Humans are pushing AI into everything because it’s cheaper than humans. But I have an edge: I put my soul into my writing, a human communicating with humans.
By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.
AI – which stands for Artificial Intelligence or perhaps Artificial Idiocy – has been around for years, and just about everyone in the US has had contact with it, either wittingly or unwittingly, ranging from chatbots that make you want you to shoot your phone to automated diagnostics of medical tests.
“Generative AI” – the thing that writes articles and legal briefs (more on that in a moment), and creates images, videos, and music – has also been around for years, but it recently burst on the public scene with enormous human-driven hype and hoopla that had ridiculous effects on certain stocks.
So already back in 2016, even my little WOLF STREET media mogul empire was contacted by email by a company with a generative AI bot that would write entire articles. They wanted me to try it for articles on WOLF STREET. They sent me some links to articles that their thing had written and that had been published and were out there.
To which I replied, after reading a few of them: “Interesting. And pretty good. Reading something that has been written by an algorithm is tough. It sounds wooden and is hard to focus on. I’ve noticed this before by some news releases written by an algo. Algos don’t know yet how to tell a story. Not yet.”
Since then, AI-written articles have cropped up everywhere, sometimes backed by human editors, and sometimes not, at Bloomberg, Reuters, MarketWatch, etc.
Now, generative AI is trying again to get into the door at WOLF STREET. This time, it’s a big deal. The hype has gotten everywhere, and everyone now has to offer generative AI.
Let me drag you into the technical weeds of websites here for a minute. WOLF STREET uses WordPress (WP) software to manage the content so that you can actually see and read the stuff. The company that created WP (Automattic) also offers a plugin for WP called Jetpack which provides all kinds of additional functionalities, such as the commenting system below every article, a spam filter, offsite backup, etc. Some of them are free, others are paid services.
A couple of days ago I got an email from the Jetpack Research Team, introducing their new “Jetpack AI Assistant.” It integrates “seamlessly” and “effortlessly” into WP and offers “AI-powered content generation” as it “crafts compelling blog posts, detailed pages, structured lists, and comprehensive tables — all customized to match your unique requirements.”
And it comes with an “adaptive tone adjustment” – that will imitate my inimitable style?
So this is now everywhere. The vast majority of the blogosphere and lots of large media sites run on WordPress. They include, according to a list by WPBeginner: Sony Music, TechCrunch, Meta Newsroom, Time Magazine, CNN Press Room, Disney Books, Rolling Stone, Spotify Newsroom, Vogue, the New York Post, the… uhm… White House (whitehouse.gov)….
So I reached out to the White House and asked if they’re going to use the “Jetpack AI Assistant” to write articles posted on whitehouse.gov, and if they’re even considering using AI for articles on their site.
As of this moment, I have not heard back from the White House. I will post an update, likely in the comments, when I hear back from the White House. It will likely be an AI-generated email. I’ve gotten a couple of those before. They get lots of stuff in their inbox, and AI is really fast.
And by now, the “not yet” of my 2016 email has arrived. Those algos have gotten good at writing a story. They find stuff on the internet or wherever and mix it with stuff they just make up and then put it into nicely fluent English to create what is technically known as “fluent bullshit.” Humans are good at it too.
And that’s great for some things. But not so great for others. The thing is, “fluent bullshit,” while possibly fun to read and watch, is the scourge of the internet, no matter who creates it, human or AI. But AI can do it so fast and effortlessly and can flood everything with it.
This stuff is already everywhere. For example, a lawyer got in trouble with US District judge Kevin Castel at the Manhattan federal court and now faces sanctions because he filed a court brief written by the generative AI service ChatGPT – at the core of the current hype and hoopla: It had invented six court cases cited in the brief.
These six fraudulent citations came out after the lawyers of the defendant, Avianca Airlines, filed papers stating that they couldn’t find the cases.
“I just never could imagine that ChatGPT would produce fabricated cases,” the lawyer Steven Schwartz told the judge. I mean this stuff is hilarious. Bloomberg reported it:
The judge asked Schwartz whether he was suspicious of one of the main phony cases cited in the brief, the non-existent “Varghese v. China South Airlines Co.,” which the judge said included information that made no sense.
“Can we agree that is legal gibberish?” Castel asked.
Like I said, AI likely stands for Artificial Idiocy.
So now Jetpack wants me to use AI to generate my articles. And not just me – everyone else that uses WordPress for their publications. I can’t wait to hear what the White House’s AI email generator has to say about that.
“Generative AI” will keep getting better. It has already come a long way since I first checked it out in 2016. What if (someday) it can write articles in sort-of my style and with sort-of my twisted humor that are of sort-of the same quality as my articles and based on actual data and sources, and not invented stuff? I could trigger and factcheck five articles in a few hours every day, and be done with it?
If Ai can do it, anyone can do it. And if anyone can do it, it’s not worth doing.
Here is my strategy to stay relevant and not just as a lowly factchecker behind AI: I put my soul into my stuff, a human communicating with humans. That has always been the case, and it will always be the case. That’s going to be my edge in this new publishing era dominated by AI, knock on wood.
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