion for yourself about which you think is more valuable to an audience.

The Article Forge article is clearly written by a machine filled with repetitions, poorly constructed sentences, and outright falsehoods. On the other hand, my review contains the personal insight, a distinct authorial voice, and a carefully considered structure to deliver the most relevant information possible. Generative AI products simply can’t replicate that kind of experience yet.

So, yes, to write this article, I could have just typed “write an article titled ‘Creatives Should Embrace AI, Not Fear It” into ChatGPT and had it do my job for me. But what would result would be so sub-par that it wouldn’t make it past Review Geek‘s editorial process, as it would surely be noticed as an AI-generated piece.

I know this because I actually gave ChatGPT that prompt while researching this article. The result was a 435-word summary of the benefits of AI for creative endeavors. It had some good information and gave me a couple of things to think about, but it’s a far cry from a publishable piece—let alone something I would ever put my name on.

Plus, it gets tricker when you drop what ChatGPT wrote into Grammarly (No, the irony of using an AI product to correct the work of another AI product is not lost on me). Not only did the AI-generated article perform poorly in Grammarly’s analysis (an overall performance score of 89, with multiple suggestions for correctness, clarity, and engagement), but it’s also rife with word-for-word plagiarism. Grammarly flagged 10% of the words in ChatGPT’s article as found in other articles on the internet.

Furthermore, if you’ve spent a lot of time using generative AI products, you know that you can’t really trust them. In the short time they’ve been around, they’ve proven themselves to be unreliable sources of information. AIs will often make up information out of thin air when completing a prompt. Some call this an “AI hallucination.” Leaving aside the imagery that brings to mind, any writer who values accuracy and consistency in their work wouldn’t tolerate not knowing if what they’re publishing is a robotic fever dream.

The truth is that ChatGPT, the new Bing, Google’s Bard, and other generative AI products just aren’t very good at the craft of writing. And it’s not much better for AI-generated art, either. There is usually some sort of imperfection in an AI-generated image that gives it away. Don’t get me wrong. These things are impressive. But even the latest deep-fake of Pope Francis that fooled many into believing the Pontiff was wearing a puffy designer coat contained the tell-tale AI hands that outed it as a forgery.

But It Can Help

A robot sitting at make-shift desk typing on a typewriter.
Vasilyev Alexandr/Shutterstock.com

So, if using AI to auto-generate completed content is out, what’s it good for? Well, a lot. Probably the most powerful thing you can do with generative AI writers like ChatGPT, Bing, and Bard is to talk to them about whatever you’re working on. A good chunk of creative pursuits is sitting around thinking about what you’re creating. And it’s usually helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of, but there is typically a lack of humans who want to spend their time talking about it with you.

Instead of coming at an AI with a prompt like “write this article for me,” consider your opening prompt as “I’m writing an article. Here’s what I’m thinking.” You may be surprised by what you can develop when you start talking about your idea and getting coherent responses back. You can even ask it for help in the non-intensive writing portions of your project, like researching and outlining. Of course, you’ll want to double-check that any information you use in your work is accurate and not a hallucination.

Having an AI to talk to about a project can be invaluable for fiction writers. While it can’t write your book for you, it can help you flesh out your characters, craft your story’s structure, find ways to add texture and realism to your prose and help you find your story’s weak spots and suggest improvements. One of the best things about AI chatbots is that they can help you churn through ideas and possibilities more effectively. And you don’t even have to worry about taking notes if you get in the zone, as all your chat logs are saved for you to come back and look through again later. Human conversations don’t have that feature.

And while I don’t recommend having AI write your words for you, you can use it to create place-holder text in your composition. For example, suppose you’re writing a chapter when your main characters meet for the first time at a farmhouse, but you’re not entirely sure how to describe it yet. In that case, you can tell the AI to “describe Paul’s car approaching Cindy’s farmhouse on the Montana prairie at dawn” and stick the output in your manuscript. Then you can get on to writing the parts of the chapter you’re ready to work on and come back to setting the scene later. Just make sure to mark which portions of your manuscript are AI-generated so you can excise them later with your own human-written words.

AI is also beneficial once you’ve made significant progress on your composition. You can drop whole passages into ChatGPT for analysis, and have candid conversations about their quality, what can be improved, and the different directions you can go with it. While the AI might not be an actual reader, the feedback it produces may be as good as or better than you’d get from a human (assuming you can actually find one who wants to read your work-in-progress and give you notes). And even if it isn’t as good as human advice, it’s still worth reading and considering while fine-tuning your story.

While I’ve focused on writing in this section, I feel like this can also be applied to other creative endeavors—as most of them involve at least an element of writing somewhere in the process. Or at least require a good amount of imaginative power to turn an idea into a finished product. Whether it be a painting, a screenplay for a film, an epic poem, or a humble blog post, generative AI can serve as a muse, research assistant, editor, or even just moral support.

The Genie Is Out of the Bottle

Humanoid Robot striking a thinking pose in front of a window.
Phonlamai Photo/Shutterstock.com

If nothing else I say in this article matters, consider that generative AI is the way of the future in creativity. And despite Elon Musk’s attempts to slow it down, it’s going to be everywhere in short order. Learning to use these new tools to enhance your creative pursuits can put you far ahead of the game. And if you believe this stuff will put you out of work, you may want to consider turning it to your advantage before you give up.

It’s also worth considering that these AIs need our creative output to keep going. These programs are built on the collective output of creative individuals. If they’re going to continue to be as powerful and current as they are, they need fresh content to be trained on. And who is going to make that? More AIs? It’s possible that AI content will become so prevalent that the internet transforms into a never-ending retrained, regenerated, regurgitated, synthetic feedback loop of fakery. Sounds like an unstable system. Human creativity is the natural counterbalance to that, offering fresh injections of spark and ingenuity. These AIs are more dependent on us than we are on them.

Final Thoughts: Try It For Yourself

If you’ve made it to the end of this article and still think we’re finished as writers, artists, singers, etc., and that AI will replace you, and nothing can stop it, I challenge you to try it. Dust off that old half-written novel manuscript, the unfinished screenplay, or the outline of a story that you typed up one night while drunk. Feed the ideas into ChatGPT, Bing, or Bard and see where the conversation takes you. If you don’t have anything like that, just start chatting about that one idea you’ve had for years and years, and tell the AI all about it. Maybe all you needed was a little help to get it off the ground.

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »