It’s seriously impossible to have any conversation nowadays without the topic of AI coming up. Through the middle of 2023, it seemed like these conversations were more confined to my marketing circles, and the dialogue, though tinted a little bit by doubts and uncertainty, was overwhelmingly curious and excited.
Not so much now.
Not only have these conversations expanded out of these more niche communities and into all other aspects of life, they’re also getting a bit more “doom and gloom.”
Things are especially tense in creative communities. And I’m feeling it. The tech lover in me is excited about the advancements that we’re experiencing and looking forward to seeing what new things are possible with these tools that are new or in development.
But to be honest, the creative in me is pretty terrified.
When generative AI first came onto the scene (less than a year ago, as crazy as that seems), it was fun and cool. Not replacing anything critical. But now, it’s starting to encroach on the things that we take pride in as creative people.
I’m a writer, so my industry is already beginning to feel the pinch of people thinking that they can plug in their ideas to ChatGPT and fire their writers. It’s so clear to me that there’s a massive gap between the strategic mindset I bring to a project versus what ChatGPT can spit out. But people not in the weeds of marketing may not see this at first and get blinded by the prospect of saving money by just paying $20/month for a tool instead of thousands a month for a real person.
For graphic designers, photographers, and social media marketers, it’s no different. The tools are, on the surface, seeming like they can snatch away the skills that they spent years crafting and take pride in. It can be a little discouraging at times.
Especially for people who define themself as a creative, this can lead you to an identity crisis. If technology can replace me, even in part, how valuable am I really? Is the work I’m doing really meaningful? Am I even going to have a career in a few years??
All of it is enough for me to want to reject AI altogether and stay in a purist mindset.
But here’s what I realized: I need to stop acting like a boomer
I’ve found myself saying things like “Can we just stop evolving now? We don’t need to advance this technology any more!” And I catch myself sounding just like the boomers who have said the same thing about tech like the internet, social media, smart phones, etc.
But ultimately, what has their resistance done other than left them in the dust and crippled when the inevitable times pop up where they need to engage with this technology that they’ve fought so hard against.
So my feelings about AI aside, I’ve realized that it’s something that I have to embrace.
Let’s think about this in terms of the industrial revolution
Centuries ago, machines began to pop up, slowly and then seemingly all at once. Many people were scared of what this would mean for their jobs and the world as a whole.
Protests arose all over, with people fighting against this massive change. And ultimately, did they actually stop it? No. Because as society evolves, so will technology right alongside it.
And although some of their fears were warranted — i.e. technology was stealing many of the factory jobs that such a big portion of the population relied upon — it didn’t take without giving.
Although it eliminated a lot of jobs, it created new jobs that didn’t even exist before. Within a decade, 10 million jobs were created as a result of the industrial revolution.
So when I find myself shaking in my boots, worried about the future, with dystopian pictures of mass unemployment, homelessness, and overall disarray swirling through my head, I try to keep that fact in mind.
Although there may be a lot of temporary chaos as everyone tries to navigate this world with the arrival of the strongest technology we’ve ever experienced, I’m hopeful that it will eventually help us fall into a new rhythm with brand new roles that we haven’t even conceived of yet.
So… what does that mean for us creative people?
There’s truly no way of knowing what things will look like in several years. But there are things that you can do to make sure you’re able to thrive in these transitional years.
You need to identify what you can do that AI can’t replicate, and then enhance that with technology.
There may be things that you’ve done before that AI can now do — perfectly removing background from photos, writing great social copy, creating beautiful graphics. Go ahead and grieve that if you need to. But it’s time to let go of it and dive deeper into what your creative capabilities are.
Don’t fight AI by refusing to use it to replace these parts of your process if it can get you to your end goal faster. Of course, it may not be able to entirely replace some of these processes, but don’t be scared to use it as a an easy starting point.
So now, you’ll likely have a lot of extra free time. A project that might have taken you 3 days before can maybe get done in 1. Use those extra 2 days to push your pre-existing creative boundaries. Are there new skills you’ve always wanted to incorporate but never had time to invest in? Are there final touches that you never have the time to put on projects?
It just takes a conscious mindset shift. I’ve decided to not let my stubbornness get in the way and embrace technology to build me up as a creative person, not tear me down.
I’m actively seeking out ways to use AI to increase the quality of my work (not just increase speed and decrease quality, which is a dangerous path many people are going down).
So is AI giving me an existential crisis still? A little bit. But I know that fighting it is going to leave me in the dust, lookin’ like a boomer. So we might as well embrace it and lean into the opportunities it presents.