ChatGPT, OpenAI’s advanced natural language chatbot, has not been lacking attention and speculation since its launch. Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, described it as “one of those rare moments in technology where you see a glimmer of how everything is going to be different going forward.” But is it worth the hype, and could it steal my job in PR?
Whenever a radically new and innovative technology emerges, especially in the communications field, its initial impact tends to be grossly overestimated, and its long-term impact underestimated. ChatGPT appears to be following a similar pattern.
If you haven’t heard of ChatGPT yet, then I can only presume you’ve been living in a monastery with no Wi-Fi for the past few months. The AI chatbot has sent journalists scrambling to report on everything from students cheating on their coursework to BuzzFeed using ChatGPT to produce more of their second-rate quizzes and content.
OpenAI launched ChatGPT in late November, and since then, it has been breaking records. Within five days of its launch, the AI bot had already surpassed 1 million users. This is significant when you compare it to other disruptive launches such as Spotify, Dropbox, and Netflix, which reached one million users in 5 months, seven months, and three years after their launch, respectively.
Just weeks after its launch, ChatGPT is threatening to upend how we write emails, school essays, and many other forms of written communication. Universities are already insisting lecturers review how their courses are assessed due to concerns about students using ChatGPT to produce coursework.
Professionally, ChatGPT is being viewed as a tool to assist writing everyday communications. Bloomberg has reported that 30% of professionals already say they’ve put the AI chatbot to good use at work, with drafting emails or generating pieces of code being some of its most popular uses.
It is early days for ChatGPT, so its potential for use in business is still being theorised. One clear use case is that it can be used as a customer service chatbot for businesses looking to provide clear information about their products and services. But, as a PR agency, Champion Communications is interested in whether ChatGPT has a role in PR content creation.
I went straight to the source and asked the AI chatbot, ‘How can ChatGPT be used in PR?’
The answer: "ChatGPT can be used for PR by generating press releases, product descriptions, social media posts, and other written content. It can also assist in customer service by answering frequently asked questions, providing product information, and resolving customer issues. Additionally, ChatGPT can be integrated into websites and mobile applications as an AI-powered chatbot for improved user engagement and a more personalized experience for customers."
That’s the theory, but the reality is a different story.
To be honest, I tried to use ChatGPT to write this entire blog post. Work smarter, not harder, as they say. The result wasn’t great. It was informative and not nonsense, but rather unexciting to read. It lacks that human touch which makes writing engaging. Without it, it's just bland and… robotic.
Despite its uninspiring results, it has been difficult to escape the doomsday hypothesis about how ChatGPT is replacing humans and stealing our jobs, especially in the content-creating profession. This type of rhetoric always appears when a new, game-changing, and innovative product lands on the market, yet the predictions are almost always exaggerated.
When technology arrives, humans adapt, and that has always been the story. Take the humble tractor, for instance. In 1900, 41% of the US workforce was involved in agriculture. By 2000, this figure had decreased to a mere 1.9%. This change is credited to the commercialisation of the petrol-powered tractor, which did millions of agricultural jobs easily replaceable by a cheaper and easy-to-use machine.
Workers who had their jobs replaced by the tractor didn’t simply fall into a state of unemployment for the rest of their lives; instead, they moved into urban areas and found work in factories manufacturing parts for machines such as tractors. Meanwhile, the tractor rendered the farm more efficient, productive, and able to feed a quickly growing population.
Technology has always replaced humans in the workforce. The tractor replaced agricultural workers, the computer replaced typewriters, and robot arms replaced human arms in the factory. However, what feels different about content-creating AI is that technology seems to be replacing creative jobs for the first time. Our ability to think creatively seemed like a human-specific talent. To find out this isn’t the case is not just humbling but rather existential crisis-inducing.
However, at ChatGPT’s current stage, it lacks the critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and human touch that would make it a legitimate competitor to any successful piece of content written by a human. Even before you write a question, the OpenAI chatbot warns you that it may “generate incorrect information”, “produce harmful instructions or biased content”, and has “limited knowledge of world events after 2021.”
If we’re comparing tractors to AI chatbots, then ChatGPT is equivalent to the first petrol-powered tractor invented by Charter Gas Engine Co in 1889. The machine weighed more than an elephant and was less practical and economical to use than a team of humans
That isn’t to say ChatGPT is useless in a professional PR setting. As with most technology, advanced natural language chatbots can be used to improve our work by working alongside it to create content and generate ideas. With turbulent economic times continuing into 2023, and talent shortages disrupting most industries, ChatGPT could be a fantastic tool to improve workplace efficiency and cut costs.
All things considered, I’m not worried about an AI chatbot stealing my job. Not yet, anyway.
Luckily for me, ChatGPT seems to agree with me:
"As an AI language model, ChatGPT can assist with certain tasks in PR, but it is unlikely to completely replace human PR professionals. While ChatGPT can generate written content, handle customer service inquiries, and provide information, it lacks the human touch, creativity, and empathy that is essential for PR. Human PR professionals are still needed to develop strategy, build relationships with media and influencers, analyze data, and handle complex or nuanced situations that require a human touch. In the future, AI technology like ChatGPT is likely to augment and enhance the work of PR professionals, rather than replace them."
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