The other day, journalist Caitlin Moran tweeted her suspicion that the Daily Mail Online is using an artificial intelligence (AI) program to write its stories. When you read the sentence she quoted, which is apparently about the actor Jennifer Lawrence, you may well agree that she’s got a point:
Beige dress shoes hoofed her feet and she appeared to be sporting a fresh face of no makeup.
No human journalist could have written that, surely? At least, not one who any reputable media organisation would employ.
Barely a day goes by now without some kind of story doing the rounds about the increasing sophistication of AI and its implications for content creators. To be precise, we’re talking here about ‘generative AI’: algorithms that can be used to create text, images and videos, among other things. The launch in November of ChatGPT – a chatbot created by US firm OpenAI that can respond in real time to queries, in a way that is uncannily human-like – kickstarted the current wave of interest. OpenAI is also behind DALL-E, which creates digital images from human prompts, while other programs that have attracted attention include another image generator, Stable Diffusion, and Jasper, which its creators describe as an ‘AI copywriter’.
As someone who’s worked as a writer and editor for over 30 years, it’s tempting to either haughtily dismiss this as a passing fad, or denounce it as the first step on the road that leads with horrible inevitability to the scenario depicted in the Terminator movies. But the truth is, it doesn’t look as if AI is going away, nor is it going to become self-aware and start slaughtering humans any time soon. In which case, we may as well learn more about it and see how we can use it to our advantage.
So here at Wardour, we’ve been trying out a few programs to see how they work and what they can do. Creative Director Ben has spent some time experimenting with DALL-E, entering prompts like ‘Create a picture of a London bus in the style of a Van Gogh painting’ (which it managed fairly successfully), while I’ve been playing around with Jasper, an AI content generation tool that uses Open AI-developed technology.
The first thing to say is that it writes well; that is, the spelling, syntax and punctuation are all consistently correct, which is no mean feat and puts it one up on a few journalists I’ve worked with. Ask it to write an authoritative article on a subject that is well documented and you can have 800 words on, say, the history of financial regulation, in under a minute. It’s impressive, no doubt about it.
There are limitations, though. As with any computer program, Jasper is only as good as its inputs, so it’s not great with topical material. Asked to write a story about the recent Twitter spat between Greta Thunberg and Andrew Tate, it produced something that read like the result of a game of Chinese whispers; some of the key points were there, but not in the right order, or even attributed to the right person.
You can specify a tone of voice, too, but my experiments with requesting a ‘witty’ story haven’t been very successful so far. In one case, Jasper simply added a few exclamation marks – the last resort of the desperate writer. And I haven’t yet managed to get it to include links and citations in a reliable way.
Finally, there are some things we have to do regularly that AI programs can’t, like respond to current events and, to an extent, conduct interviews. So instead of being scared, we’re embracing AI, and looking for ways to use it to enhance what we do, rather than replace it.
This is just the start of the journey, and it’s undoubtedly a learning process on both sides. We’ll be writing more about AI in the coming months (I haven’t even touched on some of the big issues, such as copyright and plagiarism), so watch this space.
To hear more about how Wardour can help you use AI in your next campaign, pop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to have a chat with you.
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