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With the power of AI, you can be mediocre, too


As a writer, I often have conversations about whether ChatGPT is going to put me out of business. So far, I think the answer is no, mostly because I can do things that AI cannot.

The truth is that many AIs are pretty mediocre at most things, which makes a lot of sense: If you train a model on a huge dataset, you end up with the average of that dataset. You can pour Tolstoy into the top of the machine, but if you balance it out with the most-watched videos on YouTube, you’ll be in for a wild ride in a landscape where the depth of content is often as shallow as a kiddie pool filled with baby sharks.

The thing is, that’s not what AI is helpful for. It is, in fact, particularly well built for dragging everyone who is below mediocre up to the average. And that’s a hell of a feature.

The heady, futuristic world of artificial intelligence brings us a new promise: The ability to be perfectly average. Yes, with the power of AI, you, too, can ascend to mediocrity.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing. Imagine if you could be reliably average at everything you try to do for the first time — that’s the revolution we’re seeing play out right now.

I’m a below-average illustrator, but Midjourney has helped me make an enormous library of graphics for a project. Would a great illustrator do better? Absolutely. But the truth is, most of us don’t have access to great illustrators.

I’d like to think that I’m an above-average writer, which is why I’m perennially frustrated by the quality of writing generative AI puts out. But that’s okay, because AI isn’t built for that yet.

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