Mar 11, 2023·edited Mar 11, 2023

I'm hoping for the same thing, but oddly enough, so is Google Search. This seems apparent in their shift away from banning AI content as spam to refocusing on their goal of demoting spam and spammy writing. AI writing may reach the "adequate" level of mediocre human writers driven by SEO analytics. Whoever/whatever writes it, this "content" may be useful but not as helpful as writing with uniquely human qualities: experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Supposedly that is what Google wants.

However clearly this policy might be stated and restated, search remains dominated by those who buy and interrupt their way to the top. It's a handful of media companies, like Hearst, that dominate "organic" search results. Maybe those companies are better at understanding (and seeking out in writers) what you referred to on Twitter as "the nuances of conveying intention," but I think I would've noticed it if they did. That suggests to me there is an intractable human insistence on using media for dehumanized and manipulative communication that really may just come down to a matter of what you seem to be dismissing as "taste."

AI writing comes out best when a knowledgable person creates a very good prompt that establishes context, specific details, and multiple directions a decent human writer would have to understand to write something on the same subject. So even if AI ever gets past the problem of "hallucinating" in long form writing, it still needs to operate as a tool of a human author who supplies the communicative intention. If that intention is saddled with the need for every bit of content to be directly monetized, that's where the real problem lies, I think. It's the oldest problem in publishing, but it's only intensified with time. It's not just "capitalism" that drives that overriding need to commodify everything and extract profits — it's capitalism mediated by people whose "taste" allows them to do that kind of work or press others to do it, with or without AI tools, without any resistance. Do the minimum and get out — that's all you're paid to do.

Contrary to what you say about "taste," it's hard for me to separate that from what one thinks about the boundaries of appropriate communication and relationships, including those between a brand and its audience or customers mediated by writers and other "creatives." It's taste but also wisdom, certain values, an ethic, and a business pragmatism that sees a need for creative freedom and personality (in both marketing and public-interest media) while also curbing micromanagement. The proliferation of crap content (in any era) may have more to do with editors and collaborative writing being replaced not with committees or machinery but with beancounters of some kind, search analytics, etc. And that's in poor taste. It's bad for brands that aren't already identified with crap. Of course it's death for anything in the public interest or not alignable with a corporate profit motive. AI might help scale up the crap production to the point we're forced into the kind of dilemma you've described, but AI is incidental — it's just the lastest tool people will use to dehumanize each other.

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I’m certainly not as deep and smart about this as you but I wrote about the real consequence to culture as AI keeps us stuck in the “doom loop.”

It will keep us continually stuck in the past and doomed with the inability to move on. Anything that it creates, literally anything, by design, is a revival of past cultural forms.

Always appreciate your deep thinking on this revolution of culture.


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