The Internet was designed by humans for humans…or so we thought. To the extent that we have used the Internet in our daily lives, there has always been the expectation that what we saw was human-generated. That is, the information, the articles, the comments, etc. were all written by real people for other people to consume. Yet, we are moving to an age where computer-generated content is becoming a larger and larger percentage of what people see online.
Already, there are fake social media accounts which artificially inflate the popularity of some users on these sites. On Instagram, for example, people buy these bots to increase their follower count and the number of likes the receive on their posts. Similarly, we see computer-generated likes on Reddit and Youtube. It is this latter case which can be worrying. To a large degree, it undermines the legitimacy of the approval and disapproval system, since there is no longer the concept of one user-one vote. At least in my experience, there is an inherent trust that comments with hundreds/thousands of likes and up-votes are actually popular. Rarely would I stop to consider that those numbers were fake.
Yet, it would appear that, especially with the rapid development of machine learning and AI, a lot more content on the Internet will be computer-generated. Indeed, some companies actually seem to be embracing this trend. Already, simple news stories are written by programs fed with facts and set to write based off some template. At a recent Quora tech talk which I had the chance to attend, CEO Adam D’Angelo also was receptive to the idea of machine-generated content. He noted that while the technology is still premature, he could easily envision questions on his site being written by AI. Again, he was a bit more hesitant about the idea of computer programs answering questions, since in his opinion, that requires human experiences. But, it still indicates that the online community is positive about the role of AI.
I, however, remain skeptical about the potential dilution of the Internet resulting from a plethora of computers generating and posting content. It’s already hard enough to sift through the pile of content posted by people on social media. Imagine trying to decipher the truth and/or the relevant information when you don’t even know whether it was written by a human…