It Gets Better

A few months ago, I tried an AI, text-to-speech tool that allowed you to clone your own voice. You had to upload some existing material, and in a few clicks, you could hear yourself speaking typed out words you never actually said. It was pretty cool — but not good enough to use on, say, this very blog as a regular solution for offering audio versions to readers.

In order to make the voice more accurate, I would have had to upload many hours of training footage, which I didn’t have at hand. I likely also would have had to fiddle with the settings for a long time to get the final adjustments just right, and the service was pricey, too. In the end, I did nothing. I decided to wait and see.

Jump forward eight months, and Adam, my Youtube collaborator, points me to a similar software. This time, it only takes a few minutes of demo footage to create a stunningly good replica of my voice. I can adjust style, clarity, and voice variability with just three sliders. And the service is more affordable than its competitor, too. We still might have to make minor edits, but I think the tech is ready for a small-scale test.

AI is an outlier example because right now, the amount of attention, money, and energy the industry receives has ratcheted the speed of progress up to ten, but the principle applies to almost any technology: It gets better.

Often, the problem with machinery is not that it’s not good enough. It’s that we’re unwilling to wait until it’s at the level we need it to be for our specific purposes. We start huffing and puffing and complaining about all the extra steps and customization measures we must take when, actually, we could just wait eight months — and time might solve the problem for us.

Unlike in a breakup, with technology, it often really is not you who’s at fault — yes, the tech is bad, and you deserve better. But that better will take a while to arrive, and if you don’t want to waste your life messing with shoddy tools, then sometimes, you’ll just have to wait until the tools are ready.

The next time you’re trying use an innovation that just won’t perform, ask yourself: “Do I have to do this now? Or can I just revisit in six months?” For some goals in life, the result is worth the fight, but most of the time, it’s easier to wait for the world to catch up.

Make things that matter, yes, but remember to keep the making as frictionless as possible. Achieving higher ends is hard enough as it is, and the last thing you need is a poor-sounding copy of your voice to narrate the journey.