A surreal representation of the digital era's climax, where users are depicted as digital avatars being force-fed content by a colossal, mechanical behemoth. This machine, symbolizing Big Tech, is fueled by outrage and engagement, its machinery adorned with rising shareholder value graphs, all portrayed in an imaginative color scheme of Light Gray, Dark Gray, Bright Red, Yellow, and Blue.

The endgame of news, as far as Big Tech is concerned is, I guess, just-in-time created content for ‘users’ (specified in terms of ad categories) who then react in particular ways. That could be purchasing a thing, but it also could be outrage, meaning more time on site, more engagement, and more shareholder value.

Like Ryan Broderick, I have some faith that humans will get sick of AI-generated content, just as they got sick of videos and list posts. But I also have this niggling doubt: the tendency is to see AI only through the lens of tools such as ChatGPT. That’s not what the AI of the future is likely to resemble, at all.

Adweek broke a story this week that Google will begin paying publications to use an unreleased generative-AI tool to produce content. The details are scarce, but it seems like Google is largely approaching small publishers and paying them an annual “five-figure sum”. Good lord, that’s low.

Adweek also notes that the publishers don’t have to publicly acknowledge they’re using AI-generated copy and the, presumably, larger news organizations the AI is scraping from won’t be notified. As tech critic Brian Merchant succinctly put it, “The nightmare begins — Google is incentivizing the production of AI-generated slop.”

Google told Engadget that the program is not meant to “replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating, and fact-checking their articles,” but it’s also impossible to imagine how it won’t, at the very least, create a layer of garbage above or below human-produced information surfaced by Google. Engadget also, astutely, compared it to Facebook pushing publishers towards live video in the mid-2010s.


Companies like Google or OpenAI don’t have to even offer any traffic to entice publishers to start using generative-AI. They can offer them glorified gift cards and the promise of an executive’s dream newsroom: one without any journalists in it. But the AI news wire concept won’t really work because nothing ever works. For very long, at least. The only thing harder to please than journalists are readers. And I have endless faith in an online audience’s ability to lose interest. They got sick of lists, they got sick of Facebook-powered human interest social news stories, they got sick of tweet roundups, and, soon, they will get sick of “news” entirely once AI finally strips it of all its novelty and personality. And when the next pivot happens — and it will — I, for one, am betting humans figure out how to adapt faster than machines.

Source: Garbage Day

Image: DALL-E 3