By now, tech bros claiming to have invented “the next big thing” have become so routine that the only sensible way to respond is to joke about it or tune it out altogether.
From The Boring Company’s trademark of the hyperloop concept in 2017, to viral tweets raving about AI’s potential to represent language through images, the creativity of Silicon Valley’s best and brightest has mostly boiled down to reinventing it. of things that society already has.
After all, isn’t “hyperloop” just a less efficient, elitist reinvention of the underground public transportation system that has somehow been around since 1863? Isn’t the idea of representing language through images just… animation?
But try as we might, it seems we can’t stop these monomaniac bastards from giving their best. A seemingly endless supply of time, energy, and resources on their part means we must constantly shift our thinking away from the good things we take for granted, to prepare for more expensive, less convenient versions of them.
Government regulation of Big Tech is patchy, and even where legislation is being pushed forward to address the stranglehold companies have on public data, ownership of infrastructure is still being granted to those same companies rather than being nationalized.
The picture is even bleaker when looking at recent developments in chatbot technology. Since the launch of Open AI’s ChatGPT platform last year, companies have already started using the tool as a means of accomplishing copywriting and content creation tasks.
Even at this early stage, the technology is already so advanced that it can be effectively urged to emulate the style of well-known and beloved writers if they turned their hand to creating instructional manuals or detailed PR decks, for example.
Even more terrifying is the prospect of a chatbot gold rush. Faced with a lack of creativity within the tech sector, it is perhaps not surprising that major players have now become so enamored with ChatGPT that they have developed their own versions.
In the past week, both Google and Microsoft respectively announced Bard and a chatbot-enabled version of Bing. And while publicity announcements like this seem to come and go with the same regularity as celebrities do shillings for crypto platforms, creatives really need to pay attention, because chatbot technology has the potential to take food out of your mouth.
This is not to say that chatbot technology can plunder the same depth and nuance as a creative mind focused on the same task. But since the history of technology development seems to be more about economizing than reinforcing quality, companies probably won’t worry too much about losing out.
The same tired excuses that were used in the preparatory stages of major “restructuring” (e.g. make employees more efficient, perform menial tasks) will be pushed forward to justify huge swathes of staff suddenly becoming redundant.
Chatbot technology will be used to ‘revolutionize’ the tertiary sector, enabling companies to save on annoying inconveniences such as contracts and job security. And creatives themselves will find themselves in an even more precarious position than they already are; forced to compete for zero-hour contracts while their superiors grumble enthusiastically about “flexibility,” side hustles, and the gig economy.
But maybe this is all just a straw man. Perhaps chatbot technology will really only develop to complement what we already have. I just don’t trust Big Tech, and like John Connor terminatorMorpheus in The Matrixand Dr. Dave Bowman 2001: A space odysseyI don’t have much faith in machines either.
I’m willing for tech utopians to eventually prove me wrong; although I suspect chatbot innovation won’t be what it does.
James Patterson is an award-winning writer and poet. His book Bandit Country (2022) was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize 2023