Get Ready to Relearn How to Use the Internet


This year has brought a lot of innovation in artificial intelligence, which I have tried to keep up with, but too many people still do not appreciate the import of what is to come. I often hear comments like, “These are cool images, graphic designers will work with this,” or, “GPT-3 is cool, it will be easier to cheat on term papers.” And then they end up saying: “But it won’t change my life.”

This view is likely to be proven wrong – and soon, as AI is about to revolutionize our entire information architecture. You will have to learn how to use the Internet all over again.

The core architecture of the consumer internet hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years. Facebook, Google and Twitter remain recognizable versions of their former selves. The browser maintains its central role. Video has risen in importance, but that hardly represents a major shift in how things work.

Changes are coming. Consider Twitter, which I use every morning to gather information about the world. Less than two years from now, maybe I’ll be talking into my computer, ticking off my topics of interest, and someone’s version of​​​​ AI will spit back at me some kind of Twitter remix, in a readable format and tailored to My needs.

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The AI ​​also will be not only responsive but active. Maybe it will tell me, “Today you really need to read about Russia and changes in the UK government.” Or I could say, “More serendipity today, please,” and that wish would be granted.

I can also ask, “Who are my friends?” And I would get a useful summary of web and social media services. Or I could ask the AI ​​for content in a variety of foreign languages, all impeccably translated. Very often you won’t use Google, you’ll just ask the AI ​​your question and get an answer in audio form for your commute if you want. If your friends are particularly interested in some video clips or passages of news stories, they may be more likely to be sent to you.

In short, many of the current core internet services will be mediated by AI. This will create a fundamentally new kind of user experience.

It is unlikely that the underlying services will disappear. People will still Google things, and people will still read and write on their Facebook pages. But more will move directly to the AI ​​aggregator. This dynamic is already happening: When was the last time you asked Google for directions? They exist online, of course, but if you’re like me, you just use Google Maps and GPS directly. You have actually moved to the information aggregator.

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Or consider blogs, which arguably peaked between 2001 and 2012. Then Twitter and Facebook became aggregators of blog content. Blogs are still numerous, but many people gain access to them directly through aggregators. Now the process will take another step – because the current aggregators will be aggregated and organized by super-smart forms of machine intelligence.

The world of ideas will be upside down. Many public intellectuals excel at promoting themselves on Twitter and other social media, and those opportunities may dwindle. There will be a new skill – promoting yourself to the AI ​​- of a still unknown nature.

It remains to be seen how the AI ​​will choose and credit underlying content, and what types of packages users will prefer (with or without author photos?). To the extent the user only wants an answer, additional intermediaries will be displaced. Why should a think tank bother to produce a policy report, if it is to be added to what are essentially briefing notes with no explicit sourcing? Overall, those who are happy to produce content with little credit, such as Wikipedia editors, can gain influence.

And what about competition in AI itself? A dominant AI is more likely to cite underlying sources, to ensure that content generation continues and to preserve a healthy information ecosystem for it to harvest. In a more competitive AI sector, by contrast, there is a danger of cannibalizing content, but not refreshing it with due credit, as a free-rider problem can arise.

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Another question is who will reap the benefits of these innovations – the new AI companies, the old major tech companies or Internet users? It’s too soon to know, but some analysts are bullish about the new AI companies.

Of course all this is just one person’s opinion. If you don’t agree, in a few years you’ll be able to ask the new AI engines what they think.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• Google’s AI videos point to a machine-generated future: Parmi Olson

• Drug discovery is about to get faster. Thanks AI: Lisa Jarvis

• AI pand my screenplay. Can it crack Hollywood?: Trung Fan

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Taylor Cowen is a Bloomberg opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. He is coauthor of “Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World.”

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