Why we must demonstrate that we are more than a machine

By Ged Byrne, below, Toastmasters International

Since it launched in November 2022, ChatGPT has been impressing with its ability to rapidly generate text on any topic. Articles can be written at the push of a button (after typing a few instructions). But as impressive as this artificial intelligence technology is, should we be pleased about its arrival?

Social media platforms are not discouraging AI generated content. LinkedIn has built AI text generation into its platform and plenty of third-party post generators are available.  The result is a race to the bottom as content creators spew forth a stream of empty content competing for our attention. There is only one way to stand out against this flood of computer-generated text: the reader must be able to connect with you, the human behind your message.

The Turing Test

Back in 1950 computer pioneer Alan Turing set out a simple test to establish a computer’s intelligence: he called it the imitation game. To pass the test, the computer must generate text indistinguishable from a human’s writing. After decades of failure the test has now been turned on its head. Now the machine can pass as human, so we must demonstrate that we are more than a machine.

The good news is that there is a well-established model to help us do this: The SUCCESS model.  To stand out as human you need to create: Simple Unexpected Concrete Credible Emotional Stories.

Play the imitation game 

Consider these two reviews of a trip to the Greek island of Andros, pictured above.  Only one of them was written by a human.

Review 1

There are lots of hidden gems on Andros. Tiny villages clinging to the mountainside where cars cannot go and mules are still used to transport goods and building materials (and suitcases).  Glittering waterfalls with clear pools surrounded by flowers and foliage and the famous picture-perfect Bridge of Love featured in the hugely successful Greek movie Little England. And there is always the comedy element with a serious side. A house balanced precariously over the path, with wooden supports clearly rotted and breaking under the strain. Put in metal supports maybe? No, just warn visitors to run as fast as they can as they make their way under it!   Thank you to our guides Fotis and RG from Explore Andros for sharing these wonderful treasures with us.”

Review 2

Nestled in the mountains, Andros captivates with its car-free charm. Mules serve as transport to the village, adding a touch of tradition. Waterfalls and the famous Bridge of Love from “Little England” create a serene backdrop. The village’s unique architecture, like a house balanced over the path, adds intrigue. Guided by Explore Andros’ First and RG, our journey was enriched with local insights, making it a truly memorable escape.” 

The first review, although longer, is simple, getting straight to the point. It is also concrete, painting a mental picture with just a handful of words. AI tends to dilute impact with superfluous ornamentation. The first review is credible with believable language. As Emotion and story are the true markers of humanity, look at the third paragraph of the first version. Consider the comedy element when visitors are told to run fast before the house collapses over them.  This surprising solution to the problem can only make us smile. A good emotional story remains out of reach of an artificial intelligence.  And did you notice that the AI replaced ‘Fotis’ with ‘First.’  It mistook the name for a spelling mistake!

If you are a small business communicating with your established and prospective customers, you have something very powerful. A shared story that is either in progress or about to begin. You are providing something that they need, joining together in a mutually beneficial relationship. Human relationships are rich and complex, spinning a myriad of narratives.

Now, take a look at what you are writing. Is it simple, credible and real? How can you weave those stories into your text?  How can you surprise your readers and make them feel emotion? By applying the SUCCESS model, you will show your readers and potential clients that you are human and connect with them in a way that no machine ever could.

Ged Byrne is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org