The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Google Neural Net “AI” Is About To Destroy Half The Independent Web

As various folks have quipped the safest place to hide a body is on the second page of Google search results, because no one goes there.

Google is about to role out its “AI” for search (I’ll be saying AI in quotes as policy when referring to neural nets because they aren’t intelligent) and if it stays as it is it’s going to destroy most sites that provide information or analysis. (I’ll feel some hit, but will survive as I have my own audience.)

That screen-shot is the kicker. It takes up too much of the page. Worst, people don’t like to click, so if Google presents the info they want, they’ll just stay on Google.

Now, of course, Google is summarizing data that the neural net has scraped from the Web, much like when you used to read some books then summarize them for your term paper. None of the information Google’s “AI” will present in answer to questions is information from Google, it’s scraped, swallowed and regurgitated from the websites which won’t be getting the traffic any more, who will then die. The perfect parasite.

There’s going to be lawsuits, and I’m no lawyer, but my understanding is that just as if you do your research and re-write to summarize this probably doesn’t fall under current copyright law. That law is entirely reasonable, for people, but for neural nets it seems like a huge gap, but without a change in the law, it seems unlikely there’s a legal remedy.

I’m thinking about this. I may decide to keep most of my site off search engines (which is a problem in the sense that I use search engines to find my own articles, I’ve written so many).

But in the larger sense “AI” is a giant parasite (well, Google won’t be the only one) devouring other people’s expertise and denying them a living. Google controls about 45% of the internet ad market already with most of the rest divided up between various social median giants, and doing so destroyed a vast swathe of sites. Now they are set to kill much of what remains.

Tacitus’s line, supposedly quoting Calgacus, about the Roman Empire, was that the Romans “made a desert and called it peace”, Google and “AI” is making an internet wasteland and calling it profits.

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Europe Needs To Re-evaluate Its Importance And Its American Vassalization


Open Thread


  1. StewartM

    It will also crowd out sites that argue for minority points of view even more than they are now. (Try looking for a site that argues for a counter-narrative POV, it’s often not easy).

    I had a French teacher in high school who argued once that on newspaper opinion articles/letters to the editor, instead of displaying them “democratically” (i.e., displaying all the articles, even the “me too” ones, by number) a good newspaper should print them “undemocratically”, printing just the best 2 or 3 from all perspectives. He said this as a the validity of an idea does not depend on the number of people supporting it at a given time.

  2. Willy

    (in case someone else hasn’t already noted this) Other search engines might take advantage of whatever glitches result and compete thusly (yeah I know consolidation monopolization… but one can hope.)

    As a Google nut for years I finally figured out just how much Google and subsidiaries were tracking me by name, and so I switched to searching almost exclusively on DuckDuckGo. I can see a re-emergence of other better managed search engines for high-information folks.

    I think the golden age of search engines was in the early ’00 years. I remember a boss in the mid-90’s telling me the internet sucked and I agreed. Back then if you needed information on “mountain beavers”, search engines would return mostly porn sites and it took a bunch of clicks to get to what you really needed. Lately, with the ever-increasing urge for everybody to cash in, it seems the internet is going back to sucking again.

    And this goes double for searches done within many corporate websites (compare Amazon with the far better designed Granger). At Home Depots’ if you searched up “stainless bolts” you’d get pages and pages of crap they wanted to sell you which had nothing to do with bolts. To their credit, they’ve recently improved somewhat and they now provide options in side bars to help you narrow down your search so you can avoid the stupidity of A.I. or the even worse stupidity of their marketing department clowns.

    I can forsee search engines providing searchers with similar features. Ideally, they’d be similar to how meatspace conversation works, a back and forth to most efficiently get both searcher and results on the same page together, while hopefully limiting any Abbot and Costello comedy bit frustrations.

  3. Mark Pontin

    For some of us, Google has been unusable for some time for serious searches — arguably for anything besides maps. This will expand and accelerate that process; one scenario is that future historians will look back at this as the fall of Google.

  4. someofparts

    Nice to see M Pontin in comments today.

    So, my question – Could I get around the Google AI debacle by just using another search engine? Am I showing my ignorance by even asking the question?

