Erik Hoel on AI ‘garbage’ polluting our culture

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I do not recall enjoying the title of an article in the recent past as much as I enjoyed this one. AI is truly generating garbage and I had thought there was no better way of describing it than as pollution on the internet, sort of like space junk woven deep into the fabric of our society. But Erik Hoel does one better, calling AI garbage that is polluting our culture.

Self-congratulatory words such as “meticulous”, “commendable” and “intricate” have increased in usage not among the public but, alarmingly, amongst peer reviewrs of AI-related academic studies. If you recall the fiasco with “delve” and how people would catch AI-generated text because it was unnaturally liberal with that word, add these to the list. We are slowly cordoning the dictionary off.

On the other hand Mr Hoel points to how every tweet gathers a few AI replies, lots of AI-generated images have flooded online publications, and AI-driven article storms (as I like to call them anyway) are an advertised SEO ‘strategy’ today.

My worry is that these low quality nonsensical content that AI is being used to generate will, presumably, be AI-fodder in the future. A nonsense spewing machine will learn from its own nonsense and reinforce its identity around such nonsense. And as more of this proliferates in society just how nonsensical will our society have become? How greatly will we have normalised garbage?

Mr Hoel asks poignantly, “Isn’t it possible that human culture contains within it cognitive micronutrients—things like cohesive sentences, narrations and character continuity—that developing brains need?”

Among all the ‘threats’ from AI that we kept talking about, this is quite possibly one of the worst. In any case I do not think a lot of us even foresaw this. A society built on nonsense can perish in the blink of an eye. There is a lot more in the Times article that I will not spoil here.

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