Generative AI: Is this the way the (comms) world ends?
Despite growing fervour around potentially game-changing technology, AI tools are not the solution to all our business communications challenges just yet.
A shattered landscape, burnt-out cars amid rubble and twisted wreckage. Against this backdrop a metal foot crushes a bleached-bone skull. It's the end of the world.
This is the opening to Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991, James Cameron), but you could be forgiven for thinking it's from a documentary on generative AI (think ChatGPT and DALL.E 2) given the extensive and sometimes feverish excitement. But the machines haven’t risen just yet.
As seasoned digital experts at Emperor, we have been at the front row for many incredible advances (the browser, search, mobile, social media) and seen other fads simply fade away (Netscape, Napster, Boo.com, Second Life, Google Glass). Always with the same supporting frenzy, fear, cynicism, early adoption, expensive failures and, if useful, eventual integration into our lives. And taken for granted thereafter.
So, should we be taking notice of generative AI?
The more contact I have with humans, the more I learn
AI and automated technology aren’t new. It’s all around us, finding, translating, processing, suggesting, transacting – with speed, reach and scale, and at low cost. It’s been doing it quietly for years and has only attracted wider attention due to some very large investments and releases to the public for field-testing as part of the development cycle.
Generative AI is a technological leap that enables us to generate text, images, videos, books, brochures, adverts; literally anything that relies on digital technology. The growing excitement comes from the attempt – and superficial success – to imitate human creativity and thinking.
This is already a valuable tool for brands and content creators. Whether as a creative brainstorm, that can comb the ether for those initial sparks, or when building on a basic idea, to produce content and then refine based on user feedback. On the other end of the scale, AI can be used as an advanced editing tool in order to optimise existing content. An appealing option for time-poor marketers.
The problem is, although scarily impressive and with huge potential, it’s still in its infancy and not ready for widespread and deep integration into daily life.
I thought about using it to write the intro to this blog as proof of concept. Unfortunately, the half dozen attempts and changing prompts continually gave me something trite; each time a riff on "Enter the new age of business communication!" / "Step into the future of B2B communication with generative AI". I know 90’s pop culture is hardly an original way to frame an article, but personally I prefer my attempt.
Early use and exploration of generative AI has also raised some significant red flags, from ethical and intellectual property/copyright concerns, to operational and environmental, and the integrity of the information coming back. It’s compiling programmatic probability and prone to error. That creates a risk for brands sourcing information this way and publishing content with their name attached.
When Google launched its chatbot Bard in February, it contained a factual error in its first demo, suggesting the James Webb Space Telescope took the first pictures of a planet outside of our solar system (spoiler: it didn't). A sharp share price drop followed. Of course, the internet is full of incorrect and misleading information, but generative AI currently lacks the complete critical reasoning skills to fully interrogate information and give us absolute confidence in its answers.
I’ll be back
But more fundamentally, it doesn’t know what it’s doing… yet.
And it won’t be long. The rate of advancement is exponential. Generative AI is already a useful tool, soon it will likely be simply part of the way we work. But regardless, as a business, relying on these tools alone to solve your content and communications issues will just automate a big mess.
Unless you know who you are, truly understand what you do and the way to authentically communicate – your ambitions, positioning, platforms, audience – all the smart AI tools in the world won’t achieve cut through and meaningful engagement.
The future has not been written
The heart of the solution is content strategy. Taking into account all the nuances of your business, people and industry, a smart and intuitive strategy will guide, shape and supercharge your communications so that is more than the sum of its parts.
(And – conveniently – it’s what we will be exploring, alongside the opportunity and risk of AI, in our event on 17 May, ‘Beyond the hype: leveraging content strategy for better business’. We’d love to see you there!)
So, things are changing. Generative AI has the potential to fundamentally reshape so much of our daily lives, and certainly the business communications world. Is it there yet? No. But it will be sooner than you think. The trick is how we use it.
‘Beyond the hype: leveraging content strategy for better business’ is part of Emperor’s summer event series – for more information or to register your place, visit our events page.