Charu Srivastava
Jul 9, 2023

Dear AI, are you human?

Better than humans, replacing humans or augmenting humans, the AI debate inherently misses the fact that humans and AI don't have the same qualities. Fast and accurate does not come close to intuitive, emotional and culturally sensitive, opines Trion's Charu Srivastava.

Image: PR Week
Image: PR Week

There has been a lot of discussion and discourse about the impact of AI, specifically generative AI, on the way we work in the industry. A particular concern has been whether ChatGPT and the like would take over our jobs or make us obsolete long-term.

I don’t think this will happen based on an essential aspect of the communications industry. The communications industry is fundamentally based on human-to-human connections and relationships. It is the opposite of artificial intelligence and, by extension, the opposite of mechanical and robotic engagements.

Remembering the communications part of the industry

Call it public relations or reputation management or leadership profiling or stakeholder engagement, or media relations; you cannot miss the communications aspects in each of these different facets of the communications industry. This ‘communication’ is designed to be human to human, whether it is business to consumer or business to business, or even government to business to consumer. The nature of engagement is meant to be human–real and authentic. Over time, the sophistication of the communications industry (and a certain collective loss of right and wrong) created a slick and emotionless approach to the different roles of the communications industry as mentioned earlier.

It took a pandemic to wake us up as an industry to re-discover the importance of being human in our work across all stakeholders, internal and external. Many companies and industry agencies decided to be more vulnerable, real, honest, and empathetic–simply because they choose to be human. This was a fresh breath of air, and the industry (most of it) rejoiced.

This wonderfully came at a time when people generally become more sceptical and cynical. They questioned more, especially corporates who could otherwise have gotten away with much more. Climate change and ESG awakening added to the calls for “real talk”. Just words meant little and actually invited more scrutiny. The ask was simple: talk to us as humans. Be honest and transparent. Show us real proof and authenticity. In GenZ words, “bring the receipts”.

Bane or boon

We soon found ourselves in 2023 and in came ChatGPT. It came on the wave of generative AI that has brought with it confusion and fear to the communications industry. We are one of many industries to notice the potential, real and perceived, impact of this latest iteration of artificial intelligence. While much has been said about these impacts, a fundamental question remains to be explored.

Can AI be made human?

Let us remember that generative AI or other variations of artificial intelligence, machine learning and the majority of other kinds of ‘smart’ technology depends on humans to make the technology function. ChatGPT requires humans to input prompts and the quality of the output depends on these prompts as well as the resources available online for ChatGPT to reference and curate from. Essentially, ChatGPT and generative AI is as smart as the human using it and the resources available. Both these elements can be improved. What cannot be improved or taught to such technological assistive tools is emotions - a key thing that makes us humans and machines, well, machines.

So can AI be made human? I would say we are far from this reality. This is a good thing and also a strong reminder that while technology will keep inventing and improving, it cannot replicate the emotional aspect of humans - at least not in the way we communicate and engage, human-to-human. We need to celebrate and leverage our emotions, specifically empathy, to break through the noise and clutter of information all around us. Being real, authentic, transparent and honest while being guided by real principles, values and ethics is how we can ensure that AI will not take our jobs.

Being human is here to stay

The danger lies in getting bamboozled by all the generative AI talk and development and jumping on the bandwagon to be and do everything AI. Instead, let us take the time to evaluate the need and purpose of AI within our industry and specific job functions. It is perfectly fine to incorporate and use generative AI tools in our work with a proper balance of our humanness guiding the final output.

We are an industry built on human-to-human interactions and engagements. Machines and technology can supplement tasks. But they cannot become human communicators, strategists, creatives, artists or the many other hats we wear in entirety.


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