The imitation game: Can AI demonstrate human emotion?

In 1950, scientist Alan Turing proposed a test to determine the ability of a machine to exhibit intelligent behavior that was similar to — or even indistinguishable from — human behavior. 

The recent explosion of interest in artificial intelligence (AI), driven largely by the release of OpenAI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, has led people to once again ask — can machines think?

Let’s look more closely at this question in relation to ChatGPT: can it exhibit human intelligence and, more specifically, is it able to connect with human emotion and produce high-quality marketing copy?

How does ChatGPT work?

a mobile phone showing how ChatGPT works

“GPT” stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer”. It’s a type of language model that is fed large amounts of language data (like books and online texts) which it then uses to predict the most likely next word when generating a response to a prompt.

Where ChatGPT (and other technologies like it) differs, is that it takes this data and creates copy that is entirely “new”. In other words, ChatGPT can take a prompt given by a human and use the combination of learned data and AI to create new copy that reads as if it was written by a human.

And therein lies the rub. 

ChatGPT can generate a response that “reads as if it was written by a human” but is that really the same as a response that was actually written by a human? And moreover, can AI exhibit true empathy and originality to create an emotional connection with an audience? 

Can ChatGPT and AI relate to the human experience? 

Great stories — and great marketing — endure because they draw from universal human experience and speak to us about our place in the world, what it means to be human, and what comes next. 

That’s why we look to story, metaphor, and myth to try to answer these unanswerable questions. Is it possible for a machine, something that is unable to die in the same sense as organic life and operates without a physical, mortal body, to be able to connect with human emotion and tell us something about our lives? 

To me, the one fundamental human experience upon which all others depend is love. Without love, what are we? So, I asked ChatGPT a simple question: “What is love?”. This was just the first response it gave:

“Love is a complex and multifaceted emotion that can be difficult to define precisely.”

Hard to argue with that! The AI then went on to list six different aspects of love, citing things like “Affection and Care” and “Commitment and Dedication”. Finally, it wrapped up with the statement:

“It’s important to note that love is a deeply personal and subjective experience, and its meaning and manifestations can differ from person to person.”

So, did it answer the question? Well, yes, it did… in a way. The response I got from ChatGPT gave me a definition of love in the strictest sense of the word. It told me what love is in a very mechanical fashion and even acknowledged the complexity and subjectivity of such a concept.

But at the same time, does that answer really tell us anything about love? There is a reason the words of Tennyson, Shakespeare, and Saint Paul are still as relevant today as the day they were written — they speak to us about the nature of love, and in turn, the nature of what it means to be human. Their words are rooted in and informed by human experience and the implicit understanding of its impermanence.

In my opinion — and you may disagree — the answer given by the AI doesn’t really tell us anything about love. It tells us the definition of love but it doesn’t tell us what love is, which is precisely the problem. Love, like all emotion, is experiential. Without human experience, AI can only ever give an approximation of feeling, never the essence that a human is able to convey.  

Why does emotion matter in marketing?

All this talk of death and love might seem abstract but genuine emotion is so critical in top-level marketing that without it, your next marketing campaign is likely to fall flat.

It has been shown time and again that people make decisions based on emotion.

No matter how much we all like to tell ourselves that we’re perfectly logical, rational beings, this is simply not the case. For example, in a study of 1400 successful marketing campaigns, those that contained purely emotional content performed twice as well as those containing only informational, rational content.

Anecdotally, we can see this to be true also. If you think about two hypothetical adverts, one which just listed off a range of products or product features, and another that made you laugh, or cry, or gave you a fright — which is most likely to stick in your mind? Which is most likely to convince you to part with your hard-earned cash? Which provides more value?

We are drawn to the emotive, the relatable, the nuanced. And in a time when competition is higher than ever and customer loyalty and trust are at an all-time low, it is crucial to ensure you are creating the highest-quality, most relevant, and relatable marketing content that you possibly can.

So, can I use ChatGPT for my marketing?

The question of whether AI can ever truly relate to and understand human emotion is beyond the scope of this blog. Maybe one day we will have AI systems with full and complex inner lives comparable to human beings. But until that day, we need to recognize the limitations of this technology and understand that, when it comes to real human emotions, AI is still playing an imitation game.

So, if you’re planning on exclusively using AI in your marketing efforts, we would advise caution. Of course, there are some things that AI is great for, such as ideation and early drafting. However, if you’re looking for content with nuance, empathy, and emotional intelligence, AI just isn’t there yet.

A chatbot or AI is simply unable to provide quality copy in the way a human writer can. Working with a good human writer not only means you will get the highest-quality content possible but you are also able to work together with your writer on your wider marketing strategy, brand voice, and specific thoughts and themes you would like to highlight.

The key point here? AI is a tool, a human is a partner. 

If you’re looking for written content with that human touch, consider Scribly for all your content marketing needs! Book a call today to find out how we can help you.