This view will likely be proven wrong – and soon, as AI is on the cusp of revolutionizing the entire information architecture. You will have to learn how to use the Internet again.
The infrastructure of the consumer internet has not changed much over the past ten years. Facebook, Google, and Twitter remain recognizable versions of their former selves. The browser retains its central role. Video has grown in importance, but that’s not a huge shift in how things work.
Change is coming. Think of Twitter, which I use every morning to gather information about the world. Less than two years from now I’ll probably talk to my computer, outline the topics that interest me, and someone’s version of the AI will come back to me as a sort of Twitter remix, in a readable format tailored to my needs.
AI will also not only be responsive, but also active. Maybe he’ll tell me, “Today you really need to read about Russia and the changes in the UK government.” Or I might say, “More serendipity today, please,” and that wish will be fulfilled.
I can also ask, “What do my friends intend to do?” I will receive a useful summary of web services and social media. Or I can ask the AI to provide content in various foreign languages, all accurately translated. More often than not you won’t use Google, you will ask your question to the AI and you will receive an answer, in audio form for your commute if you like. If your friends are particularly interested in some videos or clips from news stories, they will most likely be sent to you.
In short, many of today’s core Internet services will be mediated by artificial intelligence. This will create a new kind of user experience.
It is unlikely that essential services will disappear. People will still be on Google, and people will still read and write on their Facebook pages. But more will go directly to the AI complex. This dynamic is already happening: When was the last time you asked for directions from Google? It’s online of course, but if you’re like me, you use Google Maps and GPS directly. I actually moved to the information aggregator.
Or consider blogging, which arguably peaked between 2001 and 2012. Then Twitter and Facebook became aggregators of blogging content. Blogs are still numerous, but many people can access them directly through aggregators. Now this process will take another step – because existing compilers will be assembled and organised, by super-intelligent forms of machine intelligence.
The world of ideas will be turned upside down. Many intellectuals excel at promoting themselves on Twitter and other social media, and these opportunities may be diminished. There will be a new skill – upgrading oneself to artificial intelligence – that is still unknown.
It remains to be seen how AI systems will select and attribute core content, and which types of packages users (with or without author images?) will prefer. To the extent that users want to answer, the extra moderators will be removed. Why should a think-tank bother to prepare a policy report, if it is to be added to what are essentially brief notes without explicit sources? In general, those who are happy to produce content with a little credit, such as Wikipedia editors, may gain influence.
And what about competition within AI itself? The dominant AI will likely cite primary sources, to ensure that content continues to be generated and a healthy information ecosystem is maintained until it is harvested. By contrast, in a more competitive AI sector, there is a risk of content being dismantled but not updated with the proper credit, which is where the free rider problem can start.
Another question is who will reap the benefits from these innovations – the new AI companies, the old big tech companies, or the internet users? It’s too early to tell, but some analysts are optimistic about new AI companies.
Of course all this is just one man’s opinion. If you disagree, in a few years you will be able to ask the new AI engines what they think.
More from Bloomberg Opinion:
• Google’s AI videos point to a machine-generated future: Parmi Olson
• Drug discovery is about to get faster. Thank AI: Lisa Jarvis
• AI Panned My Script. Can He Break Hollywood?: Trung Fan
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial staff or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Tyler Coen is a columnist for the Bloomberg Opinion. He is professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. Co-author of Talent: How to Recognize Power Factors, Creators, and Winners Around the World.
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion