Is it truly mine? How we can use AI without sacrificing our sense of ownership

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Feb 09, 2024

As AI capabilities strive toward perfection, an increasing number of us are harnessing its power to elevate our creative works. Personally, I integrate AI into my writing, refining my grammar and enriching my vocabulary (as is hopefully exemplified in this article!). But over the past year, a thought has lingered in the background: if ChatGPT were to rewrite my entire article without using a single original word, can it still be deemed my creation? To a greater extent, can we still claim ownership of our work if the content is generated by AI using our guidance only? Let’s explore some hypothetical examples.

Consider an artist exploring the potential of Dalle3, an AI software which, based on a user’s textual input, generates various image outputs. With an abstract concept in mind, the artist can produce images within seconds. If adjustments are necessary, instead of starting from scratch wasting needless supplies, the artist can simply modify the input. This product curtails the time it takes to create the flawless final result. Yet, amidst this efficiency, a haunting question emerges: will these creations still bear the artist's essence? Will they feel that they truly own this collection? Will they even like it as much?

Likewise, imagine a dedicated teacher crafting a lesson plan to captivate young minds, or a product manager meticulously curating a compelling presentation to sway stakeholders. In both these instances, the pursuit of a finely tailored creation—whether it be an educational experience or a persuasive pitch—underscores the significance of personal involvement. Seeking assistance from ChatGPT in such situations could potentially jeopardize the sense of ownership and might lead to a less customized product.

Across these varying domains, it’s becoming imperative to explore avenues through which humans can perceive AI as a facilitator of growth or a partner in amplifying our abilities, rather than a force supplanting our individuality. How can we ensure that AI serves as a catalyst for human evolution rather than a replacement?

The housewives answer

To tackle this question, we need to go all the way back to the late 1950s when a revolutionary invention hit the market: cake mix. Promising effortless baking—just add milk, mix, and bake—this innovation seemed like a dream for housewives, freeing up time for other tasks or moments with family.

However, sales didn't soar as expected. Upon investigation, the company discovered an unexpected truth: simply pouring water or milk into the mix didn't feel like a personal creation. Compliments from family or friends on how delicious the cake was only made this feeling of fraudulence worse.  

Pillsbury's response was unexpected yet ingenious. They revamped their mix, calling for additional ingredients and steps that demanded more effort from the customer. At a first glance, this adjustment seemed counterintuitive. Why would people willingly opt for more work (fetching the eggs, cracking them, discarding the shells…) when the entire point of cake mix was to save time and energy?

However, this strategic shift was pivotal in altering customers’ perception of the baking experience, illuminating a deeper human need for personal involvement in creation, even at the cost of added effort. The extra step led housewives to feel a greater sense of contribution to the baking process, resulting in increased sales.

The secret ingredient

The Pillsbury case exemplifies the importance of discerning which tasks users should engage in and which they should delegate to optimize their overall satisfaction. This means that moving forward, we must fine-tune the balance between leveraging AI for saving time and effort while preserving the perception of personal contribution to the final creation.

Developing this process should involve experimentation including user feedback at each step that could be substituted by AI. The goal is to pinpoint burdensome tasks that don’t harbor elements unique to the individual such as creative thinking. While the execution might be delegated to AI, the cornerstone idea is still owned by the user, preserving a sense of personal contribution and achievement.

Gradual delegation of steps from the user to AI serves as a key for unveiling the secret ingredient that, if omitted from the creation process, does not threaten the feeling of ownership. The secret ingredient that, when removed from the recipe, will actually increase user satisfaction, rather than deplete it. 

Show them they are worthy

An intriguing 2012 study deepens our understanding about the specific scenarios where assembling products ourselves heightens our perceived competence. Essentially, when individuals feel certain of their own abilities, the necessity to derive value solely from self-created products diminishes. Meaning, if AI products succeed in making us feel worthy, we won’t have the overwhelming need to feel like the final outcome is our own.

Recently, I've noticed ChatGPT effectively embodies this approach, emphasizing guidance rather than substitution. It begins, for example, with a clear acknowledgment of its AI nature, immediately establishing a relationship where ChatGPT serves as an accelerator for users rather than a mere replacement. Then, ChatGPT complements the user’s work, followed by suggested corrections and enhancements.

But this is not a one-way street. ChatGPT also requests users to provide it with feedback, transforming the experience into a collaborative process. This fosters a conversational dynamic between the involved entities, rather than the anticipated one-way input-output process. The mutual exchange encourages users to actively participate in redefining the final result which creates cooperation rather than a passive interaction.

History repeats itself

Since the early dawn of cake mix, the cycle of adapting to life-changing technology has always started with a “we are replaceable” panic. However, we usually come around and realize that utilizing technology to scale our abilities can actually be beneficial. In this same vein, as long as AI products uphold a feeling of ownership through intentional framing and meticulous consideration, us users will, in due time, embrace their products. 

As individuals, viewing AI as a tool instead of our competition can take our creations one step further—and even make us feel more like individuals. With challenges increasing as AI becomes embedded in our day-to-day, I expect our initial hesitation to eventually be overcome by the excitement of using the right prompt to generate a better result. At the end of the day, AI is just an assistant, and it's our creativity that creates the outcome. 

About the Author

Yael Mark headshot

Yael Mark

Yael Mark is a seasoned product manager with a true passion for behavioral economics/science. In her works, Yael is focusing on implementing applicable behavioral theories to influence user adoption, enhance retention and elevate engagement  levels.

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