1h 25 min

Will A.I. Break the Internet? Or Save It‪?‬ The Ezra Klein Show

    • Sociedade e cultura

The internet is in decay. Do a Google search, and there are so many websites now filled with slapdash content contorted just to rank highly in the algorithm. Facebook, YouTube, X and TikTok all used to feel more fun and surprising. And all these once-great media companies have been folding or shedding staff members, unable to find a business model that works.

And into this weakened internet came the flood of A.I.-generated junk. There’s been a surge of spammy news sites filled with A.I.-generated articles. TikTok videos of A.I.-generated voices reading text pulled from Reddit can be churned out in seconds. And self-published A.I.-authored books are polluting Amazon listings.

According to my guest today, Nilay Patel, this isn’t just a blip, as the big platforms figure out how to manage this. He believes that A.I. content will break the internet as we know it.

“When you increase the supply of stuff onto those platforms to infinity, that system breaks down completely,” Patel told me “Recommendation algorithms break down completely. Our ability to discern what is real and what is false breaks down completely. And I think, importantly, the business models of the internet break down completely.”

Patel is one of the sharpest observers of the internet, and the ways technology has shaped and reshaped it. He’s a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Verge, and the host of the “Decoder” podcast. In this conversation, we talk about why platforms seem so unprepared for the storm of A.I. content; whether an internet filled with cursory A.I. content is better or worse than an internet filled with good A.I. content; and if A.I. might be a kind of cleansing fire for the internet that enables something new and better to emerge.

Mentioned:

Help us win a Webby Award

“Scenes from a dying web” by Casey Newton

“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin

“257 CES gadgets in 3 minutes — CES 2015” by The Verge

Book Recommendations:

The Conquest of Cool by Thomas Frank

Liar in a Crowded Theater by Jeff Kosseff

Substance by Peter Hook

Everything I Need I Get From You by Kaitlyn Tiffany

Extremely Hardcore by Zoe Schiffer

Beyond Measure by James Vincent

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Claire Gordon. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, with Kate Sinclair and Mary Marge Locker. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld, with additional mixing from Isaac Jones and Efim Shapiro. Our senior editor is Claire Gordon. The show’s production team also includes Annie Galvin, Rollin Hu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

The internet is in decay. Do a Google search, and there are so many websites now filled with slapdash content contorted just to rank highly in the algorithm. Facebook, YouTube, X and TikTok all used to feel more fun and surprising. And all these once-great media companies have been folding or shedding staff members, unable to find a business model that works.

And into this weakened internet came the flood of A.I.-generated junk. There’s been a surge of spammy news sites filled with A.I.-generated articles. TikTok videos of A.I.-generated voices reading text pulled from Reddit can be churned out in seconds. And self-published A.I.-authored books are polluting Amazon listings.

According to my guest today, Nilay Patel, this isn’t just a blip, as the big platforms figure out how to manage this. He believes that A.I. content will break the internet as we know it.

“When you increase the supply of stuff onto those platforms to infinity, that system breaks down completely,” Patel told me “Recommendation algorithms break down completely. Our ability to discern what is real and what is false breaks down completely. And I think, importantly, the business models of the internet break down completely.”

Patel is one of the sharpest observers of the internet, and the ways technology has shaped and reshaped it. He’s a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Verge, and the host of the “Decoder” podcast. In this conversation, we talk about why platforms seem so unprepared for the storm of A.I. content; whether an internet filled with cursory A.I. content is better or worse than an internet filled with good A.I. content; and if A.I. might be a kind of cleansing fire for the internet that enables something new and better to emerge.

Mentioned:

Help us win a Webby Award

“Scenes from a dying web” by Casey Newton

“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin

“257 CES gadgets in 3 minutes — CES 2015” by The Verge

Book Recommendations:

The Conquest of Cool by Thomas Frank

Liar in a Crowded Theater by Jeff Kosseff

Substance by Peter Hook

Everything I Need I Get From You by Kaitlyn Tiffany

Extremely Hardcore by Zoe Schiffer

Beyond Measure by James Vincent

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Claire Gordon. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, with Kate Sinclair and Mary Marge Locker. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld, with additional mixing from Isaac Jones and Efim Shapiro. Our senior editor is Claire Gordon. The show’s production team also includes Annie Galvin, Rollin Hu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

1h 25 min

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