Does AI in Thought Leadership Represent a Race to the Bottom?

It seems there’s a new AI solution lurking around every corner.

Even though we’ve all seen the wave of AI solutions flooding the market, most of us are still unclear on the implications AI will have on our organizations, nevermind our day-to-day jobs. 


I’m the first to admit that I don’t have the answers to all the mysteries of the universe. But when creating public-facing white papers, research, commentaries, and other forms of content, I definitely have some concerns over what we’re going to see in the future:


  1. Greater brand risk


For years, editors and fact checkers have done the unglamorous work of ensuring that the integrity of your published content meets or exceeds the expectations of your audience. Nowadays, far too many organizations are taking shortcuts and relying on pundits because that shifts the responsibility of truth telling and accuracy to someone else. It’s also cheaper to produce, which translates to better margins. Now AI offers additional shortcuts—but shifts the responsibility of accuracy back to your organization. So what happens when you find yourself in the hot seat for passing off AI-generated content as original thought leadership? Your brand takes a hit. 


Conversely, those brands that promote the fact that they don’t use AI in their thought leadership or client-facing content will enjoy a boost to their reputation. Meanwhile, those that over rely on AI for thought leadership will lose audiences in droves. After all, anyone can ask Chat GPT to produce an article on a topic and read it themselves. Why read yours? In a marketplace where intellectual capital is what separates one organization from another, taking shortcuts is never advisable.


  1. Full disclosure for AI-generated content


Companies will either prohibit the internal use of solutions such as Chat GPT for creating content or require disclosures on anything developed using AI. Your organization may decide that it makes good business sense to be completely transparent or Google’s algorithms may force the issue by punishing anything it deems to be AI generated. Bloomberg has already reported how YouTube is rolling out new rules for AI-generated content on its platform to stem the tide of misinformation.


  1. Scanning internal documents for AI-generated content


As an editor, one of my jobs is to worry. “Did we use the correct style guide?” “Is a specific article intended for a UK audience, and we have to change every ‘z’ to ‘s’?” “Did any instances of the word ‘public’ without the letter ‘L’ slip by?’ Likewise, what happens if an internal document is developed using AI and then the entire organization begins to rely on it as a source document? Also bear in mind that the editorial bar tends to be lower for internal documents than those that are public facing. Scanning existing internal documents may not sound like the most glamorous job. But it won’t be long before legal and compliance sound the alarm.


  1. Higher costs for content partners


Like most technology solutions, AI holds the allure of helping us to work smarter and faster. But it also exposes all of us to a greater degree of risk. For instance, what happens if you and your competitor generate the same (or eerily similar) content using Chat GPT? Now imagine sharing that content with your video team, PR partners, or copywriting team. They have no idea where that content came from. But they still have an obligation to provide you with original content. To ensure they live up to their end of the bargain, they will have to spend even more time and energy ensuring that the inputs are original and don’t violate any copyrights. This potentially translates to more work and higher costs.


  1. The rise of AI-detecting algorithms


We’ve heard of the rash of deep fake videos using the likenesses of politicians, celebrities, and even ordinary folks. Some of these videos show obvious signs of being fake. But that doesn’t mean that everyone will take the time to discern the difference—especially not before the damage has been done. In response, you can expect a rise in algorithms that detect AI content. This is great news for those of us concerned about fake news and misinformation. But this also means that legitimate content will get ensnared in the mix.


The race to the bottom


Have you ever wondered how YouTube or TikTok content creators make money? The short answer is volume. They produce as many videos as possible to get as many “likes” and “subscribes” as possible. You’ll notice that nowhere here did I mention “quality.” Creating “more” doesn’t mean creating “better.” Let’s not mistake “faster” for “finer.” In fact, I think one thing we can all be sure of is that “more” AI-generated content will lead to poorer quality content. I hate to sound like a grumpy editor, but we should all be careful of the potential race to the bottom.

Is Meritocracy a Myth?

The New York Times recently published an article, Stuyvesant High School Admitted 762 New Students. Only 7 Are Black.

We love the idea that hard work has its rewards. This lofty notion is as integral to America’s DNA as Girl Scout Cookies, apple pie, and baseball. And that is exactly why it’s so unsettling to confront the reality that, despite our best efforts, our society may not be the meritocracy that we always imagine it to be


The New York Times recently published an article, Stuyvesant High School Admitted 762 New Students. Only 7 Are Black. By some accounts, Stuyvesant High School’s student body is approximately 1% and 4% Black and Latino, respectively. Meanwhile, Black and Latino students account for 66% of public school enrollment citywide.


Why this matters


Admission to specialized high schools in New York City is based on a single test — not grades, extracurricular activities, or recommendations. The idea is to create an even playing field for every student who applies. 


As egalitarian as this sounds, there’s a rub. Many of the topics on the test aren’t actually taught in public schools. This means that only children who have access to test prep programs — which often carry hefty price tags — are prepared to perform well on these tests. 


But we should be careful not to paint a completely negative picture. The admission process for New York City’s specialized high schools has worked out very well for many of the city’s Asian students, who make up approximately 65% of Stuyvesant’s student population. Still, it’s worth asking why is there such an uneven distribution — and why Black and Latino students account for such a low percentage in comparison?


Factors such as the zip code where you live or having access to quality schools can have a profound effect on the trajectory of your life. So why is it that in a city as progressive as New York City — one that has a gross metropolitan product of over US$2 trillion — that so many of its deserving students are being left on the sidelines? 


There are some nonprofit organizations that are attempting to offer a solution — such as Navigate the Maze to Achievement, which is run by Allison Shillingford, who is both founder and executive director. Their model is to provide free test prep classes for kids primarily in Brooklyn so they have a fighting chance. (Click to learn about Navigate the Maze to Achievement)


Recently, we did an interview with two young ladies — Mariela Garcia-Ramirez and Jada Halsey — who came through the program and were accepted at Stuyvesant High School. This story of their success gained the attention of NBC, which conducted their own interview with the girls. (Click to watch interview)


To be clear, Mariela and Jada aren’t just exceptions to the rule. They represent what’s possible when we give determined children and their families the resources they need and opportunities they deserve.

Reflections on the Civil Rights Movements, Photos, and My Dad

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the African American community fell into a collective state of mourning - but not necessarily disbelief.

To say these were violent or turbulent times would be irredeemably simplistic. I remember asking my father how he dealt with setbacks during his time in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In his characteristically nonchalant manner, he shrugged his shoulders. Maybe a minute later he said, "We always expected the worst," and then just chuckled.


Still, they soldiered on.


I found this lo-res photo of him in a group walking along Auburn Ave. in Atlanta, GA on their way to Ebenezer Baptist Church. They were attending the funeral for Dr. King. He's with Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture), Dr. Cleveland Sellars, and Miriam Makeba (the South African singer), among others.


When researching the photographer, I came up short. But I did learn about Otto Bettmann - a man of German/Jewish descent who fled Nazi Germany and ultimately created the business model for photo archives. As I read about him, I was struck by this curious quote in his obituary:


''I do not welcome the enormous emphasis on the picture,'' he said in a 1978 interview. ''It is a flattening out of history. The picture can never describe what the word can. The word lassoes the thought. Pictures are very democratic, and they are remarkable in drawing a much larger audience than the word can. The picture makes the observer an immediate participant in the event, but the meaning in the event lies in the word.''