  5. someofparts

    Should have read all the other comments first. My bad.

  6. Ché Pasa

    I’m so old I remember when a friend (of a friend) in the early ’80s would come back from working in Menlo Park on some programming project for one of the early wizardry start ups (he made LOTS of money) and would regale us with the Inside Story of computers and the as yet nascent Internet, and how he would caution us not to believe the hype and the bullshit because nothing that would emerge from all the hoo-hah in the still largely orchard covered and unnamed Silicon Valley would be all that useful, grand and wonderful. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled.

    Of course, in those days, a “search engine” was the library card catalogue. Who would know how to work one of those nowadays?

    Google intent on ruling (ruining?) the world…

  7. DMC

    Like Willy says, DuckDuckGo is your friend.

  8. GlassHammer

    Machines are the end point of the devaluation of human labor.

    The devaluation of human labor is the end point of an economy that is centered on alienation.

    An economy centered on alienation is the end point of surplus generation.

  9. different clue

    I am just an old analog refugee in this new digital world. To the best of my understanding, the “internet” is a bunch of programmed protocols allowing communications to be sent between every computer which is able to recognize those protocols for incoming impulses and use those protocols for sending impulses out in a form recognizable as outgoing impulses to any other computer instructed to recognize those protocols from wherever. Or something.

    So if this AI is being used only on Google, it will hopefully drive Google extinct as Google deserves to be. Hopefully programmers and computing designers for every other place or site or whatever will be able to program every machine within their control to recognize an AI product no matter how well it is disguised and how much its human sender lies about it being ” written by human hands”, and deny it even so much as the least trace of “screen-show” on any device whatsoever.

    If they can’t do that, perhaps they can at least program for the automatic display warning that the digital fece-put in question is AI.

    And users who demand better can advise eachother over every possible channel and point of contact about search engines and/or anything else which bar and forbid AI from darkening their doorsteps and polluting their screens. As word of such spreads,
    more people can find and use the ” AI forbidden here” sites and facilities, and avoid the AI sewage lagoon sites.

    Maybe it will bring forth a new dawn of email networks and ” list-serves” for groups of people keeping in touch with eachother over email, and ” clean blogs” ( AI forbidden here) and so forth.

    And if all else fails, perhaps enough people would subscribe to a subscription only search engine that such an engine could be made and maintained and staffed to do all that just on the money raised by subscriptions. ” AI forbidden here” would be part of the attraction. For people who demand to see advertisements, perhaps such a Search Engine could have a separate section of just ads which people who want ads would have to subscribe to ( and pay for) separately.

  10. JBird4049

    Two decades ago Google was wonderful especially when you were good at using the then Boolean search terms. It was fairly easy to find what I needed and to avoid what they wanted to sell me.

    We need to get that back although with the overarching, linked interests of the Elites-Corporate-Security-Governmental Complex it will be very difficult to get that back. Google is serving the interests of this complex and very profitably. I know that getting the necessary gigantic amount of funding for the umpteen servers, memory, connections, buildings, and staff would be difficult, but what would be a good path?

    Without hyperbole, this is something that must be done.

  11. I’ve switched my default search to duckduckgo (not perfect either, but not an evil parasite like Google), and so far have very rarely needed to go back to the Beast.

  12. different clue

    I have discovered that if you just want to look at things in your area of interest and your area of interest can be illustrated with an image or images, that you can use the Yahoo search function ( which Verizon now owns) and type into its search field the word or words in question and then the word ” image”.

    Like this . . . ” white jellicorse twin dent corn image” . . . and you get . . .;_ylt=AwrFRzUQzl5kYFcNHoZXNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZANDQ0FEU1lDVF8xBHNlYwNzYw–?p=white+jellicorse+dent+corn+image&fr=sfp

    Some of those images will indeed be specifically of white jellicorse twin dent corn seed or ears or other relevant things. And some of them won’t. ( On Google, almost none of images gathered will be useful or relevant).

    And so you go from image to image and any url which seems interesting can be clicked to open and inspect its relevant page. I have found some obscure online seed companies that way.

    Eventually Verizon will grow tired of keeping its orphan Yahoo Image Aggregator alive and will decide to kill it. So better use it before Verizon kills it.

