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We use AI wrong

Generative AI has taken the world by storm. Every company scrambles to add AI to their products, whether it is functional or not. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes AI is a helpful addition but in general, I think we use AI wrong.

Strange uses of AI

As I mentioned, AI is popping up all over the place. For instance, in South Korea the chatbot Meadow is a ChatGPT-based bible chatbot service. Or what to think of AI powered shoes that “enhance” your walking for you? There’s even an AI powered electric toothbrush. Personally, I think these are weird uses of AI but they are not what I mean when I say we use AI wrong. So let me explain what I am talking about.

We use AI wrong

Recently I ran into a former colleague and we chatted a bit about what he is currently doing. Turns out that he is in the process of writing his thesis to obtain a master’s degree. I was impressed until he told me that he uses OpenAI’s ChatGPT to do most of the heavy lifting. At work I hear similar noises from colleagues who use Microsoft Copilot to quickly generate document drafts and things such as that.

Another example I see is that of my kids, who instead of drawing and coloring themselves, resort to apps like Wombo Dream, an app that takes prompts and can generate images with different styles. They can show me very interesting images and sometimes they look very pretty. Fortunately, they also enjoy drawing themselves and I much prefer their own creative output. Sure, it might not be as exact or pretty but it is original and authentic.

Or take my blogging platform of choice: WordPress. Jetpack, a popular plug-in for WordPress by Automattic, now comes equipped with AI which I can use to write articles for me. I only need to give it a prompt and it begins generating an article about said prompt.

No human input

The main problem I see with all of these examples, is that they take the human out of the creative process. AI can generate a perfectly good thesis, document draft, image or blog article, sure. But we use AI wrong if that is how we employ it. We take the thing that makes creating fun and outsource that to an algorithm and we are left to do the boring stuff: check it for errors, doing some layout and publishing it online. For me, that is a step back. The best part of blogging is that my blog is a platform for me, to write the things I want to say. The content I produce is unique to me. I don’t want to outsource that to a machine.

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The problem with outsourcing our creativity

While I am convinced that AI can be a very helpful to increase productivity and efficiency, a lot of the creative process isn’t about being productive and efficient. It is about expressing ourselves. I see a number of potential problems with outsourcing our creativity:

  1. Loss of creative skills
    If we rely on AI to do our creative stuff for us, we may not develop the skills to express ourselves, to generate our own ideas and content. This can lead to a decline in human creativity and skill development.
  2. Quality and authenticity
    AI generated content often lacks nuance. It is cold, factual but it has no depth. It is entirely sterile and robotic. AI generated product feels completely impersonal. It doesn’t touch us or speak to us at an emotional level like a product produced by a human can.
  3. Focus on efficiency
    By focusing too much on efficiency and speed, we take the fun and experimentation out of the creative process. Content created by humans evolves, goes through iterations, each improving on the one before it, before it is finally released to the audience. Removing that, we sacrifice quality for the sake of productivity.
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Where is the really useful AI?

Instead of taking over my creative thinking, I want an AI that can do the more mundane tasks for me. I want an AI that can help me compare products and recommend a product based on my preference, specifications, user reviews, price and factors like that. An AI that helps me think of what to eat today or set up a menu for next week and can order me the appropriate groceries. Or perhaps an AI that can help me deal with the frustrations of Microsoft Word by fixing layout errors for me. Even an AI that does the dishes would be helpful but so far, I don’t see a lot of progress there.

As long as we are not focusing on AI solutions that take over the boring and mundane stuff, I think we use AI wrong.

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