This is Your Brain on Chat GPT
When properly formulated by an experienced and reliable chemist, LSD is an interesting drug. I tried it three times in college, but it only worked once—which is why I make mention of the competent chemist.
I was with my best friend Jimmy, plus a couple of his friends that he grew up with in El Paso. Kids from El Paso are the wildest kids in the whole state of Texas. They grow up on the border; and before the drug cartels turned it into one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Juarez was a no-rules-anything-goes playground right in their backyard. When you grow up in El Paso, the fun starts early. By the time they got to college, these kids really knew how to party.
Everyone took their dose around the same time. It didn’t take long to kick in. The next thing I knew, we were on 6th Street in Austin at a bar called Toulouse. Today, Toulouse describes itself as a “chill watering hole with a hip-hop soundtrack offering beer, mason-jar cocktails & happy hour deals”. But in 1992, you went to Toulouse for frozen drinks. They had 30 different margarita machines behind the bar. Each one was a different flavor, but they were all strong as shit. Especially if you had them put a floater on the top.
The good thing about Toulouse was that you knew exactly how you’d feel after two of their margaritas. Hammered. Get yourself two of those at the start of your night out and you were set for the evening. However, being inexperienced in the ways of LSD, what I didn’t know was that when you’re on acid you can drink like a fish.
We got ourselves a table out back on the patio and for the next three hours proceeded to break records in the drinking department. It wasn’t a big deal until we started falling out of our chairs and rolling around on the ground laughing hysterically. That’s when the manager came over. He saw that each one of us had about five empty cups, pupils the size of saucers and one of the El Paso guys had taken off his shirt and shoes. He knew exactly what we were up to.
“You guys are on acid. You can’t stay here.”
He was nice about it and all, but we ended up getting tossed into the alley behind the bar. They threw the guy his shoes and shirt and told us to go home. Which was good advice and fine with me. I didn’t take the LSD to necessarily just get wasted. I was after some sort of mystical break-through. I wanted to have a revelation. And once we were in a calmer atmosphere, I did.
I started thinking about my older sister, who I love very much, but we’ve always been very different. I thought about how much we struggle to find common ground and that instead we should lean into the differences and learn from each other.
So it was worth it. I’m not saying to run out and take LSD. But there’s a time and place for experimentation and this was my time and place.
I think Chat GPT is similar.
First of all, it’s a lot of fun and doesn’t take long to kick in. In seconds it gives you really good information, answers questions and when given the right prompts can distill things very quickly into a write-up that’s easy to digest.
I think it’s incredibly useful for research. Which is something I do a ton of. Every project I work on begins with research. I do it pretty much the same way everyone does. I use Google. I read Wikipedia. I dig into the recesses of Reddit. And I look for the patterns to try and hone in on what’s really going on.
Then, lately, I’ve gone to Chat GPT to see if it lines up. Not only do I get good confirmation, but I get a nice little write up that has all the stuff I need in it.
However, just like LSD, it’s not something you want to use every day. I had a friend in high school who got his hands on a whole sheet of acid and decided that he would challenge himself to trip every day of the semester. That didn’t go so well. He had to go away for a little bit.
My wife teaches at the college level. She’s already seeing papers handed in that obviously came from Chat GPT. Plagiarism is nothing new on college campuses, but this is different. It really gets under her skin. But to be completely honest, if I were in college right now, I’d be all over it.
But I am not in college. I’m a highly trained advertising professional with years of experience who gets paid the medium sized bucks to come up with original ideas. I take a good amount of pride in that and I actually enjoy it quite a bit. Which is why I don’t use Chat GPT or AI to come up with my ideas. I just don’t want to. The one fun part of our job is coming up with ideas. It’s everything else that sucks the life out of you. Plus, impostor syndrome is real and it doesn’t go away even for highly trained advertising professionals with years of experience. You always feel it and I think using Chat GPT would make it worse. Because then, you really would be a fraud.
So, am I saying bring back Nancy Reagan and just say no? No, I am not saying that. I say go for it. Experiment. Learn. Play around with all this stuff. But don’t use it every day. You’ll get mushy brained. Your senses will dull. And your imagination will become lazy.
When I was 22, I didn’t have the wisdom or life experience to make revelations on my own. Thirty years later, I do. I know how to tear things apart, find connections in different places and generate the empathy to see things from other points of view. So, I don’t need to take LSD to try and make a break-thru.
Similarly, I don’t need AI to generate ideas. After close to 30-years I can do it pretty much on command. In my experience, any creative with five or so years under their belts can do the same. Coming up with ideas isn't the hard part nor is it the time-consuming part. The approvals, the layers, the death by a thousand cuts—that’s the part that takes up so much of our time. Give me an AI for that and I can solve advertising’s profitability problem in a few keystrokes.
If you take too much acid, most likely the worst thing that’s going to happen is you end up with no ambition other than to follow a jam band around the country. But if you use Chat GPT too much, you end up getting your ideas from a machine which will someday not be there for you. When that day comes, you’ll be tossed into the alley behind Toulouse and told you can’t stay.
Choose life. It's more reliable and never wears off.
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you again real soon.