Bots Won't Take Over the Web in the Future - They Already Have

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The world of content is changing fast. There is a growing demand for quality content, and there are many different challenges that need to be addressed. What if there was a way to meet this demand efficiently? Enter artificial intelligence (AI) and its ability to create content with the help of algorithms.

To some people, using AI to create content might seem like an unnatural idea. After all, words are sacred and putting them in the hands of machines seems almost sacrilegious at first glance. However, as more businesses adopt these practices that take advantage of AI-generated articles, the more commonplace it will become in the world of content creation.  This blog post covers everything you need to know about AI-generated articles and why you should care about this trend moving forward.

The first two paragraphs of this blog post are in bold, not because I want to draw attention to them. Well, I do want to draw attention to them but not because I wrote them. I didn't write them. No one wrote them - or rather no human wrote them. It is AI-generated content, and I must admit, it's pretty convincing.

To be honest, I must first disclose my bias. I'm a writer. I'd like to think I'm even a pretty decent writer. Because of this, the thought of putting the web "in the hands of machines," as my friend ghost bot writer said, is not just disconcerting, it raises ethical concerns as well. As you can tell by those paragraphs, however, it's not as easy to spot a bot as you might think, and this isn't just a foreshadowing of the future. Much of the web you read today is already being generated by artificial intelligence.

Heart on Paper
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The site I used to generate my intro is called WriteSonic, and it is by no means the only AI article generator. It might not even be the best. In fact it was just the first one I found. Nevertheless, it's pretty sophisticated in terms of writing process and even idea generation. I have no doubt in its ability to create content, but just because you can do something does not necessarily mean you should.

Author Unknown

Obviously, one of the first ethical issues to address with AI content is that it is deceptive, if and only if the website owners choose to conceal the nature of the content. Unfortunately, that seems to be the norm. I've yet to read a byline that identified Lieutenant Commander Data or V.I.C.I. from Small Wonder as the author. That's not to say they lie. Many do not identify any author at all, as the content is cheap, quick and just meant to drive search engines and social media to them.

Photo from Memory Alpha

Information Overload

That leads to the second ethical issue. We now have a plethora of Web content that serves no real purpose. As a librarian, my instinct would be to weed out most of this fringe content, but no one curates the Web. It is seemingly eternal and unending. You don't need 500,000 articles comparing German Shepherds to Belgian Malinois, but that is exactly the type of content that is repetitively sourced and produced on the web. And because an AI generates it to be unique, the articles are just different enough from each other to not be considered plagiarized.

What is Truth?

The next ethical question you might ask: Is the content even accurate? This one is difficult. First, there is just so much of it and, as I mentioned before, no curator. Search for an actor, for example, and you will receive an onslaught of celebrity "fact" sites that all have information about the actor but that all seem to be vague or even downright false. Even if you don't know the actual facts, many of the sites contradict each other. Some of them clearly scrape the Web for information, which might be useful if it were not a case of the ignorant leading the ignorant. AI is only as good as the people who create it and the data set it has at its disposal. Even if the algorithm is fantastic, a flawed data set will produce flawed results. In some cases, this can lead to racial bias, political upheaval and other real-world problems.

Working on new project on Kodebox Office in Prishtina, Kosovo.
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Three Laws of Robotics

AI-generated content might lack the feel of human input. Therefore, it is important for AI-generated content to be reviewed by humans to check for tone, vocabulary, and quality.

Wait! That sentence was written by my AI. Sorry, it's just so darn easy. Do I even need to write anymore?

In all seriousness, this is where things get tricky. The first law of robotics in Isaac Asimov's sci-fi vision is that no robot can harm a human or allow a human to be harmed. As we begin our journey into an AI-rich world, we seem to be ignoring ethics. Google, for example, the company that once had the motto "don't be evil," ditched its motto and has since fired and done everything it can to silence any AI ethics experts who don't fit within its corporate designs. And Google is far from the only company with ethical AI issues, many of which will have a direct impact on the quality, accuracy and viability of the Web.

AI-generated content can very easily become harmful, as we saw in the 2016 elections and in many of the fake articles and deepfakes that continually surface. Humans are still in the driver's seat for now. We haven't reached the point where AI has started to become independent and learn on its own, at least not outside of a controlled environment. Once we do, it will be vital to have some "laws of robotics" in place.

As Kuromon Market in Osaka was about to close for the evening I sampled some delicious king crab and did a final lap of the market when I stumbled upon one of the most Japanese scenes I could possibly imagine, a little girl, making friends with a robot.
Photo by Andy Kelly / Unsplash

Crypto bros want you to believe that Web 3.0 will be all about the blockchain, but one could argue (without even writing the argument themselves) that AI will define Web 3.0 and blockchain will likely only be one interconnected component of a bot-driven Web.

I learned to write machine learning python code from a YouTube video in about 10 minutes, so there is no putting this genie back in the bottle. Anyone can create AI and AI-generated content, and it will only get easier over time. With legal regulations and ethical standards, it can revolutionize the way we deliver and digest content, but without any restrictions, the future of the online world looks quite scary indeed.

Tavis J. Hampton

Tavis J. Hampton

IT worker with a master's in Library and Information Science currently working in the healthcare industry. Passionate about Free and Open Source software.