As a kid growing up in the 90s my digital entertainment diet consisted largely of cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and video games featuring rapid blue hedgehogs and moustachioed Italian plumbers who could jump inexplicably high. Nice clean, colourful, wholesome fun.
Occasionally though, some more mature content would slip through the parental net, and somehow in my pre-teen years I found myself watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
WHAT. A. MOVIE. Unbelievable VFX. A high-stakes sci-fi plot line. A strong female protagonist. Incredible action sequences. Guns N’ Roses blasting on the soundtrack. Quotable lines for days. Pure magic.
And despite some rather lacklustre sequels later in the franchise, James Cameron’s 1991 blockbuster still ranks as an undisputed masterpiece, and one of my all-time favourite films.
But as the world of AI and ChatGPT hots up and the obvious parallels with SkyNet are drawn in the man vs. machine debate, I’ve come to look at the film in a new light. Especially as a copywriter for whom the longevity of my livelihood might well be in question.
However, for all the doom-mongering, I’m still hopeful. We’re still in this fight. To quote a line that’s appeared multiple times throughout the franchise:
“The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”
So how do we survive judgement day?
The first act plot twist of T2 comes when it’s revealed that the T-800 (the original film’s antagonist, again played by Arnie) has actually been sent back to protect John Connor this time around. The kid’s first instinct is that the classic Terminator is out to kill him, but it quickly transpires that he’s there to help.
And that’s how we as writers need to view AI content creation – as an asset, and not necessarily a death sentence.
However, the most optimistic parallel I see between B2B content writing in the age of AI and the Terminator films, comes in the form of the time travelling premise set out in the first movie.
Throughout the franchise, robots – good and bad – are sent back to various points in time to either protect or kill John Connor. But the catch (for numerous plot-critical reasons) is that the time machine will only transport living tissue. So, each Terminator is contained within a layer of living, human skin that enables them to pass through the portal. This also explains why everyone arrives the other side as naked as the day they were born.
“I’m a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton.”
So, here’s the take: this idea of wrapping complicated or technical information in a human truth is a fundamental aspect of good B2B content writing.
When you connect a technical concept to a human truth or relatable analogy, you create an emotional connection with your reader. This emotional connection makes your content more memorable, engaging, and effective. It’s nothing new, people have been doing it – and doing it well – for years.
But what’s changing now is that the very technologies we’ve historically written about and explained to our audiences are now capable of doing it for themselves. The key question is: how well do they work?
‘Scarily well’ was my first thought when I recently gave ChatGPT some prompts.
In fact, I even tried to get it to write something along a very similar thread to the one I’m rambling about now. Here’s an excerpt from the output:
For example, let’s say you’re writing a white paper about blockchain technology. You could start by explaining what blockchain is and how it works, but that might not be enough to capture the reader’s attention. Instead, you might want to start with a story about how blockchain technology has been used to prevent fraud in a specific industry. This story could be something as simple as how blockchain technology is used to prevent ticket scalping for concerts and events.
By using a relatable, human example, you’ve given your readers a reason to care about blockchain technology. They now understand how it works in a real-world scenario, which makes it easier to understand the technical details that follow. It’s like wrapping the T-800 in living flesh – you’re making something complicated and technical more relatable and understandable by surrounding it with something that your audience can connect with.
Cripes. That’s pretty good. Pretty good indeed.
So where does that leave us good, honest, human writers?
Rather than mutter into our macchiatos about it being ‘cheating’ or ‘not real writing’, we need to look at the ways that AI can help us get to right answer faster and deliver more great work for our clients.
“Come with me if you want to live.”
The likes of ChapGPT can do a lot of the heavy lifting for us. In the realm of B2B – and specifically, B2B tech – there’s no getting around the fact at some point you need to get down to the 1s and 0s and explain how the damned thing works.
This sort of content can take a long time for a human writer to produce from scratch.
But for AI? It’s a piece of cake.
You just need to make sure you’re asking it the right questions and are well versed enough in the subject matter to fact check the output for accuracy and relevance.
However, getting the technical detail nailed is only half the battle. Much like our cybernetic organism friends(?), in order to go anywhere it needs to be wrapped in something human.
And that’s where we step in. If we – selectively and judiciously – use AI to produce the cyborg endoskeletons quickly and efficiently, we can pick the right ones off the rack to give the human coating. The machines can get us a long way towards where we need to be, but it’s up to us to give it the crucial layer of relatable, human truth that will make it understandable to our audience.
After all – it’s the last yard that’s the most important.
Hasta la vista: maybe?
For now, it looks like we’re still in control. But this is of course just the early courtship phase of what is destined to be a rather complicated and fiery relationship. And as with any relationship, it’s imperative that we take the time to get to know our partner and learn what makes them tick.
So, the onus is on us as writers and creatives to put in the work and get under the hood of AI content generation and turn what could be perceived as a threat into an opportunity.
That being said, for all my optimism it’s still early days. We might well be doing nothing more than kicking the can down the road. But at least we’re trying, and if this is indeed the beginning of the end, we’re certainly not going down without a fight.
Sticking with the movie theme, I’d like to close off with a reference to another recent blockbuster that joins T2 in the exclusive club of ‘sequels to iconic films that somehow didn’t suck’: TOP GUN MAVERICK.
Without venturing into the realms of spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it (watch it, I implore you), there is a scene early on where Maverick is getting a dressing down from another admiral (classic Mav). In their parting exchange, the admiral sternly presses home the impending obsolescence of human fighter pilots, due to the existence and capabilities of unmanned drones:
ADMIRAL: “The end is inevitable Maverick – your kind is headed for extinction.”
MAVERICK: “Maybe so, sir… But not today.”