Nur-Turing meaningful craft and constraining irrelevance

May 12, 2023
6 min read
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We love conversation, and have stuff to say, so this was a fairly long issue. We divided it into three chapters you can flip through while you wait for Midjourney to deliver its upscaled Van Gogh cat portrait: What about generative AI?

Sad Turing reflects upon his own futility.

Let’s do this like it’s 1999.

Channeling our inner Prince charisma in 3, 2, 1…

We like our TL;DRs in forty-two words.😏

Welcome to the Desert of the Real

I’ve always fancied dramatic headlines. This one in particular covers many variables. It’s pop enough, like many other Matrix lines, and targets our readers’ demographics. It appeals to sci-fi lovers that could find us likeable, and spices things up with the meta-drama of a possible dystopian future, plus a pinch of Baudrillard and Žižek.

Above all, it pleases me, the human writing it, and it speaks to my own personal experience.

That drop of self-indulgence is part of its charm, too. If I could arrange all these thoughts, connections, and feelings into a ChatGPT prompt, perhaps I should be writing the thing myself. So here I am. And here we are.

This is a time of transition, no doubt about that. We’re testing this extraordinary toy that might be able to do so many seemingly amazing things.

Like magic. Only it’s not.

It’s a probabilistic simulation of what you could have done if you had had the time. A yuppie’s wet dream of absolute around-the-clock productivity at the highest peak of hype most of us have ever seen. Like its underlying, pervasive obsession with efficiency for its own sake, the conversation is pointless. We’ve all seen the bandwagon posts. “Ten ways to use AI to get more leads”, “How to write a perfect song with Generative AI”, “Grow your baby with AI”.

Perhaps not that one. Who knows? Give it some time.

We’ve also been exposed to much click-baity apocalyptic drivel about machines taking our jobs and fake news and extremism taking over the world. And because the overdriven hype goes both ways (on purpose), we’ve also witnessed its counterpart, the utopian messianic visions of imminent communion between humans and what was that thing again?

But the truth is the vast majority of us have no clue what this means for business or the future. We cannot know everything, and shouldn’t expect to. We know what we know and try to know what we don’t know. And we know AI is here, and it won’t go away.

From our humble little corner of the internet, we’d like to steer the conversation in a direction we believe might actually matter.

Let’s talk about the what, why and how of using Generative AI. We hope you can jump right in. We love human talk.


The What: Welcome to the machine 🤖

Yes, like other new technologies before it, generative AI may create new positions and “take” some jobs. It will surely change many. Think shoemakers, watchmakers, the guys who lit lampposts before we had electricity.

Granted, it could be argued that every tool or technology may be weaponized to exploit and control, or used to bring more freedom and abundance. It’s up to people, of course.

Take marketing in general, or copywriting in particular. There’s no way you haven’t been hit by the avalanche of extremely similar marketing articles, blogs and social media posts about all sorts of things, but specially about AI and our craft. Indistinguishable from one another, and not really clear whether naturally or artificially produced. (AI detecting AIs seem to be particularly useless at that, and so are the old ways).

Turing watching his test sales drop to zero.

We skim through countless posts about how copywriting is no longer a thing with generative AI. But it’s actually the other way round.

We’re worried about being rendered obsolete or irrelevant. A natural, absolutely human concern, and specially now. But the only way to avoid that is, and has always been, to excel at what you do, to run risks, to color outside the lines and see what happens. Working miracles. AI won’t replace human insights or creativity (are there any other kind?), but it will surely replace mediocrity.

We shouldn’t resign our right to feel fulfilled by the product of our work. Let’s find the line where automation enhances what we do, instead of taking over our talent.

Honor is the greatest gift you can make to yourself. There’s honor in a job well done. Honor your craft, your team, and your customers.

Tool or Machine?

The craftsman himself can always, if allowed to, draw the delicate distinction between the machine and the tool. The carpet loom is a tool, a contrivance for holding warp threads at a stretch for the pile to be woven round them by the craftsmen’s fingers; but the power loom is a machine, and its significance as a destroyer of culture lies in the fact that it does the essentially human part of the work.

Friedrich Schumacher — Small Is Beautiful, Chapter 1

These times are pushing us to face the age-old challenge of making ourselves irreplaceable. We do this by knowing more about our craft, not less, by understanding the real changes in our work, and by valuing talent and expertise.

Our craft is a human thing. What we do is about people. Our job will always be the human part of the job. We use tools, that we create, to create further, and to make things beautiful and useful. But those things reflect us and how we behave, what we do. And what we do is experiment, learn, adapt, go back to what others did before, and draw from experience. Connect.

In your face, Skynet.

Prompt: The Artist Formerly Known as Inspiration💭

Enjoy these assorted practical tips, half-baked ideas, open questions and thought-provoking pieces about what AI it means for your digital craft.

  • Generative AI Far West days won’t last long. Regulations will come and change how it’s used. Don’t go all in yet.
  • Don’t forget this is uncharted territory and, frankly, there are more questions than answers. Experts don’t even know how to evaluate LLMs performance (Azhar & Warren: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3).
  • Devs love Github Copilot. Of course they do. It’s their code that trained it.
  • It will take some time to let the new concept of what art is and means sink in. If art becomes infinite, immediate and free, is it worth anything?
  • Are we the only ones who remember UltraHal and his raunchy interactions? That escalated quickly.

Next stop: Ethics

If we got this far, we might as well take the plunge. In the next chapter, we try to make sense of what this big shift means from an ethical, personal, and proudly subjective perspective.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

💟, 🍵4️⃣2️⃣

Got questions? Suggestions? Opinions? (We love all of those).

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