The dangers of artificial intelligence are already present in the algorithmic control of social media and search.

Tyler S. Farley

If you plan on creating any sort of content to be consumed on the internet, be it a written blog, a Facebook post, a YouTube video, or an Instagram account, the success of that content is at the whims of the now infamous “algorithm”.

As most people are aware by now, the algorithms behind these platforms and Google search results decides who sees your content, and whether or not that content gets promoted.

However, there is an issue that arrives from this. With all the information we consume on a daily basis being parsed and delivered by algorithms, it has created a disincentive to do anything that’s real or genuine. Instead, anyone creating anything on the internet is simply playing to the algorithm. You must play to the algorithm or nobody will ever see what you produced in the first place.

A perfect example of this is YouTube. Outrage and reaction videos are the result of people playing to the algorithm. A title and thumbnail will get attention, which in turn triggers the algorithm to believe those videos are popular, so the algorithm starts looking for similar videos to promote. This is why creators make hundreds of copy cat videos on the same subject. The algorithm is looking for these videos to promote, so if you feed it one, it promotes it for you.

Another obvious example you may have seen is the “10 minute” rule on YouTube videos. The algorithm prefers videos to be 10 minutes or longer for advertising revenue, so creators started padding out shorter videos just to reach the 10 minute mark. Once again, creators were simply creating content to please the algorithm, not their audience.

Blogs and online journalism has suffered the same fate as I’m sure you are well aware. Click-bait journalism, which is basically the only journalism we have now, was born out of editors and site owners playing to algorithms like the one controlling Facebook feeds.  Instead of creating stories that were important, stories were instead written to attract the type of interaction which would make Facebook’s algorithm promote the link. Other writers and editors would notice the trend and create copy cat content to feed to the Facebook algorithm. This in a nutshell is what created click-bait journalism. It spread to other platforms and search engines and now that’s all most journalism is. One outrageous story, then copy cats who create similar stories to feed into the algorithm.

Algorithms are creating a completely fake ecosystem of content creation. Content is being created simply to appease the algorithm, because if the algorithm doesn’t like you, what you produce will never be seen anyway, so there is no reason to even create it if your goal is to be successful.

It gets even worse when you start looking into subject matter the algorithms don’t like. Sensitive topics or beliefs are shunned by the algorithms for either being advertiser unfriendly or simply because they go against the ideology of those behind the algorithm. This creates topics which will never see the light of day no matter how important they may be.

We often hear about the danger of AI in the future, but we are already witnessing it with simple algorithms today. Algorithms and machine learning have already killed journalism. They’ve created dangerous echo chambers which have divided populations across the globe and caused political discourse to grind to a halt. The truth is, algorithms that control information dissemination are causing grave harm around the world already.

If you want a glimpse into our AI controlled future, you can see it today by simply going online.

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