Get Ready to Relearn How to Use the Internet


There has been a lot of innovation in artificial intelligence this year, which I’ve tried to keep up with, but many people still don’t appreciate the import of what’s to come. I often hear comments like, “Those are great images, a graphic designer will work on them,” or, “GPT-3 is great, it will be easy to cheat on term papers.” And then he ends by saying: “But it won’t change my life.”

This view is likely to be proven wrong — and soon, AI will revolutionize our entire information architecture. You have to learn how to use the internet again and again.

The basic structure of the consumer Internet has not changed much in the last 10 years. Facebook, Google and Twitter are recognizable versions of their former selves. The browser retains its central role. Video has grown in importance, but it doesn’t represent a huge change in how 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’ll be talking at my computer, outlining topics I’m interested in, and someone’s version of AI will send me some sort of Twitter remix, readable and tailored to my needs.

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

I can also ask, “What are my friends doing?” And I will get useful information about web and social media services. Or I can ask the AI ​​for content in various foreign languages, all translated flawlessly. Most of the time you don’t use Google, you just ask the AI ​​your question and you get the answer in audio form for your journey if you want. If your friends are particularly interested in certain video clips or news articles, they are more likely to be sent to you.

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

Inherent services are unlikely to disappear. People will still Google things, and people will still read and write on their Facebook pages. But more will go directly to AI aggregators. 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 effectively turned into an information aggregator.

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Or consider blogs, which arguably peaked between 2001 and 2012. Later Twitter and Facebook became aggregators of blog content. Blogs are still numerous, but many people gain access to them directly through aggregators. Now that process is about to take a step further – as current collectors will be assembled and organized by themselves, through a super-smart form of machine intelligence.

The world of ideas will be turned upside down. Many public intellectuals excel at promoting themselves on Twitter and other social media, and those opportunities can be limited. A new skill — promoting yourself to AI — will be of a still unknown nature.

It remains to be seen how AIs will select and credit the underlying content, and what kind of packages users will prefer (with or without an author photo?). Users just want an answer, yet additional intermediaries will be removed. Why should a think tank bother to produce a policy report if it will be appended to briefing notes with no clear sourcing? Overall, those who are happy to create content with less credit, such as Wikipedia editors, can gain influence.

And what about the competition in AI itself? A dominant AI is more likely to cite underlying sources, ensuring that content creation continues and preserving a healthy information ecosystem for harvesting. In the more competitive AI field, by contrast, there is a risk of cannibalizing content but not refreshing it with due credit, as a free-rider problem can occur.

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Another question is who will benefit from these innovations – the new AI companies, the big old tech companies or the Internet users? It’s too early to know, but some analysts are bullish about new AI companies.

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

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

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

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

• AI panned my screenplay. Could It Crack Hollywood?: Trung Phan

This column does not reflect the views 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 blog Marginal Revolution. He is the coauthor of “Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World.”

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