This view is likely to prove wrong – and soon, as AI is poised to revolutionize our entire information architecture. You will have to relearn how to use the Internet.
The basic architecture of the consumer Internet hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years. Facebook, Google and Twitter remain recognizable versions of themselves. The browser retains its central role. Video has grown in prominence, but that hardly represents a major change in the way things work.
Change is coming. Consider Twitter, which I use every morning to gather information from the world. In less than two years, maybe I’ll be talking into my computer, laying out my topics of interest, and someone’s version of the AI will spit out some sort of Twitter remix at me, in a readable format suitable for my needs.
The AI will also be not only responsive but active. Maybe he will say to me: “Today you really need to read about Russia and the changes in the British government”. Or I could say, “More serendipity today, please,” and that wish would be granted.
I might also ask, “What are my friends doing? and I would receive a useful summary from web services and social media. Or I could ask the AI for content in a variety of foreign languages, all impeccably translated. Quite often you won’t use Google, you’ll just ask the AI your question and get an answer, in audio form for your ride if you want. If your friends were particularly interested in video clips or bits of news stories, these might be more likely to be sent to you.
In short, many of today’s basic Internet services will be provided by AI. It will create a fundamentally new type of user experience.
The underlying services are unlikely to disappear. People will continue to Google things, and people will continue to read and write on their Facebook pages. But others will jump straight to the AI aggregator. This dynamic is already underway: 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 indeed switched to the information aggregator.
Or consider blogging, which arguably peaked between 2001 and 2012. Then Twitter and Facebook became blog content aggregators. Blogs are still plentiful, but many people access them directly through aggregators. Now, this process will take another step – because today’s aggregators will themselves be aggregated and organized, by super-intelligent forms of artificial 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 may dwindle. There will be a new skill – promote yourself to AI – of a yet unknown nature.
It remains to be seen how the AIs will choose and credit the underlying content, and what types of packages users will prefer (with or without author photos?). To the extent that users simply want an answer, additional intermediaries will be moved. Why should a think tank bother to produce a political report, if it is to be added to what are essentially briefing notes with no explicit source? Overall, those who simply produce content with little credit, such as Wikipedia editors, can gain influence.
And what about competition within AI itself? A dominant AI is more likely to cite underlying sources, ensure content generation continues, and maintain a healthy information ecosystem to harvest. In a more competitive AI industry, on the other hand, there is a risk of cannibalizing content but not refreshing it with the credit it is due, as a free rider problem could arise.
Another question is who will reap the benefits of these innovations – new AI companies, old big tech companies, or internet users? It’s too early to tell, but some analysts are optimistic about new AI companies.
Of course, this is all just one man’s opinion. If you disagree, in a few years you can ask the 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 about to accelerate. Thanks to AI: Lisa Jarvis
• AI pans my scenario. Can he crack Hollywood? : Trung Phan
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of 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 co-author of “Talent: How to Identify the Energizers, Creatives and Winners in the World”.
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion
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