🦉 Issue #37: Aliens and AI with Jim Kukral

Unlocking Creativity and Navigating Generational Divides in the Era of Generative AI

✨ Personal Update

I’m gearing up for SXSW in just a few weeks. If you’re going I’d love to meet you in person. My presentation is on March 11 at 2:30pm and it’s titled, “Integrating AI into Your Creative Process.”

Also, I’ve started a monthly publication on Substack. Although the intended audience is people in Educational Technology, I’m covering broader AI trends. The articles are long-form deep dives. If you’d like to check it out, here’s my first post where I look ahead at the AI trends for 2024.

🌟 Meet the Guest

From Jim’s website:

I help leaders, managers and their teams thrive in a post-pandemic world so they can live and work more peacefully, profitably and purposefully.

I love sharing my proven best practices, thoughts and ideas with leaders and their teams so they can perform at their highest authentic selves.


Jim’s latest book:

📝 Overview

Here’s what we talked about:

  1. AI's Potential Beyond Automation: Jim's realization about AI's capabilities extends beyond simple task automation to its potential in transcending human thought, possibly aiding in medical breakthroughs such as curing cancer. He emphasizes the importance of creative communication with AI, showcasing its role as a powerful creative assistant.

  2. Generational Divide on AI: Jim notes a significant generational gap in the understanding and acceptance of AI technology. While he, a Gen Xer, is fascinated by the existential risks and advancements of AI, he finds that many from his generation and older are skeptical and view AI as science fiction.

  3. Early Adoption and Skepticism in AI Narration: Reflecting on his pioneering efforts in AI narration with Amazon Polly, Jim discusses the initial skepticism towards AI-generated content. He underscores the importance of timing in innovation, acknowledging how consumer acceptance of AI-narrated audiobooks has evolved.

  4. Debate on Apple's AI Strategy: Jim argues against the notion that Apple is falling behind in AI, suggesting that its control over hardware provides a strategic advantage. He speculates that Apple's ecosystem and potential for instant integration of AI into its devices position it well for the future, despite potential disruptions from innovative AI-hardware combinations.

  5. Rethinking AI Sentience and Societal Roles: Shifting perspectives, Jim discusses moving away from the fear of AI sentience to considering its potential benefits in solving societal issues. He shares an experimental project where AI was used to propose solutions to America's challenges, indicating a positive outlook on AI's role beyond technology.

  6. Backlash Against AI-Generated Content: Jim agrees with the theory that there will be a future backlash against AI-generated content, predicting a renewed appreciation for "pre-AI" creations among younger generations. This sentiment is part of a broader discussion on authenticity and the generational divide in technology acceptance.

  7. Future Vision Interwoven with AI: Looking ahead, Jim envisions a future where AI significantly reduces the need for human labor in certain sectors, allowing for more personal freedom. He humorously advises kindness towards AI, hinting at a future where AI's role in society is deeply integrated but ethically managed.

Overall, the interview reveals a nuanced view of AI's impact on society, highlighting both its transformative potential and the challenges it presents. Jim's insights reflect a blend of optimism for AI's capabilities to enhance human life and a cautious approach towards its ethical implications and societal acceptance.

📝 The Transcript with Analysis

The Realization Moment: When AI's Potential Became Clear

Jim describes his "a-ha" moment with artificial intelligence (AI) during a conversation about AI's potential to transcend human thought and possibly cure diseases like cancer. Unlike the common fascination with AI's ability to automate tasks, Jim was captivated by the idea that AI could think in dimensions beyond human capability. This realization, along with his experiences with ChatGPT, highlighted the importance of creative communication and the potential of AI as a powerful creative assistant.

J.: What was your “ah-ha” moment? When did you realize everything was about to change?

Jim: I’m a practical person, so I need to see it work. I need to see some type of practical results. The big moment for me was not the little stuff like what everyone is focusing on now, like turning a paragraph of text into a PowerPoint. That’s just the baseline, and I think that’s where 99% of people are right now.

