weathering the ai storm: Learn when to use it

AI tools make as lot of tasks easier, so knowing how to use it is a useful skill. There are so many out there, with more coming every day, that not acknowledging AI or learning how to use a couple of them is just silly.

But knowing when to use AI is even more critical.

For Gen Xers like me, the idea of using AI wrong conjures up images of Skynet in the TERMINATOR movies.

(We all breathed a sigh of relief when we passed the two fictional dates in Skynet history: Aug 4, 1997 when it was turned on and Aug 29, 1997 when it became self-aware and launched a nuclear attack against the people of Earth.)

The dangers of AI for creatives

Getting back to reality, knowing when to use AI today is critical, since it really can be used for a lot of things. It gets murky when we use it in creative endeavors, like creating art, images, music, videos, or written words.

The lack of transparency leads to suspicion

People become immediately suspicious of anything in the creative realm created by AI. Partially, I think, because of the lack of transparency and understanding of AI tools. We don’t know much about the deep learning models they use to generate responses and why it might make biased or unsafe decisions.

Many people are already suspicious of online algorithms and the harm they can do, whether we’re talking about mental health or societal damage through misinformation. We no longer know what’s real or not, so we can’t rely on our eyes and ears to judge what’s true and sincere.

We’re not ready to reward experimentation

Art is always purshing the boundaries of what we’re used to, as is technology. Hell, entire segments of tech live and lived on being disruptors and got paid handsomely for it. So why are we so nervous about creatives using AI?

One recent example is the backlash Marvel Studios and director Ali Selim got when they used AI to generate the opening credits of SECRET INVASION. They explained that they wanted to try it out and the use of AI complemented the themes in the series. They could’ve used the opening credits as a way to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake, but instead didn’t. (Side note: According to MCU nerds, there were plenty of issues with the series and the opening credits wasn’t even the biggest one, but that’s a story for another day.)

The loss of control of intellectual property

Last year, numerous authors like Margaret Atwood, George R.R. Martin, and Jodi Picoult, sued OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT, because their works were used to train the large language models (LLMs) used by the tech. OpenAI says it’s ok because copyright laws haven’t yet caught up to things, while the writers and artists say, “No way.”

Since generative AI tools can create derivative content based on copyrighted works that looks, sounds like, parahprases, and summarizes the original work, authors & other creatives contend it’s against their copyrights on those works. Unless they give permission, of course, but most do, and did, not.

And that’s just for starters. There are many other dangers of AI for creatives but I’d rather not dwell on that right now.

I’d like to look at the positive side of AI and help you figure out when to use AI tools.

How can creatives & tech marketers use AI for good?

Everyone who uses AI must internalize the idea of AI maturity. That’s a fancy term Accenture came up with to describe the “degree to which organizations have mastered AI-related capabilities in the right combination to achieve high performance.” So, using AI for good, instead of evil, and enhancing your workflow in the right ways.

Here are a few ways you can use AI in your workflows to enhance your projects, collaborations, and output.

1. Understand your workflows

Like any other transformation process, you’ve got to know your before and after state. That means understanding your workflows and, ideally, documenting them.

Then, you can insert AI tools where appropriate and align them inputs and outputs for each phase of your work. For example, as a copywriter, I tend to outline first, then write a bad first draft, edit, insert images and backlinks, edit again, then publish/submit. So I could use an AI tool to create a first outline or bad first draft, work my magic on the words, use AI to edit, insert images & backlinks by hand, edit again myself, then publish/submit.

But I would only know where I could insert the AI tools if I had a good understanding of my own process. For enterprise tech companies or larger organizations, you should be documenting your processes so everyone who’s involved can see it and make suggestions on where an AI tool could work (or know where you’re using one now, if applicable.)

2. Align your workflows to available tools

Not every AI tool matches what you’re trying to do. Choose the ones that work well with your workflow and ignore the rest. Some of the tools you already pay for might have new AI features you can use instead of subscribing to something else. I discovered this in my Grammarly Pro subscription. No need to pay for a new tool, just use this!

3. Stay updated on new tools

That said, you should pay attention to see what’s new and exciting out there. New AI and genAI tools are popping up every week and are doing some pretty cool stuff. Plus, you might work with clients who are already using one of these new ones so it’ll look better if you’re at least familiar with the name, if not the feature set.

4. Be transparent about your AI use

Tell clients when and how you’re using AI. They might assume you’re using it for everything or nothing, so be clear about when you do. For example, I use it to generate a list of headlines and titles since I know I’m terrible at that. I use the suggestions as starting off points and then modify them as needed.

PS – I never submit fully AI generated content to any of my clients. I wouldn’t do that without disclosing it, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t do that now because the words it produces is terrible. Forget about it being good copy, it’s barely good as content and that’s if you fact check it thoroughly.

AI tools may seem scary but if you’re smart about how you use them, they can be a great tool in your toolkit. Test them out to see how they work, then decide if you can integrate it into your workflow. If yes, great! If not, no worries.

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