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Article from Issue 284/2024
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AI has continued its meteoric rise in the news headlines and stock market reports. Companies are betting their futures on AI, and the whole tech world seems tuned in, breathlessly waiting for a clue about where it might be going. But despite all the media hoopla, AI is not having a great month.

Dear Reader,

AI has continued its meteoric rise in the news headlines and stock market reports. Companies are betting their futures on AI, and the whole tech world seems tuned in, breathlessly waiting for a clue about where it might be going. But despite all the media hoopla, AI is not having a great month.

It seems like every time I look at the news, something or someone is pushing back. Sony just issued a warning not to use its content to train AI [1]. Here in the open source space, NetBSD announced that it is banning all AI-generated code [2]. Even TikTok, which is no stranger to its own controversies, announced that it will start watermarking AI-generated images posted on the platform [3].

Some of the scandals tear a bit deeper into the fabric of the culture. The US Publisher Wiley just announced that it is closing down 19 scholarly journals, in part due to their publishing AI-generated articles from so-called paper mills that generate academic papers for hire. The company has apparently had to withdraw 11,300 papers in the past two years due to authenticity issues. The article in The Register  [4] also notes that the number of computer science papers submitted to the online archive arXiv over the past four years (a time frame coinciding with the rise of ChatGPT and other AI tools) is up by 200 percent. (Are computer scientists that much more productive than they were four years ago, or is something else going on?) Even National Public Radio got into the act, with a report on the content company AdVon, which has passed off AI-generated articles and product reviews to mainstream publications like Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, and the Miami Herald [5].

Even the mighty Google is getting pushback over the excesses of its AI vision. Last month, I wrote about Google's new plan to answer queries with AI-generated responses, rather than displaying links to the sites that served as the actual source of the information [6]. Based on feedback (read: "outcry"), they have now announced that they will make it possible to see the good ol' web links without scrolling to the bottom of the screen – although you will have to click a couple of menu options to get Google to cough up what we used to call the "search results" [7].

We don't know yet whether people will actually click on these search menu options – and if they do, will Google go back to the old way and stop trying to morph itself into the world's AI answer-bot? Will the outcry over AI-generated articles and fake product reviews cause us to renew our respect for journalism? Or are we merely "training" the AI to get better at faking?

I have no illusions that these pushback efforts will stall the rising momentum of AI, but the fact is, with our government leaders embroiled in the vital business of investigating each other and raising money for the next election cycle, these kinds of consumer-based checks are about the only meaningful restraints we have right now on the AI industry. If nothing else, they promote discussion, and we need a lot more discussion to chart a safe course through these unknown waters.

Editor in Chief,

Joe Casad

Infos

  1. Sony AI training opt out: https://www.sonymusic.com/sonymusic/declaration-of-ai-training-opt-out/
  2. NetBSD Commit Guidelines: https://www.netbsd.org/developers/commit-guidelines.html
  3. TikTok on AI transparency: https://newsroom.tiktok.com/en-us/partnering-with-our-industry-to-advance-ai-transparency-and-literacy
  4. "Wiley Shuts Down 19 Scholarly Journals Amid AI Paper Mill Problems" by Thomas Claburn, The Register, May 16, 2024 : https://www.theregister.com/2024/05/16/wiley_journals_ai/
  5. "AI-Generated Articles are Permeating Major News Publications" by Kathryn Fink, Christopher Intagliata, and Ailsa Chang, NPR, May 16, 2024: https://www.npr.org/2024/05/16/1251917136/ai-generated-articles-are-permeating-major-news-publications
  6. "Sure You Need This Toy" by Joe Casad, Linux Magazine, issue 283, June 2024: https://www.linux-magazine.com/Issues/2024/283/Welcome
  7. "Revolutionary New Google Feature Hidden Under 'More' Tab Shows Links to Web Pages" by Samantha Cole, 404 Media, May 15, 2024: https://www.404media.co/google-search-web-filter-ai-overview/

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