The average Facebook user has adopted the term “AI” to refer to publicly available, consumer-focused machine learning programs trained on large datasets, used to create text or images from prompts. These technologies fall under the umbrella of generative AI. Early in 2023, ChatGPT has seemingly dominated the digital marketing world’s cultural imagination with equal parts curiosity, optimism, and fear. At the same time, mass layoffs have creators wondering: Am I obsolete now? 

For years, we have thrown our collective hands in the air and declared, “there are more creatives than there are jobs.” C-suites and boards notoriously undervalue qualitative outputs; particularly in a recession, anything that can’t drive ROI is fat worth trimming. This is not new. Some professional creators will be safe even as generative AI matures.

Who are the survivors, and what do they have in common?

Professional artists are safe. They recognize that their work does not end at finishing a piece. Unlike their hobbyist peers, they work to build a fan base. They don’t (just) take to social media to critique capitalism and the zeitgeist; they use this critique as inspiration.

Journalists are safe. Large language models cannot report on current events; they are trained on datasets that already exist. As I write this, questions of human welfare linger after a train derailed in Ohio. A gunman opened fire at Michigan State University. We literally can’t look to ChatGPT for answers; the tool itself will tell you it doesn’t know anything about anything after September 2021. No software can go into the field, put their boots on the ground, and find humans to hold accountable. 

SEOs are safe. As any overworked virtual assistant who has “done SEO” will tell you, creating text around a keyword does not a strategy make. Even when generative AI can advise on structural and technical optimizations, it cannot manage clients. Even the best SEOs know they can lead the horse to water, but cannot make it drink. Generative AI cannot even lead the horse to water; the horse itself must be a thirsty prompt engineer.

Who, then, will generative AI supersede?

Generative AI programs should redirect underskilled opportunists out of the creative labor force. The market correction is coming for digital agencies marking up generic content written by underpaid entrants into a saturated field. It’s coming for artists who refuse to interact with their patrons or build a personal brand. It’s coming for sleazy salespeople who machine-gun DMs to people they see as easy marks for get-rich-quick scams.

Which skills will you need to survive the generative AI revolution?

Being a fucking human. Talk to people. Read the room. 

You will get good at storytelling and empathizing – things the bots cannot do.