Don’t Be Like The Other Bots

Daniel Tunkelang
2 min readMay 10, 2023

As an independent consultant, instructor, and alleged thought leader, I am keenly aware that generative AI is coming after my livelihood. Why read my writing — let alone pay for my time — when ChatGPT is happy to answer all of your particular questions for free, and in real time?

If you are reading this, then I am probably preaching to the converted. But my answer is simple: I am different. Or, if you prefer, idiosyncratic. Certainly not “relentlessly bland”, which seems to be a defining feature of generative AI. I’m not like the other bots.

Differentiation has always been a good strategy for establishing value, whether for products, companies, or individual professionals. I have always been something of a specialist, taking the approach of finding the biggest pond in which I can still be a big fish. The size of my pond has grown with my career, but I have always prioritized my distinctiveness. I may not be the world’s leading search expert, but I am pretty damn good.

I have tended to think of my specialization in terms of subject matter. My LinkedIn profile describes me as a specialist in search, recommender systems, machine learning / AI, and data science. Which is all true.

But I suspect the real differentiation comes from my highly opinionated approaches to these areas. My writing, as you probably know already, has a distinctive voice and point of view. My teaching is similar: if you typed the syllabus for Search for Product Managers into ChatGPT, I am sure that you would get something useful, but it would not be the same as what I teach, or how I teach it. And my consulting clients hire me at least in part because of my unique, highly opinionated perspective.

Generative AI is part of a broader trend of commodification through automation. It is challenging how we define and think about creativity. Perhaps it is making us feel less special, as individuals and as a species.

But generative AI is also a reminder that being our unique, individual selves is what makes us special. Competition against a defined standard has always been a zero-sum game, and generative AI only reinforces that dynamic. When you run in a race with 100 people, 99 of you will lose. The only winning strategy is to run on your own track. As the computer says in WarGames: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

That is not to say that every specialization will be valued equally, or at all. The world is a complex marketplace of products, services, ideas, values, and more; and what others want may or may not align with what you offer.

Still, if you are worried about being commodified, then embrace what makes you unique. Be special. Be different. Be human.

Don’t be like the other bots.