Over the last couple of months, most of the major platforms (we’re all still waiting to see what Apple will do) have all suddenly banked into the curve made possible by the public uptake of Midjourney and GPT-4, and have thrown everything they have into Artificial Intelligence. All the subsequent calls of concern and alarm have not stopped the speed or shift in this direction.
In this post, I want to bring to your attention one particular cause of concern that I have heard from a number of different creators: these new systems (Google’s Bard, the new Bing, ChatGPT) are designed to bypass creators work on the web entirely as users are presented extracted text with no source. As such, these systems disincentivize creators from sharing works on the internet as they will no longer receive traffic and advertising revenue from that traffic.
Hank Green captures this concern very well in this TikTok:
(link: ♬ original sound – link) :
Reacting to a similar fear, the introduction of GitHub Copilot, which “uses the OpenAI Codex to suggest code and entire functions in real-time, right from your editor”, prompted a November 2022 lawsuit based on the concern that the product would erase Open Source Communities.
As I alluded to in a post from January of this year, publishers who use open licensing are now feeling afraid that their works might be harvested by AI systems and in response, are considering stricter licensing terms.
Here is a recent post from the CEO of Medium:
And it is this response from Anil Dash that I have kept turning over in my mind for the last couple of days:
“Perhaps the requirement should have been equity, not attribution”.
How could we possibly provide equity for content on the internet?
Those who are currently wrecking everything that we collectively built on the internet already have the answer waiting for us: web3.
This video from Garbage Day‘s Ryan Broderick points out this bait and switch:
This is the story of how, first, social media companies turned the wild west of the open web into a walled garden and, then, how they decided they wanted to turn that walled garden into a country club where you have to pay to view your own content.
Need more evidence? Consider this: why is Elon Musk torpedoing Twitter with breath-taking speed and force? While many, many stories concentrate on the man’s insatiable ego, I find that this reasoning from Paris Marx as much more compelling:
In a Q&A on Twitter Spaces in early November, Musk outlined a longer term plan for Twitter. He saw paid verification as a way to reduce bot and scam accounts because they would not only need to pay, but would need a unique credit card. On top of that, “creators” would be able to make money on the service — something Musk reiterated recently, though with no details — and that would be a way to begin promoting Twitter as a payments service because you could keep that money within Twitter and transfer it to others. Musk said Twitter may even offer $10 incentives for people to sign up for its payments service, then it could add additional financial services like debit cards and money market accounts. And that would be part of a “superapp” with many different services on top of social media and payments.
Let us not be naive: the decimation of the existing incentive models for internet creators and communities (as flawed as they are) is not a bug: it’s a feature.
The purpose of a system is what it does.