AI Should Come Second

Can AI write better than humans? Will a song composed by AI ever be able to move us? Are Large Language Models (LLMs) just mimicking us, or can they create something original? 

These are all the wrong questions to ask. Well, they are interesting, and the answer to each of them will undoubtedly impact society. But all these questions focus on the machines as if the only thing that matters is when they will be as good as we are or better. This discourse fails to emphasize the value of doing what we humans are wired to do, even if a machine can outperform us. 

This post could have started with a prompt given to the latest and greatest LLM model. I could probably get some ideas, references, and maybe even a solid draft. A year from now, I might be able to get a text ready to be published within two seconds, and it will likely be better articulated than anything I can write myself. It’s not a question of “if” but a question of “when.” 

But the fact that we can do something doesn’t mean we should. The fact that technology exists doesn’t mean that it is good for us to use it. Social media was a society-changing technology that worked flawlessly… for its designers; for us users, it appeared to work as long as the cost was hidden or unknown. Most of us know better now. 

So the question is not whether AI-generated content is (or could be) better than its human equivalent. The focus should be not on the creative product but on what it means to create it. The minute we outsource the process of creating something new to the machine, we forgo one of the pillars of our humanity. 

AI is useful and will become even more so. I used AI to identify and correct spelling and grammatical mistakes in this text. I might even consult it to see if the point I’m trying to make is clear enough. I make sure I utilize AI where it can improve my work, but I refuse to let it replace my work. Maybe ChatGPT could have written a better version of this text or generated a better idea, but I refuse to waive my right to create something imperfect as long as I am the one creating it. 

AI should come second. Sometimes third. If you are struggling to come up with an idea, struggle. That’s part of the creative process. That is how you grow your capacity to create. If you find it hard to phrase the first sentence, talk to someone or take a walk outside. That’s part of finding your voice. If you write a poor draft and have to start over again, do it. That’s exactly what a draft is supposed to be: an integral part of thinking and processing your thoughts. 

You can produce more by outsourcing the creative struggle to AI. What it “creates” might even be objectively better, but it won’t be your creation. It won’t be the product of your thoughts. And the minute that happens, your value as a human being diminishes.

Some people compare the AI revolution to the Industrial Revolution and conclude it’s a natural part of progress. They are wrong. None of the machines we’ve created until now have compromised the essence of being a human. They were all designed to do repetitive, uncreative work. They had a financial and societal impact, but they didn’t come close to taking over the core of our humanity: being imaginative and creative. The technological achievement of AI is remarkable, but this doesn’t mean we have to use it and waive our natural capacity to come up with ideas and express them. 

Using AI instead of staring at a blank page is tempting. So is social media compared to meeting new people in the real world. We don’t need to ban it; just use it with care. As long as you don’t use AI as a replacement for the real thing, as long you use it as a tool for refinement and improvement and not for thinking on your behalf, you’ll stay ahead of the curve. Even if at times it seems that everyone else is running faster.

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