That view is likely to be proven wrong—and soon, as artificial intelligence revolutionizes our entire information architecture. You will have to learn how to use the internet again.
The basic architecture of the consumer Internet has not changed much in the last 10 years. Facebook, Google and Twitter remain recognizable versions of their former selves. The browser maintains its central role. Video is increasingly important, but that hardly represents a major shift in how things work.
Change is coming. Consider Twitter, which I use every morning to gather information about the world. In less than two years, I might be talking into my computer, outlining topics I’m interested in, and someone’s version of artificial intelligence will return some sort of Twitter remix, readable and tailored to my needs.
Artificial intelligence will also not only be responsive, but also active. Maybe he’ll say to me, “You really need to read about Russia and the changes in the UK government today.” Or he could say, “More serendipity today, please,” and that wish would be granted.
You could also ask, “What are my friends doing?” and you would receive a useful summary of online and social networks. Or you could ask the AI for content in various foreign languages, all translated flawlessly. Very often you won’t be using Google, you’ll just ask the AI your question and get an answer, in audio form for your ride if you want. If your friends were particularly interested in certain videos or news clippings, they are more likely to send them to you.
In short, many current basic Internet services will be mediated by AI. This will create a whole new kind of user experience.
Essential services are unlikely to disappear. People will still search for things on Google and people will still read and write on their Facebook pages. And more will migrate directly to the AI collector. This dynamic is already happening: when was the last time you asked Google for directions? Sure, they exist online, but if you’re like me, you just use Google Maps and GPS directly. You have actually moved to an information aggregator.
Or consider blogs, which probably peaked between 2001 and 2012. Then Twitter and Facebook became aggregators of blog content. Weblogs still abound, but many people access them directly through aggregators. Now this process will take another step – because the current aggregators themselves will be aggregated and organized by super-smart forms of machine intelligence.
The world of ideas will be turned upside down. Many public intellectuals excel at promoting on Twitter and other social media, and those opportunities may dwindle. A new skill will appear — promoting yourself in AI — of an as yet unknown nature.
It remains to be seen how the AI will select and attribute the underlying content and what types of packages users will prefer (with or without copyright photos?). If users just want an answer, additional intermediaries will be displaced. Why would a think tank bother to produce a policy report if this is going to be added to what are essentially informative notes with no explicit source? In general, those who are happy to create content with little credit, such as Wikipedia editors, can gain influence.
But what about competition within artificial intelligence itself? A dominant AI is more likely to cite underlying sources to ensure content continues to be created and maintain a healthy information ecosystem that it can collect. Conversely, in the more competitive AI sector, there is a risk of cannibalizing content, but don’t refresh it with proper credit, as the free rider problem could arise.
Another question is who will reap the benefits of these innovations – the new AI companies, the old big tech companies, or Internet users? It’s too early to know, but some analysts are optimistic about new AI companies.
Of course, this is all just one person’s opinion. If you disagree, in a few years you’ll 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: Parmy Olson
• Drug discovery is about to get faster. Thanks AI: Lisa Jarvis
• AI Panned My Scenario. Can He Crack Hollywood?: Trung Phan
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial team or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Tyler Cowen is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the Marginal Revolution blog. He is the co-author of “Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World.”
More similar stories are available at bloomberg.com/opinion