To stand out against the flood of computer-generated text, the reader must be able to connect with you, the human, behind your message, explains Ged Byrne

ChatGPT was launched in November 2022 with the capability to rapidly generate text on any topic. Suddenly, articles could be written at the push of a button. Within months, science fiction magazines found themselves flooded with AI-generated content, forcing them to block submissions.[i]

Social media platforms are not discouraging AI-generated content. LinkedIn has built AI text generation into its platform[ii] and plenty of third-party post generators are available.[iii] The result is a race to the bottom as content creators spew forth a stream of empty content competing for our attention. There is only one way to stand out against this flood of computer-generated text: the reader must be able to connect with you, the human, behind your message.

The Turing Test is why everything changed in 2023: Back in 1950, computer pioneer Alan Turing set out a simple test to establish a computer’s intelligence: he called it the imitation game. To pass the test, the computer must generate text indistinguishable from a human’s writing. After decades of failure, the test has now been turned on its head. Now the machine can pass as human, so we must demonstrate that we are more than a machine.

The SUCCESs Model

To stand out as human, you need to create:

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional
  • Stories[iv]

Let’s Play the Imitation Game

Example 1

Consider these two reviews for a restaurant. Only one of them was written by a human.

  • “If you visit Riyadh, a good place to eat is the Nadj Village restaurant. Beautiful castle-like building with an open courtyard in the middle with running water and ‘booths’ with rugs and cushions. You leave your shoes outside the booth. We ordered a mix of dishes. Delicious. And very reasonably priced.”[v]
  • “Riyadh in Nadj Village is a hidden gem that transports you to a different world with its castle-like building, open courtyard with running water, and cozy booth seating adorned with rugs and cushions. The fact that it offers all of this at reasonable prices is a delightful surprise. Whether you’re a local looking for a unique dining experience or a visitor wanting to savor Middle Eastern cuisine in an enchanting setting, Riyadh is a must-visit.”[vi]

It isn’t difficult to tell the first version is from a human, but why do you find it more engaging? The SUCCESs Model makes it clear.

The first review is simple, getting straight to the point; it tells us exactly what we want to know. It is also concrete, painting a mental picture with just a handful of words. The AI’s superfluous ornamentation dilutes the impact. Most importantly, the first review is credible, with believable, grounded language. The restaurant is “a good place to eat” that is “reasonably priced.” The AI cannot resist spicing its text with hyperbole, insisting that this “unique dining experience” is a “must-visit” that will “transport you to a different world.” It is all just too much.

ChatGPT struggles with these basics. The paragraph above was taken from 376 words of generated content. The other 281 words were boring, stretching credulity, and adding nothing of value. In time, these issues will be resolved.

The three remaining points of the SUCCESs Model will prove much more difficult for AI to overcome: stories containing emotion and the unexpected.

Did you notice that the diners took their shoes off before entering the booths? Of course, because it is unexpected. When was the last time you dined out barefoot? Humans are always attracted to surprising details, but being surprising is difficult for ChatGPT. As a large language model (LLM), ChatGPT works similarly to Google Complete. If you go to Google and type “dining,” it will try to guess what word comes next, suggesting words like “chair,” “table,” and “room.”[vii]

These suggestions are based on the words that typically follow “dining” in the training data. ChatGPT is always trying to predict what word is most likely to come next. To keep things interesting, it avoids the most obvious word, instead picking at random from a list of alternatives. It has never visited a restaurant, tasted food, or enjoyed a night with friends. It has only read about them. You are a human being, just like your reader, and both of you have shared these experiences. This is how you know the details that are important, interesting, and surprising to your reader.

Human emotions are even more inaccessible to computers, but they are aware of their importance. Like a teenage poet, they overcompensate for their lack of experience by striving for heightened emotions that feel inauthentic.

The ultimate weapon in your human arsenal is the story. If you ask ChatGPT to write a story, it will create something strange and dreamlike because of its limited memory. Once the context window is full, older details are forgotten. Human lives tell stories that span weeks and years. For example, the review above is one of a series of posts journalling a visit to the 2023 Riyadh International Book Fair. A single chapter in an ongoing story.

Now that we know how this game is played, let’s apply the SUCCESs Model to another example and see if you can tell which of the following has the spark of humanity.

Example 2

  • “Amazing day yesterday at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics Summer School. Fascinating presentations and wonderful to spend time with interesting people and have the opportunity to share ideas and discuss important topics. Came away buzzing and looking forward to going back on Thursday.”
  • “Just wrapped up an inspiring week at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics Summer School. Engaging presentations, intriguing discussions, and connecting with diverse minds made for an intellectually enriching experience. Feeling energized, enlightened, and motivated to contribute to positive change in animal ethics.”[viii]

For this, I asked for the AI to keep it snappy so that both are simple and equally credible. The first is slightly more concrete since it references a specific day of the week. Looking at emotion, things get interesting. The second article lists more emotions when it talks about “feeling energized, enlightened, and motivated.” However, the first article uses just one highly emotive word: “buzzing.” There is also something about how the single run-on sentence uses so many “ands.” It isn’t proper grammar, but it conveys so much emotion. Breaking the rules like this is a little surprising and very human. It’s hard to incorporate a story in something this short.

Now, take a look at what you are writing. Is it simple, credible, and real? How can you weave those stories into your text? How can you surprise your readers and make them feel emotion? By applying the SUCCESs Model, you will show your readers that you are human and connect with them in a way that no machine ever could.




[iv] Taken from the 2007 book Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath:

[v] – permission to use this has been granted by the original poster.

[vi] Generated by ChatGPT with the prompt: “Could you please write a review for Riyadh, a restaurant in Nadj Village. Here are some features: – Castle like building – Open courtyard in the middle with running water – Booths containing rugs and cushions – Reasonable prices”


[viii] Generated using the prompt: “Please write a post about a visit to the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics Summer School including: * Fascinating presentations * Spending time with interesting people * Sharing ideas * Discussing important topics * How it made me feel afterward Please keep it snappy.” And then rejecting the first response by prompting: “Could you please make it shorter, without the use of bullet points or emojis?”

Ged Byrne is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and ... (Read More)

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