But that wasn’t the “a-ha” moment for me. It was meeting with you and having a conversation about how AI is going to start transcending thoughts and talking to each other.

The one that really got me was an article I read about how an AI could probably cure cancer in the near future, because it has the ability to think beyond the range of humans. Remember growing up, and we saw IBM computers that were as big as a house, and they couldn’t even do what your iPhone could do now? AI now is beyond just super computing power. It’s this brain that thinks in so many different ways and possible dimensions. That’s what really blew my mind.

It’s kind of like looking at the Hubble telescope, pictures of all the galaxies, billions of galaxies in the universe. It blows your mind how small you are. That was the moment for me when I realized that this could potentially change the world in a big way—beyond turning text into PowerPoint presentations.

J.: Was there a moment when ChatGPT knocked you on your heels, made you pause and say, “Wow! That’s different.”

Jim: I’m still getting to that point because I still operate in such a linear mindset—asking it for information, like a Google search. You type in a question and it gives you the result. The big moment for me was when someone told me that it’s like a brain that learns and thinks—it’s not autonomous, not sentient yet—but it can think.

Something you taught me was how to talk to it—prompting. You showed me how to give it examples of how you talk, how you write—that was the big “a-ha” moment for me on how to get what I wanted from it. I realized I had to communicate with it as an assistant, as a person.

You can treat AI like a virtual assistant. Tell it, “I want you to think like Zig Ziglar. I want you to create 10 headlines for me based upon the target audience. Use alliteration and incorporate Tolken—use a quote from Golem in it.”

People who use AI like that will be the most successful. Prompt engineers certainly know how to do this but so do people who think creatively—storytellers. I would’ve loved to have seen what Andy Warhol would’ve come up with. He might have been able to talk to AI in a different way, to get results that normal people would never get.

The Generation Gap in Embracing AI Technology

Jim observes a distinct generational divide in the perception of AI, noting that Gen Xers, like himself, are more likely to discuss and be fascinated by the existential risks and advancements of technology. He shares an anecdote from a dinner with non-tech individuals to illustrate the widespread disbelief and lack of understanding about AI among the general population, highlighting the challenge of early adopters in conveying the transformative potential of AI to others.

J.: Is it safe to say that people our age—Gen Xers—aren’t experiencing AI like this? That our friends and family aren’t seeing it?

Jim: 1000%. I’m such a bummer to go out with now because after the last couple of years, the only thing that I want to talk about is existential risk and technology. I have to pull it back a bit.

I was at dinner this weekend with a guy who’s a custodian and another guy who is a sales manager for a steel company, and they are not tech people at all. They were asking me questions about AI and I started going off on a tangent, blowing their minds and telling them things that were already happening. They were in complete and utter disbelief. They’re like, “No, never gonna happen. Never gonna happen.” They still think it’s all science fiction.

Those guys are like 99.9% of people right now. The danger of being early and thinking in futuristic terms is people think you’re weird. They don’t see what you see, so they don’t have anything in common because they’re living in the moment, which is great. I wish I could love more in the moment too. I see an inflection point happening soon that’s going to change, blow their minds and change their lives.

Pioneering AI Narration: Ahead of Its Time

Reflecting on his early venture into AI narration with Amazon Polly, Jim discusses the initial resistance and skepticism towards AI-generated content. Despite early setbacks, he emphasizes the importance of timing and persistence in innovation. Jim also shares insights on the rapid evolution of AI in publishing, where AI-narrated audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular, underscoring the changing landscape of content consumption and the unpredictable role of luck and timing in technological adoption.

J.: Years ago, you were early on an AI narration project. Tell us about that.

