By Chuck Woodbury
Aweek ago I told you about a new service I discovered that uses artificial intelligence to write articles. I gave it a try. It horrified me. Yet I was so curious to learn more about it that I signed up for a trial subscription. I call the new service “Johnny Robot.” I’ll explain why I find Johnny Robot so interesting and, yes, frightening.
Let’s say I were a barber — a damn good one who earned top dollar. One day, a salesman walked in with a new, inexpensive machine. He offered to demonstrate it. He attached it to the back of my barber chair and plugged it in. A customer, he explained, would sit in the chair and push a button to select a particular haircut from a “menu” of styles.
How it would work
When he did, the machine would begin to buzz. In two minutes it would stop. The customer would get up, his hair neatly cut. It would not be as good as what I would do, but it would be adequate for many (if not most) people. And the haircut would cost a mere $5, not $50 that I might charge.
The salesman would tell me the machines were selling like crazy. Someone could open a barber shop down the street with a few machines and do hundreds of haircuts a day with hardly any overhead and not a single human to pay.
I AM LIKE THAT BARBER, except I write articles, not cut hair. Johnny Robot is essentially my “writing machine.” He can crank out articles 20 times faster than any human. All Johnny needs is a headline and a few keywords, and he’ll spit out an article almost instantly. And “he” will write it in a way that Google will like, so the article will stand a good chance of ranking high in searches, ahead of websites like RVtravel.com that focus on the quality of the material, not cranking out generic content to please Google, which will attract lots of traffic and earn the “content creator” money.
Using “Johnny,” someone can set up a new website that looks professional (easy to do) and start posting articles one after another. For example, with my knowledge of how the web works, I could start a website about anything — say, about breeding hamsters. With no knowledge of the subject, I could earn an excellent income if I could write good “click bait” headlines, e.g., “Ten ways a hamster can energize your sex life!”
And that is what’s happening! Everywhere! Most of the articles written by artificial intelligence (AI) could be tweaked in a few minutes by someone with knowledge of the subject to ensure accuracy. Johnny does, in fact, make mistakes and at times offers bad or confusing advice. But the publisher of a website half a world away with hardly any knowledge of the English language doesn’t give a hoot about the value or accuracy of the content. He makes his money by simply getting you to click to his site. Ka-ching!
And here’s the rub for me and honest writers: Johnny’s service can be as little as $100 a month. What human being could turn out hundreds of articles in that time for $100? None!
At our staff meeting last week, we discussed Johnny. I believe all of us were disturbed. We’re all very committed to producing quality content, and we will not use Johnny except in rare cases where we have some special motive, most likely for entertainment value. For example, earlier today, I asked Johnny to answer five really stupid questions about RVing and here is the result. You will either find this funny or sad. Or, like me, both.