In a World of AI, Be a Human

January 29, 2024

A T-800 Terminator robot coding on a laptop

Introduction

Ever feel like it’s just too hard to keep up with the current state of tech?

Lots of trends come and go but one area I’m keeping a close eye on is artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is here to stay and so far it has only improved my day-to-day operations. If anything, it has made me better at my job in ways I never could have imagined.

That is not to say these advancements don’t come with challenges, and AI is absolutely affecting the workforce at large, but that is a post for another time.

I want to take this opportunity to outline a couple of ways that AI has added value to my web development process, while also sharing what I believe is the most positive way to move forward in the age of AI.

Placeholder Content

Sometimes I have dreams of receiving all copy, images, and assets well in advance before I even start building a website. However, this is not likely, and I generally use placeholder content so my clients can get a feel for what their final product will look like.

Copywriting

Search “Lorem Ipsum” and you will find all sorts of placeholder text generators that barf up big chunks of text so that you don’t have to make something up yourself.

This is fine, although wouldn’t it be better if we could have placeholder copy that was context-aware?

By using ChatGPT (maybe you have heard of it?), or other large language models, we can now provide context and receive much better barfed-up chunks that are actually relevant to the projects we are building.

So instead of:

Lorem ipsum placeholder text on a website header

We have:

ChatGPT placeholder text on a website header

Corny, I know. But I think this is a big improvement and allows us to quickly mock up the purpose and outline of a website.

Images

This isn’t as much of an issue for me as there are websites that provide incredible photos taken by talented photographers such as Unsplash or Shutterstock that get the job done.

Although, when I can’t find exactly what I am looking for, I may use Midjourney, OpenAI’s DALL-E, or Canva's image generation tools to generate something closer to what I am looking for.

SEO

I’m going to let you in on a little secret - SEO is kind of boring.

There is work that I consider deeply creative, and requires a keen eye for detail, and then there is SEO, which errs more on the side of the mundane and repetitive, albeit necessary.

Title and Meta descriptions

Creating page titles and descriptions is a perfect use case for AI. It’s critical to include these elements on a web page, but can sometimes be hard to summarize your content in this format.

Even more, if we don’t come up with a description that search engine crawlers deem adequate, they will default to the content on your pages anyway.

You can submit your page content to ChatGPT, ask it to generate a page title and meta description, and voilà! Basic SEO is taken care of without wasting time or precious creative juices.

Code Completion

This is one area that has had us web developers shaking in our boots for the past year.

What happens when an AI can write better code than humans, and without the need for human intervention?

Humans are unique in the sense that we are the only species, that we are aware of, that can imagine something in our minds, and manifest that thing in our physical reality by building it.

Language models, such as ChatGPT, still need a human to prompt it.

Humans are still the ones who dream up a creative idea and wish it into existence.

With that being said, I welcome the use of AI code completion tools in my workflow and remain, perhaps naively, unafraid!

Morpheus from The Matrix

Github Copilot

Github Co-pilot demonstrating code completion

Despite sometimes returning hilarious results, Github Copilot is the main driver that I use every day to help me write better code and it has increased my productivity dramatically.

Github Copilot codes with me, not for me.

Here are some prompts that I have used recently:

  1. “How can I make this code more accessible?”
  2. “I am getting an error and I can’t trace it. Can you help me fix it?”
  3. “Create an element with an image, title, and description that I can re-use throughout my codebase.”

It can handle much larger tasks but so far, I have found that it excels when the prompts are small and focused on completing one thing at a time.

Who here hates Google? 👋

Okay, “hate” is a strong word. But Google search has become almost unusable lately.

It seems like everything I search nowadays is just littered with ads and finding useful information is way harder than it needs to be.

Oddly enough, AI search tools show way more empathy for users than traditional Google search ever has.

Google has its own search engine AI technology called, Search Generative Experience (SGE) - rolls of the tongue, I know - but I prefer to use Perplexity AI

Perplexity AI search engine dashboard, showing a search result for 'How to get incredible at guitar'

Perplexity AI has a clean UI, provides source links before any AI-generated answers, and just feels fresh. Highly recommend.

Is AI Good or Bad?

Listen. My favorite movies are Terminator and The Matrix (can you tell?). I’m hyper-aware that humans can be our own worst enemies and AI has the potential to cause harm.

I think AI is what we make of it and I choose to utilize it in ways that lead to positive outcomes for myself as a business owner, and my clients as website owners.

Jason Lengstorf sums it up pretty well in this video. Basically, he says that these tools are a good starting point for our creative pursuits, but it is up to us humans to have the final say.

Don’t ask ChatGPT to write a whole blog post and click, “publish.” Maybe ask for an outline or a first paragraph to get the juices flowing.

AI can help us take the hardest step towards our goals, which is usually the first one.

After that, it’s important to massage the responses we get into something that is and remains, human.

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