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An image of a young woman intently writing on a pad with a pen.
Simon Bullmore15/4/2024 16:11 AM1 min read

Why you need to know your topic before you use AI

It may seem that Generative AI is lowering the bar for content writing, making it easier for non-specialists to write about a new topic, but the truth is more nuanced. Google's new AI-powered search feature, SGE (Search Generative Experience) is one reason why that nuance is important for marketers and content creators to understand.

Gen AI allows anyone to write a fairly authoritative-sounding piece on a topic. What it doesn't allow you to do is offer novel insights and a useful take on that topic, because that requires domain knowledge.

Domain knowledge is an insider view of a subject that allows you to have an opinion rather than a simple understanding. It's the difference between seeing the truth behind facts and being able to critically evaluate whether that truth still holds true.

Without domain knowledge you can only ever hope to churn out average content. That's how Generative AI works - it looks across all its data and offers up another word based on what you, and it, expects to make sense next. To do that, it takes the average of what it knows. "On average, this is the word that makes sense next".

This is why Generative AI's writing is so samey and bland. This is why uou can't get to something truly interesting and engaging with AI alone. And being "average" is not what the creative act of writing for marketing should be about.

With its personalised search results, Google's SGE (Search Generative Experience) aims to provide highly contextually relevant answers to your Google search. This means Google will be looking for what it believes to be genuine expertise, not regurgitated guff.

Domain expertise has always been the counterbalance to data-powered technology. Back in 2018, I was part of an EU-funded research project that found the same thing about data science - insight without domain knowledge is risky.

So, by all means, get Gen AI to help you research, copy-edit and restructure your next thought piece. Use AI to help you develop your skills so you can become a domain expert. But lean on AI alone, and you'll get lost in the sea of average.


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Simon Bullmore

Simon helps our clients develop effective growth strategies and data literacy programmes. With a background in business psychology, Simon has worked in data, business development and training for over 17 years. This includes leading the learning programme at the Tim Berners-Lee founded Open Data Institute, and the launch of Harvard Business School's first European office.