Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
A cheese and chicken nightmare
The great thing about tech is it automates basic tasks your staff used to do, so you can employ fewer people.
Like send marketing messages asking customers to celebrate Nazi holocaust atrocities by consuming your product.
No wait, that’s not what your staff used to do.
Yet KFC did just that in Germany last week, with a push message that translates to:
“Commemoration of Kristallnacht — Treat yourself to more soft cheese and crispy chicken. Now at KFCheese!”
Safe bet this happened untouched by human hand.
It feels like some code genius figured out a way to find the notable days in the calendar and create an auto-promo for each. Which is a generally bad plan, driving a bus through a minefield of cultural sensitivities. And that’s for the positive commemoration days, let alone the opening gambit of the Final Solution.
Calendars are a nightmare. I’ve unticked all the boxes over and over, but mine is still full of birthdays of Facebook people I hardly know, and the national holidays of distant, tiny island republics.
The idea of saving staff costs is intoxicating for Chief Whatever Officers, because it boosts their bonus. When the AI sales rep comes around and tells them they can replace fifty staff with software, they’re listening.
“Sounds great but are there any risks? Will this deliver the same result as our current staff?”
“Yes it will,” says the sales rep. “It’s seamless.”
The CWO so wants to believe. And the systems will probably work, until they start doing Nazi material.
In 2022 it’s just not practical to assemble handcrafted marketing material the way it used to be done, with multiple eyes on everything. The reality of assembling digital and social campaigns is it’s a fairly horrible task and any machine help is welcome.
But you can’t let the machines run your whole system.
Putting Jasper to the test
I thought I’d test out Jasper, the AI writing tool, to see how it goes replacing me.
Conflict time. As a business owner, I’m interested in anything new that might make life easier. As a human writer, I’m not loving the idea of bots taking over a craft I’ve spent a lifetime working on.
Not going to lie, I was warmed up and ready for some easy laughs at the expense of stupid bots.
I was wrong. Jasper is really good.
A massive bag of dicks
First I gave it a crack at a recent story that I thought might suit Jasper’s Silicon Valley origins, on the recent troubles of last-minute grocery delivery startups. It took three shots at the one-sentence brief before it got to the right topic. That’s not Jasper’s issue, it’s me learning to use it. That’s fine, it’s just like learning to use Siri or Alexa.
I got a match when I asked “What are the problems with starting a last-mile grocery business?” That’s all I did. I keyed “Professional but humorous” into the Tone of voice box and hit “write blog post”.
It gave me a choice of two stories. You can ask for more if you want.
I prefer my headline: “Last minute grocery businesses are a massive bag of dicks.” But that’s purely a matter of taste.
It got to most of the same points I did. Jasper said:
“Here are four reasons why you should not start a last-mile grocery startup.
1. The Delivery Logistics are Insanely Complicated
2. The Competition is Fierce
3. Customers are Price-Sensitive
4. It’s Hard to Make Money”
All true. It expanded on those points and it was generally on the money. The tone is light and readable. There’s nothing I’d call humour, but putting that in the brief probably relaxes the stiff corporate voice many businesses like using.
I like that it draws in data, which I find the most time-consuming part of writing. I’m not so sure Jasper has much of a grasp of how P&Ls work though:
“1. The margins are razor thin.
The average grocery store has a profit margin of around 2%. That means for every $100 in sales, the store only keeps $2 in profit. And that’s before accounting for the cost of goods sold, which can be as high as 50% for some items. So if you’re selling $100 worth of groceries, you’re only really making $1 in profit.”
That’s not a deal-breaker for me. When you get a 600-word blog from a one-sentence brief, fixing up some bugs is a minor price to pay. But don’t blindly hit publish on plausible-looking analysis that may not be true.
If you’re a keen reader or interested in AI I’ve put the Jasper blogs in a PDF.
Now do bin chickens
Next up: time for a tougher test, something weirder. I asked Jasper to do one of my most-read yarns, with the brief:
“Business success lessons from the white ibis.”
