It seems like every week, brands are coming up with new ways to prove that content and artificial intelligence are a match made in marketing heaven. Yet we tend to think great content = human. Is AI set to make our jobs as content creators ever easier, or are our machine overlords gearing up to take those jobs, wreck the industry and ultimately destroy the human race? We take on both sides of the argument.
All hail our machine overlords!
Wondering if we should trust the machines with our content? In our personal lives we already do. Our iPhones ping to let us know we should leave right now if we want to catch our train. Social news algorithms spoon-feed us the day’s events. Netflix uses our viewing habits to recommend movies. Spotify curates playlists for us based on mood. Alexa reminds us of our friends’ birthdays and lets us order gifts with one click. There are cars with built-in collision avoidance systems that we literally trust with our lives.
Yet however much we rely on AI in our personal lives we’re more reluctant when it comes to our livelihoods.
While many of us embrace automated content marketing tools to help with things like keywords and content optimisation, these things are handy workflow tools that still require a degree of input. AI can’t create quality content, can it?
Apparently, it can. According to Buzzsumo co-founder Steve Rayson AI writing algorithms not only exist, they are creating well-written, data-backed articles.
The three key phrases you’ll see a lot relating to content-writing robots are intelligent narratives, natural language generation (NLG) and automated storytelling technology. At the moment there are only a couple of key players in “human-free stories”: Quill and Wordsmith. Here is an example of a few sentences “written” by Wordsmith:
“Potential buyers take note: the median sale price in Phoenix fell to $424,000, while the available housing inventory rose. There are now 3 months of home inventory left in Phoenix. Go find a bargain, buyers!”
Not bad, no? Just input your data, write a template for the story and edit the results. As the technology gets better, surely the need for human content creators will decrease?
Oh God no, we’re doomed! Doooooooomed …
Forget content marketing you idiot – we’re only one iOS upgrade from Skynet realising its own capabilities and launching a nuclear attack that will certainly kill us all!
Look how intelligent the machines we have created are! Look how terrifyingly lifelike! In the last few years, robots like Sophia and the animaloid creations from Boston Dynamics have seen AI seriously up its game. What about Google’s AlphaGo that beat the world’s best Go player at Go? Latent fears that have been bubbling in the background since the sci-fi boom of the seventies and eighties are suddenly being realised. The machines are taking over.
The problem is they’re f***ing cool. Remember when Siri seemed unbelievable? We loved asking her what the meaning of life was. But then we realised she was a pain, never really delivering what we asked for. Yet every new AI innovation brings another wave of excitement. The enduring popularity of the sci-fi genre with films like Blade Runner 2049 and Black Mirror is proof that we remain both frightened and thrilled by AI and its potential.
Yes robots can technically come up with coherent sentences. But what about irony? Personality? Will a machine ever be able to successfully mimic British humour? And if it does will the subsequent content be original, or the product of data collected from a thousand similar pieces of content?
Look at Tay, the innocent AI chatterbot experiment launched back in 2016. “She learns conversational understanding from you!” proclaimed an incredibly naive Microsoft. It took roughly an hour for her to become a neo-Nazi sex robot.
Even if machines could virtually replicate the content created by humans, what would be lost? Do any of us really want to sit around reading content written for us by machines?
The whole point of good content marketing is that it humanises a brand, allowing it to pass on real value to prospects, person to person. Content is art – and (for now at least) art is as safe from AI. Like spirituality or romantic chemistry, it can’t be simulated. Yet.