The Trade Off of Creativity and Ease

What we do when we use generative AI

If you charted the relative spelling acuity I have maintained over the years, it would be consistently trending further down. You may feel the same. Word processing spell checks begat auto-prompts and auto-correct begat Grammarly. We now outsource spelling to technology.

This has led to a general laziness of sorts about the spelling enterprise. When you’re in the zone creatively, why worry about spelling when you trust the machines to raise the issue or immediately fix it. Now, I second guess myself whenever my son asks me to spell anything.

It is a common fear I have when contemplating my use of generative AI tools. Like any self-respecting writer, I do not use generative AI to generate copy, unless I want to see what the generic version of a story is, so I know what not to write. I also don’t take anything it says at face value, making sure to check anything it spits out against real-life content.

I do use it for a couple of things, sparingly. I find it’s generally helpful to prod me to create subject lines and headlines for content I’ve written. You ask it to write 10 headlines and one of them will spur you into creating the ideal one. This is a last resort if I’m struggling to come up with one on my own. But even that “use in the case of an emergency” approach has its drawbacks.

Just like we now run spell check when we finish writing something, that convenience and piece of mind slowly morphs into a general lackadaisicalness about additional topics. I am worried the spelling that I am now attempting to course correct later in my career could sprawl into writing headlines or writing or thinking.

The point here is these tools are not just for use in the moment; they blunt our discipline to do things for ourselves. And the more we trick ourselves into thinking that “manual labor” is beneath us and better handled by a computer, the less we become of ourselves.

If you are constantly marveling at how generative AI makes your day easier, you are consistently lowering your core competencies in those things.

And, then, do not be surprised if you find, one day, you are completely unable to formulate a headline or a subject line without technology. Because you’ve shunted that responsibility off to a machine and it’s no longer a muscle you can flex. Something to think about when we talk about AI helping replace manual labor.

I don’t have the solution here, and I certainly don’t recommend you bury your head in the sand when it comes to emerging tech. But we should all be mindful of the tradeoffs these tools provide, lest we fall down our own rabbit holes of inability.

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