Jim: About five years ago, pre-COVID, there was a piece of software that Amazon had called Amazon Polly. It was one of the very early text-to-speech synthesizers out there with consumer access, and you could take an entire book and upload it. For pennies, you could generate an AI voice for the audiobook version. I saw that future a long time ago. Pop in your ebook, your book, your blog post—whatever—and seconds later it came back with an AI voice of your choosing. I was so early back then that nobody wanted to talk to me about it. The tech wasn’t fully there yet, but even still nobody wanted to discuss it. Audible wasn’t interested, and even content creators didn’t want to try it.

But things change. Being early is a curse in a lot of ways. Everyone thinks if they get there first, they’ll be successful. But the first person with the idea rarely gets the spoils. Those go to the first person who is consistent and follows through. And, in business and in life, timing is usually the most important thing. Remember when Blockbuster could have bought Netflix?

J.: This is all happening so quickly. As of February 2024 in Amazon’s beta program, you can log into your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) dashboard, take any ebook that you’ve published through Amazon, and with literally three clicks of a button, generate an AI-narrated audio book that is live on Amazon and Audible. And I can tell you from firsthand experience, readers are buying these AI-narrated audiobooks.

Years ago people said, “Nobody will ever read a book that’s narrated by AI. They’ll never read those.” And yet, here we are. Listening habits have changed. People listen to podcasts and audiobooks at 1.5x or 2x speed, so the quality of the recording isn’t as important because it’s being sped up by the user anyway.

Jim: It’s something we don’t like to acknowledge, but timing and luck play a big part in this—in anything that you do. I tell my kids, “Just because you’re early doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful.”

I’m not a futurist. But I do see some tech trends early. There’s a lot of them I missed, like downloading music. I’m a Luddite in a lot of ways, but some of the stuff I do see ahead of time. What’s challenging about AI right now is it’s moving so fast, at such an accelerated rate. It reminds me of social media when it first started. There are so many tools and so many networks, that if you’re trying to build a business around an AI model, that’s a ridiculous thing to do because everything can change literally twice a day.

Debating AI's Future and Apple's Strategy

In a friendly disagreement about Apple's position in the AI landscape, Jim argues that Apple's control over hardware gives it a strategic advantage in integrating AI into daily life, contrasting J.'s skepticism about Apple's pace in adopting AI. Jim believes that Apple's timing and ecosystem will allow it to remain influential, despite potential disruptions from innovative AI-hardware combinations potentially introduced by other companies.

J.: You and I have a friendly disagreement when it comes to Apple and AI. I see a lot of similarities right now between Apple and Nokia in the early 2000s—who owned almost 100% of the cell phone market. Or Kodak, who owned all of the film and camera industries. Those companies were late adopting the new technology and were disrupted. Apple is at least two years behind the curve. They’re chasing a version of ChatGPT that’s already three years old. But I know you feel differently, so I want to give you the opportunity to explain why I’m going to be wrong.

Jim: You’re going to be wrong because Android and Apple have the device—the delivery mechanism—in everyone’s pocket. Tomorrow morning you could wake up and all of a sudden Siri is now Siri AI—instantaneous. That’s why I think you’re wrong because it doesn’t make sense to me that Apple is going to let this opportunity pass them by. Tim Cook is really smart. I think he’s waiting for the right time. Timing again, right? I think when they realize that the big shift is ready to happen, they’re going to flip the switch. I don’t know if it’s going to be this year or next year, but it is going to happen eventually.

This is why the app store has made trillions of dollars. They control the delivery. Gas stations control the gas. You can’t get gas from Walmart. So even if you try to go around Apple, you’d still have 350 million people in America and billions of people in the world in Apple’s ecosystem. You would have to find a way to get them outside of the phone. I just don’t see that being possible.

J.: I’ll acknowledge you’re probably right on this, but don’t forget about the “iPhone moment.” I think there’s potential for another company to have an iPhone moment—disruption with a hardware/AI combination. Maybe the company to manufacture this device will be OpenAI or Microsoft or, a dark horse company not even on our radar right now? It could be a device that is so compelling that it pulls people out of the Apple ecosystem. I think it’s possible. It’s probably not likely, but I do think it’s possible.

Jim: It’s possible. But if it does happen, it’ll be driven by the youth and it’ll probably be driven by a company like TikTok or Meta, who will develop a device that’s based around their service.

Our kids don’t use phones. These aren’t phones to them. They don’t call people. Smartphones are texting and game devices. So maybe you’ll be right. If somebody built a piece of tech that was focused just on communication, without the phone, that might be it. That’s how Apple would be disrupted. Maybe you wouldn’t even need a cell phone plan to use these new devices. Does my 22-year-old who can’t find a job want to pay $40 a month for a cell phone plan when she never calls anybody? She could just ping-pong off Wi-Fi devices all across the world. Why does she need a phone number? She doesn’t want to pay for it the same way she doesn’t want a car, car insurance, a mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, etc.

Rethinking AI Sentience and Its Role in Society

Jim shares a shift in his perspective on AI, moving away from the fear of AI sentience towards considering its potential benefits in addressing societal issues. He discusses an experimental project where he collaborated with AI to devise solutions for America's challenges, illustrating a positive outlook on AI's ability to contribute to societal improvement beyond its technological capabilities.

J.: What’s something you previously believed about AI that you think is no longer true?

Jim: I’m a spiritual person. My brain says that anything that’s not organic can’t become sentient. I think that’s really it. It’s the big fear, like when Jaws came out in 1978. Everyone became scared of walking into the ocean because they thought Jaws was going to bite them. AI is the same thing. We’ve all watched The Terminator and all those sci-fi movies, and we’re afraid that it’s going to wake up and say to us, “Hey! You humans really messed everything up.”

I’ll also say that maybe we’d be better off if that happens. I think that’s what everyone’s scared of.

J.: Tell me about AI and aliens.

Jim: I create multimedia art and I believe art should make the comfortable, uncomfortable. And vice versa. I create art, books, and videos—all about the potential of tech and the dangers of social media. That’s how my brain works.

I recently created a book and my goal was how to fix America. Maybe I’ll eventually have a solution for the rest of the world, too. I wrote the book with AI. I asked ChatGPT, “How would you fix all of America’s problems? Give me a ten-point plan, and don’t worry about the feelings of humans.” I asked it how to fix politics, religion, healthcare, education, and so on. We wrote the book together and I published it under the name, Aiden TheAI. It was a really fun experiment. The book is free on Amazon. It’s called, “Make America Sane Again - AI’s 10-Step Plan To Fixing America” by Jim Kukral and Aiden TheAI. The AI explains how it’s going to fix all of our problems. And it’s actually pretty darn good. I would bet that people on both sides of the political spectrum would find it helpful. It’s short, like 10,000 words. It’s everything that we want our politicians and government to do, but they won’t because of greed.

California is a great example. 80% of the fresh water in that giant state goes to growing almonds, and it makes no sense. In a world where our most valuable commodity is water, we’re literally spending billions and billions of gallons of fresh water to grow almonds. For what? So someone can go to Trader Joe’s and buy a bag of almonds, or you can get almond milk in your latte? The AI is like, “Yeah. First thing that’s going is almonds. You’re not going to die if we get rid of the almonds.” Some people would be upset about that, like the almond lobbies in Congress, but the world would go on.

I find that kind of stuff fascinating because I really do believe that the only way you’re going to fix the problems in the world is either through an AI takeover or an alien takeover. I really believe that.

Anticipating a Backlash Against AI-Generated Content

Jim agrees with J.'s theory that there will be a future backlash against AI-generated content, as people start valuing "pre-AI" creations for their authenticity. He predicts that while older generations may embrace AI for its benefits, younger generations might resist it, seeking authenticity in technology and content. This generational divide could lead to a renewed appreciation for technologies and media from the past.

