The grind set, side hustle, passive income crew has a new favorite toy: ChatGPT. On YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, a ragtag mix of established and potential financial influencers are pumping out videos offering advice on how you—yes, YOU—could make tens of thousands of dollars in your sleep with the help of OpenAI’s chatbot.
“This is some of the craziest software I’ve ever seen on planet earth and you can become a millionaire just using ChatGPT I guarantee you,” advises a young man in a video, who has a “CEO” wears hat.
“If you start today, you could literally have a multi-million dollar course creation business by this time next year,” says one woman in another tagged “#investinthyourself,” #6figuresidehustle, and “#7figurebusiness.”
“You can become a millionaire just by using ChatGPT, I guarantee you that.”
It’s no surprise that this excited group has jumped on the AI bandwagon. While the technology underlying ChatGPT isn’t revolutionary in itself, developer OpenAI’s decision to make the system free exposed millions to a novel form of automation – one with the potential to create numerous industries and jobs – for better or worse – disturb”.
The launch of ChatGPT last November capped a year of AI hype, and for startups looking for funding and influencers looking for followers, those two letters have supplanted crypto, Web3 and NFTs as buzzwords you jour. “Last year, a lot of companies that couldn’t generate any revenue dubbed themselves Web3 crypto companies,” said one VC investor Bloomberg recently. “The same thing is happening now with AI.” Indeed, scroll back through the timelines of many ChatGPT hustlers and you’ll soon find advice on spotting lossless coins and must-have monkeys. Now, however, the linchpin lies with the AI.
If you scan their advice, some patterns quickly emerge. A common scheme is to sign up with various freelance marketplaces – Fiverr, Upwork, etc. – and promote your skills by writing blog posts and ad copy. Then when a request comes in from a customer, just plug their request into ChatGPT and send whatever it generates. If your client doesn’t like the results, just ask them for notes, feed them those into the chatbot and send the results back.
As CEO-Beanie puts it, “At this point, you let a robot do the work for you. It literally costs you zero damn dollars. The ChatGPT just builds the damn paragraphs. All you have to do is keep throwing it at the guy until he likes it damn well.”
Another is to feed the content with ouroboros: generating harmless YouTube content like “15 Most Dangerous Beaches in the World” and “Top 10 Most Beautiful Cities”. Just plug these titles into ChatGPT and combine the generated copy with free stock video. Upload it to YouTube, add some ads and then wait for the revenue to start pouring in.
Other methods are a bit more complicated. Some involve using ChatGPT to create custom workout or meal plans, or suggest selling chatbot-generated tutorials on educational sites like Udemy. One strategy is to use ChatGPT to answer popular questions on Q&A sites like Quora (e.g. “how to lose weight”) and then populate your profile with affiliate links in hopes that a curious soul clicks through. Others resort to additional AI tools. Why not use ChatGPT to, say, write a children’s book, illustrate it with an AI art generator, and then sell the result on Amazon’s self-publishing platform?
However, in every video, the narrator tends to skim over a few very important points: for example, whether or not the content he’s creating is accurate, helpful, or even good; or, if there is a customer, whether or not you tell them to pay for a machine’s services.
Such tutorials are incredibly popular, garnering hundreds of thousands of views and appearing in the top results for simple searches like “ChatGPT”. You’ll find plenty of skepticism and counter-programming from other influencers in the comments sections, pointing out that these guides are often ill-considered, unproven, and require quite a bit of work on the part of the would-be hustler, and with little guarantee of income.
Influencers don’t make money by following their advice, they make money by selling it
As with all get-rich-quick schemes, each video raises an unanswered question: if your method works so well, why are you telling me? But when you’re an influencer, you don’t make money by following your advice, you sell it, through paid newsletters or video hits. Adopting the lively ChatGPT is less about utility and more about tapping into the ever-changing currents of online attention. (My unempirical belief is that everyone in the Hustler economy, both viewer and creator, knows that the Council is mostly junk but doesn’t mind because they believe it is other Dude, that’s the sucker. This is how the stock market works, to my limited understanding.)
Regardless of their usefulness, these schemas tell us a lot about ChatGPT—the kind of work it enables and encourages, and how it’s likely to be used in the future.
It is questionable whether the methods described in these videos are nothing particularly new or insidious. Adopting new tools often gives employees an edge over their peers, and the premium paid by unsuspecting customers is just punishment for not keeping up with the latest technology. But given what we know about the flaws of ChatGPT – particularly its tendency to produce liquid bullshit – this rush could affect the markets where it is adopted, triggering a drop in quality offset by lower production costs.
In this respect, they are similar to another favorite scheme of internet entrepreneurs: dropshipping. When dropshipping, sellers never store or ship their product (often they don’t even design it). Instead, they make money by spotting trends and then producing eye-catching ads to find customers for the latest style of coat or watch. ChatGPT enables a similar dynamic in the creative industries and knowledge work world: the separation of production and sales, allowing sellers to deliver goods that seem useful at first glance but fall apart when tested, and offering the scale and the Speed of production that traditional feedback mechanisms obscure such as brand reputation. This is the future many fear for the internet: AI-generated junk choking online platforms like algal blooms choking life out of ponds.
We’re already seeing the impact of AI-generated junk on the web
You could say that this is just scaremongering, but we have already seen the beginning of this process in some online spaces. The programming of the Q&A site Stack Overflow, for example, prohibited AI-generated answers, with moderators often explaining the content saw was correct, but was found to be incorrect after close scrutiny and that the time taken to check each answer was too long. In the media world, companies like private equity-backed marketing firm Red Ventures have used AI tools to create content for their properties via SEO Buckets like Bankrate.com to news sites like CNET. The result was a minor scandal where employees were unsure whether the employees were human or machine, and bugs were found in more than half of the AI-powered articles published on CNET.
Such a decline is not inevitable, but it is not easy to avoid either. AI-generated text recognition software is far from foolproof, and the incentive to use tools like ChatGPT recklessly is as simple as it is enticing: profit. Apparently, OpenAI itself has led the way here by releasing ChatGPT with easy-to-fool security safeguards and no reliable method of detecting its output. One of the most popular TikTok videos explaining how to get rich with ChatGPT notes that viewers have at most a few years before the public takes notice of the technology and should jump in before the rest of the world catches up. “For the few that implement, I see you in first grade,” reads the video’s caption. The rest of us just keep scrolling.