Billions are being poured into AI, but what will this mean for our futures? Most of the talk is about existential risks and shorter-term issues, like bias. Meanwhile data is being harvested at massive scale, with little consideration of the collateral damage. Not enough is being said about how this will influence our informational landscape, so let’s try to correct that.
In August, Wired published an insightful and beautifully-lyrical piece: “Google's Answer Box Changed the Meaning of Information”. In it Elan Ullendorff worries “that the Answer Box is a premonition of where Google wants to go, a future in which we’re hurried toward destinations, journey be damned, and links are only included out of obligation, rather than invitation”. Well, as we pointed out in a previous blog post, Google has been heading that way for at least 14 years. Their move from being a search engine, to an answer engine, was on course well before generative AI came along. Now it is being sped up in the race for AI supremacy, and in the process it both suppresses and pollutes the web.
The race for AI supremacy is primarily about money and the power of having “one model to rule them all”. By model, we mean an AI model of human knowledge. The current main battleground is Large Language Models (LLMs), but an all-conquering multi-modal AI is the dream of every (aspiring) monopolist. Of course, a model needs a platform, and that platform is already in place for Google and Apple. After all, the search box is moulded into every browser and mobile device, and works as a prompt box for LLMs. When you control the distribution, you gain the power and influence to rule us all.