If Jasper had just served up the words “the fuck are you talking about?” I would have respected it. Instead, it knuckled down to the job and got to the inspirational essence of the bin chicken.
“Be persistent: The white ibis is a very persistent bird. It will relentlessly search for food until it finds what it’s looking for. This persistence is something that all businesses need to have if they want to be successful.”
Jasper picked up on the adaptability of the ibis in moving from its native wetlands to your neighbourhood food court, a pivot up there with Netflix getting out of DVD rental.
It did not touch on the romantic nature of the ibis, but it’s a big ask for machines to understand the abstract beauty of that theme.
Ibis-worthy work, Jasper.
Should I get Jasper to write the blog now?
For now, for this kind of work, I believe I can out-write the bots. Jasper isn’t yet across the art of making you want to keep reading, but it’s early days. If I had a web site with hundreds of product pages and weekly newsletters, you’d better believe I’d be kicking back drinking coffee and letting Jasper do 98% of the work.
Jasper writes better than most clients I’ve worked with. Because Jasper isn’t trying to sound clever or managerial, so it’s jargon-free and readable.
Lucky writing isn’t my job. Sorry for the misleading headline. Writing is a hobby that makes no money and I feel bad for anyone trying to do it for money like I used to. I’m lucky to have businesses that allow me to spend each Monday indulging this whim.
And I’m glad I’m not writing the standard “Ten Success Hacks I Learned By Watching A TV Show About Navy SEALS” stories. Jasper could smash that stuff out easy. Maybe it already is, it might explain why there’s so much of it in my social feeds.
What does it mean for you?
All this has direct relevance for your business, and for your career. It doesn’t matter what you do, this stuff is coming to change your working life. Some of your precious skills are doomed and you can’t stop it happening.
It’s worth thinking about what non-doomed skills you have.
AI is incredible at process, not so great at judgement. We’ve been hearing that self-driving cars are just around the corner for at least a decade. Coming real soon now.
But that last 5% of capability – the judgement part – is really hard to code. This story – Even after $100 billion self-driving cars are going nowhere – is really interesting. It quotes a bunch of industry insiders who believe that self-driving cars are still a long, long way off. Even though many humans are shit drivers, turns out their judgement is godlike compared to computers.
The same applies to work. How do you develop your judgement in complex situations, and your creative skills in working out how to do things differently?
Don’t end up the same as everyone else
For businesses, the risk is not so much that your automated systems are suddenly going to start cheering for the Third Reich.
It’s that everything you say and do starts to look the same. Everyone has access to the same tools, so your whole industry is churning out the same words and ideas.
You forget that the point of business is setting yourself apart from your competitors.
Get hooked on the bots and you’re choosing volume over quality and individuality. Neither choice is wrong, but quality and individuality are harder for your competitors to copy. There’ll always be someone willing to out-quantity you.
You send customers an email every goddamn day, they’ll do morning and night every day. And no customers will be reading any of them.
Instead, try to have better ideas that answer the customer’s eternal question: what’s in it for me?
They love that stuff. Back next week if my new Jasper overlords allow me.
Got a comment?
I’ve stopped moderating the blog comments because I get like 50 Russian bot comments a day. But why not drop your comment over on this story on LinkedIn? Keen to hear from you, a real human, on your AI thoughts.
Also, if this story was useful or entertaining for you, why not help me out by sharing it? It’s a ton of work getting these stories out, and more readers really helps me justify the insane effort each week. Bless you.
Why not buy this nice book?
Want a book on how to break free of a job that sucks and set up your own business that you don’t even have to work in? We did that, and here’s the story. It also has more on morning routines and why people should shut up about them: Undisruptable: Timeless Business Truths For Thriving In A World Of Nonstop Change.
Every week since it came out 15 months ago, it’s the #1 Review-Rated biz book on all of Booktopia. On paper, electronic or audio book with me reading it. Get it here:
Also I write a story each Tuesday, drop your email here to get it in your inbox.
For those of you in geo-blocked countries, here’s your non-Spotify audio: