Contemplating Content

By Mark Nuyens
7 min. read📱 Technology

Content in the near future may be generated by AI and it might become a challenge on how we decide to handle this at scale.

What does "content" mean these days exactly? In the context of the internet, it’s often associated with YouTubers, content creators who skillfully blend videos, photos and speech into captivating posts, shared and liked through social media. Yet, when we take a closer look at this content, we actually find a mosaic of smaller pieces of information, strategically arranged to convey a meaningful or engaging message. Today, artificial intelligence has already demonstrated its capabilities when it comes to generating stories, pictures, designs, music and human-like speech. Now what if we'd ask it to merge all of this into one?

To understand how AI decides what's popular or aesthetically pleasing, you only need to consider the vast amounts of internet content, spanning decades. The key lies in one piece of metadata in particular – the number of likes or other metrics indicating positive engagement. In other words, if we enjoyed it or not. This data serves as the training ground for AI, a reservoir from which it learns to produce content precisely tailored to our preferences, possibly even in real-time. As consumers, our role will become even more influential, with each interaction contributing to the AI content generator.

Looking ahead, we might witness this AI engine transcending our traditional media, essentially becoming our own personal maestro, orchestrating content just for us. The idea of these machines being capable of autonomously generating and presenting content without human intervention would very much represent a paradigm shift in the consumption of information altogether. With the promise of increasing accessibility and entertainment also comes the potential for profound learning experiences, transforming education into an exciting adventure, replacing our boring, outdated textbooks.

However, such an ambitious goal doesn't come without potential risks. As AI would mirror our preferences, it may also expose the darker facets of human nature, similar to challenges already faced by chat bots today. Content ranging from dark humor to mature themes will likely be generated as well, with nobody to blame for it but ourselves (we published and consumed it in the first place, after all). This could become a real dilemma in terms of content moderation. We will have to decide not only if we can control and censor real-time generated content, given the rapid flow of data, but also if we want to control this, given how it’s tailored to individuals. It's certainly not a task for any human moderator. The velocity at which AI would generate content would make traditional content creators look sluggish in comparison.

As history has shown, the responsibility for steering this transformative development will likely rest on the same shoulders of those running the show right now, and whose visions will hopefully align with ours. In the current climate, these platforms would be TikTok and YouTube, however, time will tell if they will remain ahead in this race for high-quality AI content. It's clear that the emergence of alternatives and competitors will become crucial. Open-source initiatives could democratize things, allowing diverse solutions to shape content creation and provide consumers with more choice as a result.

Given this potential future, dominated by AI-generated content, we could ask ourselves: would this be a blessing, or rather a curse? Considering the intrinsic value of human-generated artistry and creativity, this might very well turn into a heated debate, that's for sure. At the same time, there's room for optimism, as AI-generated content could make acquiring new knowledge more accessible and entertaining, reinvigorate education and allow for human self-actualization. The outcome hinges on those holding the magic wand and consumers deciding on what content they truly value.