  13. different clue

    You know what? I spoiled my own example by typing in too many words. I got images of many other kinds of white dent corn but no image of jellicorse twin. So I will just use the words ” jellicorse twin corn” and see if I do better . . . well it didn’t. Maybe there is something about the “jellicorse twin corn” variety itself which gathers few relevant images.

    ” boone county white corn image” does better . . . . image after image relevant to Boone County white corn in particular.;_ylt=AwrFNUzSz15kWqINUnZXNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZANDQ0FEU1lDVF8xBHNlYwNzYw–?p=boone+county+white+corn+image&fr=sfp#id=3&

  14. Jorge

    A podcast (“Trashfuture”) made the point that these AI aggregators are like the Bitcoin Tornado app, in that they take in IP and scramble it so that the output cannot be matched to the input.

  15. bruce wilder

    AI language models will be cannibalizing their own output very quickly as they flood the same space they gobble up. Because they do not “think” but simply mimic style with no comprehension of substance, a feedback loop that spirals very quickly seems quite likely to me, imitating itself into becoming a formless blob.

  16. Purple Library Guy

    All of you talking about using DuckDuckGo etc. are missing the point. The problem here is not that Google will be making their search bad, and so you, the few, the ones in the know, can cleverly sidestep the problem by not using it.

    The problem is that it will probably be fine for most people’s purposes. And so many, many people will just stop at the information provided by Google’s AI, and traffic to the rest of the web will dry up. You cannot do anything about this problem by being cleverer than the herd, because the problem is the impact of the herd’s actions. And again, that impact is not something aimed straight at you, that you can sidestep; it is something aimed at all your favourite websites, which could die.

    Mind you, most of my web time is spent on sites I already know, that I navigate to directly. If that’s a common pattern, the impact on the internet may not be as heavy as the article proposes. Could be bad for wikipedia though.

  17. different clue

    @ Purple Library Guy,

    You offer an interesting caution and a reminder of the main danger to we the clever ones. The purpose of AI is to turn every clean and pristine swimming hole into a digital sewage lagoon . . . . slowly enough that most people become satisfied to swim in sewage and we the clever ones have no clean digital water left anywhere.

    How many clever ones are needed to keep any particular clean digital waterfeature clean? How many more clever ones are needed to keep the AI sewage from polluting 2, 3, many clean digital waterbodies? Perhaps we should try recruiting as many people as we can reach over the next few years to the clever side of the line in the hopes that with enough clever ones, we can preserve a sewage-free or at least a sewage-low digisphere for our own continued use, and the use of any future sewage swimmers who decide to come over to the clean side of the line.

    Perhaps a small weapon in that regard might be clever little memes ( in the old pre-pictorial sense) which spread to many brains and minds and automatically turn them against AI and its sewage lagoon-sites. Would a clever little phrase like ” Google Search and Sewage” stick in enough minds to edge those minds away from Google? If it would, then maybe it is as clever as I would like to think. If it wouldn’t, then maybe it isn’t.

    And what might be a simple word for the opposite of Artificial Intelligence? Maybe ” Natural Intelligence”? ” NI”? As opposed to “AI”? Or maybe ” OI” for “Organic Intelligence”? Organic Intelligence is to intelligence as Organic Food is to food? Would that inject ” OI” into the language? And if it did, then sites which can effectively exclude AI fece-droppings from their sites can proudly say : This is an OI site. That phrase could become a reliable symbol of lack of this particular sort of brain pollution. ” No Artifecal Intelligence allowed here.” Maybe that’s another good one . . . ” Artifecal Intelligence”. If anyone thinks so, feel free to use it.

  18. Willy

    Ever heard the phrase “pitchforks and torches”? I invented it. Let me explain.

    A long time ago I was speaking at a gathering of serious aerospace engineers. Dour folk they were. I was describing fallback positions for a certain new shop process I’d helped devise. At the end of it all I said: “And this should keep our shop people from pulling out the pitchforks and torches.”