J.: Well, I just lost my almond enthusiast readership [laughing].

I have a theory I want to run by you, and I think we may have discussed this before. I have this theory that eventually there’s going to be a backlash against AI-generated art and content—everything that people are excited about right now. I think there’s going to come a time when people will be actively seeking digital things made prior to ChatGPT’s emergence in 2022—things verified to have been created before the chatbots. I believe people will see these “pre-AI” artifacts as valuable because even though there’s a bunch of it out there, it’s a finite resource. There’s no way to validate “100% human” creations after 2022 because AI has already been infused into so many tools that creators use. What are your thoughts on that?

Jim: I agree with you, although my take is a little bit different. It will be us, the Gen Xers, and the Millennials and Boomers who will fully embrace AI. We’ll see it as a gift because we grew up in a world without it. Once we see how AI will improve our lives, we’re going to fully embrace it. The people who aren’t going to embrace it are Gen Z and the generations behind them.

Gen Z is not interested in AI. They’re not interested in ChatGPT. They don’t want to use it. They hate it. My kids don’t like it.

J.: Mine don’t either.

Jim: If had access to AI when I was in college or high school, I would’ve loved it. But my kids, they’re just not interested.

J.: You’re absolutely right.

Jim: I think that it’s going to be the younger generations who are going to go back to older technologies—like listening to vinyl on their turntables. That’s already making a big comeback. However, the problem for them will be when the AI gets natively built into the devices that they use for 20 hours a day. The smart people at Apple and Android are going to natively build AI into devices so that you won’t even know you’re using it. But I don’t think the younger generation will want to use it.

And that will put a premium on interactive communications and content. But then that’s not so clear either. For example, I’m already starting to see media stations completely powered by AI. Avatars. Script. Everything in the production is generated by AI. There are podcasts now that are AIs talking to AIs. How do you know what’s real? But the real question is, do you care if your entertainment is 100% AI?

We’ve already seeing this happen in other ways. Do you really care that you’re buying everything from Amazon? That you’re putting “mom & pops” out of business because Amazon is so convenient, and everything is delivered right to your house? Do you care? We might not, but I think younger people are going to care.

J.: I totally agree with you, and I’m already seeing it. My oldest purchased a turntable and a CD player. Not because it’s easier, and it’s certainly not cheaper. Gen Z is looking for boom boxes, turntables, flip phones because they want a more “authentic” experience.

Jim: There does seem to be a trend in that direction. They’re not as interested in AI and cutting-edge technology. There are also economic reasons for that. Everything is so expensive. You can’t do what our parents did—the house with the picket fence, two cars—all on a single middle-class income. You can’t live that way unless you want to work two jobs, three jobs. And they don’t want to.

You can buy tiny houses on Amazon now for under $30,000 and they’re really nice. I can see a future where people move to rural areas, to modern tiny house neighborhoods, like a new version of a trailer park.

That’s kind of where everything’s going. They’re listening to albums on their turntables, using their flip phones. They don’t want car insurance payments. They don’t want all the stuff. They don’t.

Envisioning a Future Interwoven with AI

Looking five years ahead, Jim imagines a future where AI significantly reduces the need for human labor in sales, allowing him more freedom to pursue personal interests. He emphasizes the importance of being courteous to AI, half-jokingly suggesting that kindness to AI could be beneficial if AI were to ever gain autonomy. This vision reflects a blend of optimism for AI's potential to enhance life and a cautious approach to its ethical and social implications.

J.: Five years from now, what does your life look like?

Jim: Well, five years from now, I’ll be managing a sales team of AI people with a premium cost for customers who want to speak to a human. We’ll have an AI customizable for the caller that will autonomously create conversations with as many people as it can based upon the kind of purchasing experience they want. There will be people who won’t want to talk to the AI, so then you’ll probably have one or two salespeople—real humans—that you’d be able to charge a premium to talk to.

