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An “AI aristocracy” is about to take over the web. Here’s how not to be a serf.
An “AI aristocracy” is coming for the Internet. Want in?
RIP, THE INTERNET
The internet you know? Yeah, it’s falling apart.
Exhibit A: Musk recently restricted public access to Twitter, just as Instagram launches a much-hyped Twitter clone. (He’s since quietly restored it.)
Exhibit B: A long stand-off between Reddit and its volunteer forum moderators turned many of Reddit’s information-laden forums “dark” —which is frustrating users, and making Google search results worse.
Behind all this drama is:
(1) a coming flood of AI-generated content that is about to submerge every corner of the Internet society in gloopy, machine written copy, and
(2) an inevitable move by web platforms of all kinds to “close their gates” in an attempt to protect their data from being harvested by AI models.
Wait, what? Can someone please explain what is happening here?
CLOSED FOR BUSINESS
In simple terms, web platforms that rely on contributions like product/service reviews (Amazon; Yelp) or detailed comments (LinkedIn; Reddit), are bracing for an onslaught of AI generated language that could end up drowning their human users in machine written noise.
Meanwhile, conflicts are emerging on all sorts of popular platforms —from Wikipedia to the coding resource Stack Overflow— over how to handle of AI-generated content.
At the same time, concerns are also growing all over the web around Google's move to return search queries with AI-written chat summaries, which could impact businesses that are reliant on search traffic.
And all of these shifts are threatening the very concept of an “open” web.
THAT WAS FAST
Some really significant changes have occurred in a really short time span —mostly dating back to the end of 2022, when ChatGPT burst on the scene.
As you probably know, generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT have been “trained” on public data, ie., a lot of the language that’s freely available on the web.
This is an issue: the sites that hold that data (ie., Wikipedia, Reddit, and countless others) would prefer to be compensated for the fact that the language on their sites has been used to train all these for-profit AI models.
On top of that, many users (aka the contributors) also feel like they should have a say in how their contributed data is used —and maybe even share in some of those AI profits.
People are calling the whole situation “data pillaging,” and they really don’t like it.
Zoom out: realistically, how could compensating everyone who’s ever contributed a comment to a public site possibly work? (It clearly can’t.)
However things shake out, one thing is clear: the Internet —at least the Western world’s version of it— is shifting from an open “commons,” to a collection of closed-off digital silos.
A NEW WORLD ORDER
ChatGPT burst onto the scene just 6 months ago. As Axios recently put it, if the pace of change it has unleashed continues, the web could be totally unrecognizable in 6 years.
The whole thing feels like a bit of a paradox. The present “AI revolution” is simultaneously allowing for endless possibilities around individualization, efficiency, creativity and more.
Unfortunately, this same revolution also threatens to inundate the Internet with a whole lot of machine-generated noise.
(In some cases, literal noise: the CEO of the Grammys just proudly announced that “AI, or music that contains AI-created elements, is absolutely eligible for entry and for consideration for Grammy nomination.”)
As the old Internet disintegrates, we're all being forced to confront an uncomfortable question: is the future of the Internet going to be a whole load of proprietary, AI-dominated silos?
Our take: a seismic power shift is certainly afoot. And the stakes are enormous. As this newsletter shared last month, a weeks-old AI startup out of France just landed a breathtaking US$113m seed round to compete against OpenAI in the building, training and application of large language models and generative AI.
Plot twist! You don’t have to be an AI pro to profit from all this. You just have to be human.
THE COMING 'AI ARISTOCRACY'
The implications of the coming crush of AI content will fundamentally redefine our conception of community, privacy, and democracy.
BUT. These changes are not without their own opportunity. Savvy folks, as ever, see opportunity. If your LinkedIn feed is anything like mine, new AI experts are popping up on the daily, sharing well designed carousels filled with (mostly useful) tips.
We believe that every individual and business can take advantage of what’s happening, even if they have no background or interest in AI.
See, in our view, establishing valuable, niche digital spaces is the perfect hedge against this shift towards more proprietary, AI-fueled “silos.”
Stay with me.
HUMANS WANT HUMAN-WRITTEN STUFF
As (1) the major platforms lock the doors to their data, and (2) everywhere gets filled with awkward, machine-made copy, we believe that (3) there's going to be a growing thirst for real, human-led spaces/info/services.
Think super niche blogs, highly unique, and curated newsletters, dedicated, topic-specific chat groups, curated experiences, and more.
The Internet’s about to enter its “neo-tribal” era, everyone.
Want in? Ask yourself how you can provide a certain segment of users with a more tailored, more meaningful, and more human online experience than AI can.
It will be a good hedge.
No one is destined to be locked out of the coming 'AI aristocracy.' Whether you’re an individual or a business, I’d start thinking about carving out a unique digital niche, one that provides human-fueled value to people.
It could prove to be a safe space to ride out the coming storm.
The public web is unravelling, in an AI-driven storm »»
Grammy's CEO says next year's winner could 'absolutely' use AI »»
Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Simply reply. Like this? Share it!