Get Ready to Relearn How to Use the Internet


This year there has been a lot of innovation in artificial intelligence, which I try to keep up with, but too many people do not appreciate the import of what is coming. I used to hear comments like, “That’s a cool image, a graphic designer would work with that,” or, “GPT-3 is cool, it’ll be easier to cheat on term papers.” Then they end by saying: “But it won’t change my life.”

This view is likely to be proven wrong – and soon, as AI is about to transform our entire information architecture. You need to learn how to use the internet again.

The core architecture of the consumer internet has not changed over the past 10 years. Facebook, Google and Twitter are still recognizable versions of their previous selves. The browser retains its central role. Video has grown in importance, but that hardly represents a significant shift in the way things work.

Change is coming. Consider Twitter, which I use every morning to gather information about the world. Less than two years from now, maybe I will speak on my computer, outline my topics of interest, and someone else’s version of AI will spit back to me like a Twitter remix, in a format that can be read and tailored to my needs.

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

I might as well ask, “What are my friends planning?” and I will get useful digest from web services and social media. Or I can ask the AI ​​for content in various foreign languages, all impeccably translated. Most of the time you won’t use Google, you’ll just ask the AI ​​your question and get the answer, in audio form for your commute if you like. If your friend is particularly interested in some video clip or excerpt from a news story, they will likely send it to you.

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

It is unlikely that basic 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 AI aggregators. This dynamic has happened: When was the last time you asked Google for directions? It’s online, of course, but if you’re like me, you just use Google maps and live GPS. You have moved to an information aggregator.

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Or consider blogs, which arguably peaked between 2001 and 2012. Then Twitter and Facebook became blog content aggregators. There are still many blogs, but many people get access to them directly through aggregators. Now that process will take another step – because the aggregators themselves will now be organized and managed, by a super-smart form of machine intelligence.

The world of ideas will be turned upside down. Many public intellectuals excel at self-promotion on Twitter and other social media, and that opportunity can diminish. There will be a new skill – promoting yourself to AI – which is still unknown.

It remains to be seen how the AI ​​will select and credit the underlying content, and what kind of packages will be of interest to users (with or without the author’s photo?). To the extent that users only want answers, yet additional intermediaries will be displaced. Why should a think tank bother producing a policy report, if it is going to be added to what is essentially a briefing note without explicit sources? Overall, people who enjoy producing content with little credit, such as Wikipedia editors, can be influential.

And what about the competition in AI itself? A dominant AI is more likely to cite existing sources, to ensure that content generation continues and preserve a healthy ecosystem of information to harvest. In the more competitive AI sector, on the other hand, there is a danger of destroying content but not refreshing it with proper credit, as the problem of free riders can emerge.

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Another question is who will reap the benefits of this innovation – new AI companies, old major tech companies, or internet users? It’s too early to know, but some analysts are confident about the new AI company.

Of course all of this is just one man’s opinion. If you disagree, in a few years you’ll be able to ask new AI machines what they think.

More From Bloomberg Opinion:

• Google’s AI Video Points to a Machine-Generated Future: Parmy Olson

• Drug Discovery Will Get Faster. Thanks AI: Lisa Jarvis

• AI Panned My Scenario. Can Hollywood Crack?: Trung Phan

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

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

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