ChatGPT is a black box wrapped in an enigma with a human face.
We don’t know how it does it. But it does.
We prompt the “Oracle” for its insights by placing our request in the box and out pops a credible looking answer. But we then need to ask ourselves. Is this the truth or a hallucination?
Disturbing and impressive
I wrote what I thought was a great piece of writing. It was inspired by an observation of our deep human need to conform, driven by fashion, social media influencers, and looking important to our peers, because we all want to fit in. That still hasn’t changed.
In the past those who didn’t believe in the religion of the tribe were burned at the stake. A bit drastic and disturbing and I’m glad we have moved on from that level of punishment for non-conforming behavior.
So back to my writing.
In that article I used a creative headline that I had agonized over. Once I was happy with what I had written I decided to have a bit of “human vs robot fun”, a competition between man and machine.
I popped in my headline as a prompt and out came 1,000 words written in a humorous style that was very impressive. I almost tore my article up (parked it in archives) and took the “Oracle’s” contribution instead. But I didn’t, and sent “my” writing through to my editor.
That particular experience with artificial intelligence was disturbing and impressive.
The lesson for me here was this: A creative human prompt gets a better result and… I don’t have to use it.
ChatGPT is both a crutch and a tool. Many people use it as a crutch to write. But it’s also a tool for efficiency and productivity.
ChatGPT is about information. ChatGPT is about invoking and copying the information of the planet with no attribution.
It is vast and fast. It is a tech net that captures humanities consciousness and intelligence at mega scale and wraps it up in a well structured response. Templated and formulaic. It is an intelligent collated word dump that doesn’t require thinking but just a prompt.
It is not human writing and it feels a bit like stealing.
I have discovered that I like writing without ChatGPT and I’ve pulled back from using the ChatGPT crutch for my own personal writing. Because it is not my thoughts, it is not what I know. It is not what I feel. And that is not why I write.
And that is why I often write without ChatGPT.
Why do I write without ChatGPT?
In college we were asked to write essays. The topics were imposed from the ivory tower of academia. Their questions and not mine. And I wrote to pass a subject. Extrinsic motivation.
I started this blog after I had turned fifty and proceeded to write an essay a day, 5 days a week for 4 years. If you had asked my younger 18 year old self that I would enjoy that I would have rolled over laughing.
So now I don’t write to pass an exam, impress a professor or get a gold star. I write for myself. An audience of one and if I get the formula right then it may be two…or more. Intrinsic motivation.
So why do I write?
- One of the key reasons I write is to try and make sense of all the information. To try and find meaning. To make sense of the insensible.
- I write for life – Writing something everyday makes me smile inside and makes me feel better. It might be an idea, it may even be a poem. Thank you, Julia Cameron (Author of “The Artist’s Way” and “Write for Life”).
- I write to make sense of my feelings. I journal most days to get what’s in my head out of my head. It isn’t a cure but a comforting salve.
- I write to capture a passing idea that piques my interest and run it down and demand that it reveal itself to me.
- I write to distill. To metabolize the cloud of verbal and thought noise into a coherent structure that makes sense to most. If I can take a cloud of complexity and reduce it to understandable distilled simplicity then I am happy.
- I write to learn. A ChatGPT dump of information from a prompt doesn’t demand understanding or learning. Writing and wrangling words demands that I am learning. I write to go from confused to understanding.
- I write to reflect on my past. Looking for the patterns, demons and inspirations from my parents, peers, colleagues and culture that made me who I am today.
- I write for the present. Each day brings it joys, delights, doubts and fears. I want to capture them.
- I write for the future. Because I want to see the horizon and peer over the next mountain. See where I am going.
- I write for fun. To create a rhyming gaggle of words that makes me smirk, looking for a fun quirk.
- I write to transcend myself. “The act of creation (and writing) is an attempt to enter a mysterious realm. A longing to transcend” – Rick Rubin.
- I write to escape reality. I can dream in my own corner and put pen to paper. I can imagine in my own nook. Sometimes I make it public and other times I put it in the vault.
- I write for validation and affirmation – To know that I have made a difference that can show up as web traffic or a comment or a like means that my creation has been affirmed. To be validated as maybe inspiring and understandable to a few. One reader or two. That’s enough.
- I write to have better conversations. To write I need to read and that means I may discover some information and insights that could improve my next conversation.
- I write to be interesting. If you ever bump into someone that only watches sport or reality TV then you know it is going to be a short conversation.
- I write because I am curious. I have questions and I am looking for answers.
- I write to make the unsaid said. The big questions that we daren’t say I like to make public and put them in the light of day.
- I write to inform and educate. All the other points that precede allow me to be able to inform my readers.
- I write to practice the skill of writing. To improve my word wrangling and craft. Without writing I would never improve.
- I write to entertain. This can mean perfecting the art of storytelling to maybe make people smile and also make a point. Jeremy Clarkson excels at this.
- I write to inspire. Inspiring is about making people take action and if I can change someone’s life by getting them to take action then I am inspired. Most non-fiction writers aim for this.
“The role of the writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say” Anais Nin
One last word
Revealing ourselves to the world is part of the joy and pain of the writer that often comes out of attempting to make sense of suffering, rich life experiences, and to find meaning. This provides the writer with the human stories and insights that AI doesn’t have. And never will.
Making your thoughts public, revealing your ideas and being vulnerable despite judgment provides the writer with quiet unseen power.
A ChatGPT cut and paste does not fulfill or get to the essence of why the artists and creators called “writers” create articles, posts, screen plays, movie scripts or books. And it never will be.