    That bit was met with a room full of blank stares and weird looks. Nobody had ever heard such a thing before. Trying to recover from my lame attempt at humor in front of a tough crowd, I said: “Ever wonder why in those old Frankenstein movies the townsfolk always break out the pitchforks and torches? I mean, wouldn’t they own deadlier stuff like scythes and axes and blacksmith hammers they could more effectively storm the castle with? …or in the case of our own shop folk, wrenches and rubber mallets?” Again, blank stares and weird looks. I returned to my seat in humiliation.

    Years later I tried the same bit except online at the old liberal Daou Report. As usual, nobody cared about my opinion but what somebody found interesting was my use of that phrase. Apparently for them the context and timing had resonated and maybe they found the mental imagery humorous, and that phrase wound up in the possession of Keith Olberman’s MSNBC show.

    I’ve also been quoted verbatum by Donald Rumsfeld and paraphrased by Chris Matthews. As Albert Brooks once said: “I say it here, it comes out there.” You never know how a writers-blocked minion or actually-clever mover might be inspired by a bit of inane drivel found on some blog.

    I was also inspired by that scene in the movie “Rudy” where one guy started mumbling and after a while the entire stadium was loudly chanting. Of course, the timing’s gotta be right. Stuff like this has been reliable plays in the Reactionary Plutocrat Playbook for years. Why can’t we do better?

  19. Willy

    Looks like dc beat me to it, on the same page. From these humble beginnings…

  20. different clue


    Since neither of us knew the other was writing till both comments got published, it would be fair to say we both thought this up independently of eachother.

    Regardless, injecting new words into the language can be a way to shift thought if the new words actually take hold. I have tried several times here and there to no discernable effect so far. But it costs very little effort to keep trying. One never knows what word or phrase will go “pitchforks and torches”.

    I think it was someone else who invented the word Catfood Commission for Obama’s Commission to Cut Social Security. And that word partway took off for a while. No harm in re-injecting it now and again. And the current Democrats who support cutting Social Security could be called Catfood Democrats.

    I give away the word ” Artifecal Intelligence” for anyone else to use for free in case they think it might be useful and they wish to try injecting it into the language. Maybe if enough people use it enough times in enough places, it might achieve a critical mass of repetition and then move outward from there.

    AI stands for Artifecal Intelligence.

  21. different clue


    Love and Sex advice columnist Dan Savage crafted and launched a campaign to turn Senator Santorum’s last name into an actual word with a specific sexual meaning. Here is a little history of how he diddit . . .

    And that campaign was able to inject santorum into the language to the extent that you can find the definition on line.

    What kind of organized campaign could make the acronym-words for AI become majority-assumed to be Artifecal Intelligence to the point where search-engining ” AI” would bring up the words ” Artifecal Intelligence” ? Maybe smarter people than me will think it is worth doing and will figure out how to make it happen.

    Maybe put an already-known satirical neologism into the definition-statement for AI?

    As in . . . ‘ AI ‘ is santorum for Artifecal Intelligence.

  22. Willy

    If I had time I’d do a study about how crappy companies with inferior products gain rousing success. I know it has something to do with brand marketing, unfair FUD attacks on superior companies, and come to think of it… basically everything that Donald Trump seems to excel at. And probably Microsoft during its rise. Why put all the effort into developing a superior product when there’s a sucker born every minute?

    Bing just went Artifecal Intelligence. I avoid Bing because they track by name and because Microsoft is said to have been the birthplace of most things nefariously hacky. One story was that when the internet took off disgruntled competitor victims of Microsoft’s FUD machinations studied and exploited all the many weaknesses in MS-DOS and its progeny and created viral viruses in the hope of getting users to lose faith in Microsoft products and look elsewhere for their OS needs. But as usual, others saw opportunity and went into the scamming business. Back in ’97 I asked our IT guy why our mostly used Unix system was so secure while our occasionally used MS was such a clusterfuck. He said it had something to do with UNIX having an ironclad kernel designed to be secure while MS was just a kluge of copies of other successful OS which they’re constantly trying to keep patched up.

    A lot of words to describe junk which (to paraphrase PLG) ‘has probably been fine for most people’s purposes’. If I was better with the AI, I’d use it to develop anti-marketing strategies with which to turn the suckers.

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