“Your first assignment my budding young authors, is to write your own obituary.”
This is a throwaway line from the classic 1980’s film Cocktail. As killer lines from this film go, it’s certainly not on par with Tom Cruise’s later impromptu bar poem featuring the line, ‘orgasm, death spasm, and getting loaded.’ Now that’s a line many will remember! However, this challenge to write your own obituary, has sat with me throughout the years, especially the more written content I have gone on to produce.
The more I have thought about it, the more I’ve come to think that writing your own obituary is a brilliant writing challenge.
Why? Well, as a task it’s easy to understand, you know the subject matter very well (it’s you,) and it’s a future event, which means it can be anything you want it to be. Surely there can be no better test of your imagination, writing style, and story-telling capability? In my opinion, it’s a bloody brilliant challenge and should be used more.
Now, how does a line from a 1980’s film relate to anything from the modern era and a post about ChatGPT I hear you ask? Well, yesterday I had a first for the year which got me thinking. I was on a call with a marketeer, and whilst chatting I brought up ChatGPT as what I thought would be common ground. To my amazement the marketeer hadn’t heard of ‘Chat’ and so had no knowledge of what it does. This fascinated me, as it’s been everywhere over the past month or so, hasn’t it? My LinkedIn feed has been full of opinions, polls, and discussions, whilst the internet is awash with articles talking about the pros, cons, and consequences of this new advancement in technology.
Until now I’ve not really known what to think of ChatGPT. I can’t knock the technology that sits behind it, or the fact we’re told the program continues to learn the more we put into it? Absolutely not. Is it the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this however? No, being it’s not. I can vividly remember being sat in a pub in the North-East of England during my heady University days in 2001 and one of the lads I was with playing with something on his phone. He had just someone called Jeeves, what Jeeves thought my friend was doing that day. After a short delay, Jeeves spat out that my friend was probably sat in the pub and watching in amazement as Newcastle at the last-minute winner that Newcastle had just scored. I sat there mouth open at what looked and sounded like a real ‘walk on water’ kind of moment. How did Jeeves know that?!
Fast forward 20 years, and ChatGPT is arguably a souped up version of Ask Jeeves. Yes, I did just say that, and yes you did read that correctly. Let’s be honest though, it’s not the first time revolutionary software and technology has come after something very similar. Is Facebook just a souped-up version of Friends Reunited? I know you might think it’s not, but it is. Google is just the modern day Netscape, and YouTube just the modern day My Space.
All of this doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed by ChatGPT, and it also doesn’t mean I don’t think it’ll be a success. I mean, Microsoft have already paid a whopping $10bn to buy it up, so it’s obviously ‘got potential.’ However, I’m still not sure if I believe it really is the answer when it comes to all things content.
So, there’s only one way to test this mythical piece of new content writing, revolutionary software right? Yes, you guessed it, let’s see how ChatGPT does when given the classic Cocktail test of writing an obituary, my obituary to be precise.
- Command: Please write the obituary for Simon Brown.
- Response: Simon Brown, a beloved husband, father, and friend passed away on October the 10th 2017, after a long and courageous battle with Cancer. Simon was born on the 2nd of November 1965. He met his wife Karen, while attending college and they were married in 1992.
Now, it goes without saying that if the above relates to any real Simon Brown, and by any odd of the universe they are reading this article, then please accept my condolences for your loss. As for me? I can confirm I did not pass away on 10th October 2017, and I most certainly was not born in bloody Manchester! 31 miles to the West my technology driven friend, under the protection of two beautiful, mythical birds, is where I entered the world. Not, I repeat in Manchester.
So, ChatGPT is flawed right? Nah, let’s be honest, this was a cruel trick to play on the software, how on earth was it meant to nail my specific obituary? That however, in a nutshell encapsulates my opinion when it comes to AI written content. Yes, the software has brilliant potential, and yes it’s another tool to make our life easier, but for me, it cannot right now replace the creative genius of people. It takes empathy, understanding, and knowledge to write the perfectly curated obituary to someone’s life. It also takes a weird, wonderful, and free-wandering mind to come up with an idea such as the one that formed this article itself.
Right now, AI written content is only as good as the idea we humans give it, and that is our super-power. Is it likely that the machine will continue to learn, to get better, and to have a thirst for more? Yes. Is this likely to happen at a time when we as humans get lazy, lethargic, and lack hunger to produce outstanding content? Arguably yes. That says more about us, than it does the capability of ChatGPT.
I for one look forward to seeing how ChatGPT and all AI producing content technology develops over the course of 2023, and beyond. I won’t however be resting on my laurels. I won’t be getting it to write any content for me, because I can’t for some reason come up with a piece of content at that given time. I will continue to let my mind wander, I will continue to produce content when it comes to me. At least that keeps me one step ahead of the machines, right?
Wait, am I Neo?
This article was written by Simon Brown, Founder of Digital 51. Simon wrote this article (very much still alive) whilst travelling on a train to London, which he specifically booked because he knew he needed to write this article and wanted a table. That train turned up without a table and Simon wrote this on his lap. If you have checked out Simon’s LinkedIn, you will know this is a bugbear of his. Feel free to reach out to Simon on to share your thoughts on this article, or trains without tables.