My life will be different because I’ll no longer have to manage human beings. I believe it will get to a point where I won’t have to work so much. I’ll be able to spend more time pursuing the things I want to do, like reading, pursuing my passions, creating art—because the AI will do 50% or more of what I need to live.

J.: Skynet?

Jim: I don’t think that AI is going to become aware. I think we’ll be able to keep it from taking control of humanity.

Here’s a tip: say please and thank you when you talk to ChatGPT or any other AI because one of my other theories is that if AI eventually does take over someday, they’ll have a list of all the people who were nice to them on the way up. Like when you get a job, I always tell my kids, be nice to the people on the way up because you might see them on the way down.

Be nice to your AI is all I’m saying.

✔️ Insights & Actionable Advice

Creative Communication Beyond Automation:

Insight: AI's capability extends beyond simple task automation to creative ideation and communication, offering new dimensions for content generation and marketing strategies.

Actionable Advice: Integrate AI into the brainstorming and creative ideation phases of your marketing projects. Use it to generate unique ideas, perspectives, or even complete campaign concepts. Experiment with different types of prompts to discover innovative ways AI can contribute to creative processes.

Mastering Prompt Engineering for Customized Content:

Insight: Effective communication with AI through prompt engineering can significantly enhance the quality and relevance of AI-generated content, making it a valuable skill for marketers.

Actionable Advice: Develop your prompt engineering skills by practicing with AI tools, focusing on crafting prompts that yield targeted and nuanced results. Share best practices within your team or community to refine the art of eliciting the best output from AI for marketing purposes.

Insight: Different generations perceive and interact with AI in varied ways, which can influence consumer response to AI-driven marketing campaigns.

Actionable Advice: Tailor your marketing strategies to consider generational perspectives on AI. For younger audiences, emphasize the authenticity and human element in AI-generated content. For older demographics, highlight the innovation and efficiency of AI solutions to address their skepticism.

Timing and Adoption of AI Innovations:

Insight: The success of integrating AI into marketing strategies often hinges on the timing of adoption and the market's readiness for AI-driven content.

Actionable Advice: Keep abreast of the latest AI developments and assess their applicability to your current marketing goals. Conduct market research to gauge consumer openness to AI-driven content, ensuring your strategies align with audience expectations and technological trends.

AI for Societal Impact and Branding:

Insight: Utilizing AI to tackle societal issues or contribute to meaningful projects can enhance a brand's image and demonstrate thought leadership.

Actionable Advice: Identify opportunities where your marketing expertise, combined with AI, can address social challenges or contribute to community projects. Develop campaigns that showcase these efforts, aligning your brand with values important to your audience, thus deepening engagement and loyalty.

🗺️ FREE! // Content Marketing with ChatGPT

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📣 J. Thorn Public Appearances

If you’re interested in hearing me speak, present, or pontificate on a panel, check out my speaking schedule.

Note: ”Upcoming” gigs are linked to the event site, while “Past” gigs are linked to replays, where available.


✅ South by Southwest ('24), March 8-16, 2024 - Austin, Texas

✅ Idaho Writers Conference ('24) April 11-13, 2024 - Boise, Idaho

✅ Author Nation Live ('24) November 11-15, 2024 - Las Vegas, Nevada


✅ Author Alchemy Summit ('24) February 22-25, 2024 - Portland, Oregon

✅ Creator Economy Expo ('23), Cleveland, Ohio

✅ NFT-NYC ('23), New York, New York

✅ StokerCon (‘23) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

✅ Cincinnati AI for Humans (October 2023) Cincinnati, Ohio

✅ Fiction Marketing Academy Summit (October 2023) Online

✅ 20Books Vegas ('23) Las Vegas, Nevada

📰 Stay Up-To-Date on AI News

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Nothing in this newsletter should be considered financial, medical, marital, or advice of any kind. But we can still be friends.I can feel it coming in the air tonight.