Why ask the question
I love ChatGPT. It is not just a wonderful thing invented, but a true huge help for me as a software developer. Stable Diffusion is similarly genius, yet I did not master it's input (yet?) because I just use it for private fun. But there is a problem, maybe a solution and a future. Let's talk about it …
So, the world was good until a few days ago. I was enjoying ChatGPT as the time saver that it is for me and having fun with the Stable Diffusion art, but then I saw news about a law suit, because the images being used to teach these algorithms are not public domain - they are owned by someone - of course. And while many have asked the question of legality, my math brain (that is my actual background and where I got my PhD) went in a different direction. What does this mean for people, society and creativity?
There is a general flaw with todays AI, which is so much bigger than I expected. This flaw lies in this contradiction: It seems to replace us while it actually only learns from us. Is this just demotivating, as no one knows the author of his daily help, or is this actually the stupidest way of stealing as the theft takes his own opportunity ever to steal again?
I mean what about the content creators that try to live of their content - is there a point for them to still exist. No - says every creator. Yes - says ChatGPT that would suddenly go dumb. Or would be all become dumb, because there is no more general moving forward?
So let's play through a scenario where let's say Microsoft integrates ChatGPT into Bing to give the best answers directly as ChatGPT does, instead of you having to click through all those pages that have your answer hidden. Does this just mean there is finally something much better than Google or are there other ramifications?
A content creator - the small guy
So lets assume¹ there is a content creator. Let it be a guy who figured out how super complicated repairs can be done by anyone and save old machines, they have in their house. Great! He creates a text tutorial (let's assume he is afraid of cameras) and makes a living by having ads on his page.
You would have to find this page, but once you do you, never throw away old tech but enjoy that the good old things live forever and even just to teach the next generation about the good old days, where streaming meant a needle scratches over vinyl - super!
Along comes ChatGPT and now, whenever you ask it a question in that direction, it knows the answer from our photophobic genius - who at the same time sits at home waiting for ad money to come in but absolutely nothings happens, not a single visitor except for web crawling bots.
And that's it. We get the answer disconnected from it's creator and the creator has to find another job, and if he is unlucky his company requires a company card with a photo on it. Poor genius.
At the same time, ChatGPT goes dumb: Not a single new device is added - what happened?
Community Websites - where we make each other smart
If you look at something like StackOverflow.com, people ask question - mostly technical - and answers are discussed. This website lives happily from new content being created daily and it is being financed by advertisement for high tech jobs, high tech books and high tech loofah. At some point, let's say today (actually already years and years ago), most people find their answers in old discussions. Still, there are always new technologies, so new things are added. All in all, it's a good life, employees have a good income, servers running and new ones being added, both taking care of by the advertisement money.
Let's assume² ChatGPT constantly integrates new data, and about 1% new content is created per month, but of that 1%, most people, let's say 99%, just look for an answer, not participating in the answers. So, this means, even with ChatGPT existing there, people still need to visit that pages, so there is still advertisement money. It is just reduced to 1% of 1% so 0.01%. Do you think that is still enough for everybody and everything being paid? Maybe it's not worth keeping the website up. But now, no one gets current and new things solved, there are no more answers. And there are no more high tech loofahs³ finding their rightful owners.
Discussion and a solution approach
The point I am driving at is, ChatGPT is cutting off the legs it is standing on. That is worth preventing for consumers, for the content creators and for ChatGPT - the only problem is, companies are not so good in investing in the future if it's based on giving their money away without anybody forcing them.
In a perfect world, ChatGPT would simply share the income AND link to the sources. This means, we get fast answers, can verify their source and validity and take no ones money for having convenience. It would even level the playing field just like App Stores⁴ that suddenly present big players next to a single developer like me. Content is King now, not the site's popularity - an interesting new world.
What should happen
ChatGPT has to change for continuous learning and specifically understanding corrective changes, I think. As of this moment, it seems to weigh by occurrences and maybe references, but the system still has a strong connection to incorrect information, which is not ideal at a place where there are not hundreds of websites listet for the user to explore the right answer, but he is just given a single definitive answer. For such a change, a kind of knowledge source becomes important, so that the new learning of an updated website is seen as a change and not as a new information.
This is useful for what is needed for a fair internet:
These knowledge sources are the people that should get credit, so an implementation should, with every answer, look at the sources where things come from and why. Weighting them is a complex process, as it might be millions of websites saying the same thing. It probably has to make a cut for things considered common knowledge , but it should not be too high, as for example an apple pie recipes may be very similar, but it's still something people took time to share and take pride in. Unlike the conversion from imperial to metric, that is a footnote on millions of websites.
What probably will happen
ChatGPT started a race. It is so helpful in itself, that a regular search seems outdated. It is a risk for Googles dominance and a chance for Microsoft to put Bing on the map. If a race involves that much power and thus money, nobody looks out who they trample to death on their way. This is worse than any Black Friday stampede.
Do we have a problem or a new Internet?
One thing is for sure, the need to read a website is extremely reduced. As of this moment, I can replace 90% of my development research with Chat GPT. So hours of reading many dozen websites and trying things out, are reduced to a few question and a corrective "discussion".
What does it mean for the internet? In the past, we have wasted countless hours to find the right answer, the right article. With ChatGPT, this is all in the past. So, many web sites seem superfluous then, but actually they are needed - for ChatGPT to give us the gist of what these pages tell us. So there seems to be something wrong here. Content is still needed, it is just differently consumed. And we are still humans after all. We might enjoy a few articles here and there, human written, maybe by our favorite editor or blogger, maybe simply not any more when we need it.
Is there a chance for balance? Is there enough motivation out there to create content? After all, we do not just write for money, but to express ourselves? To whom? The Terminator? Feels weird, doesn't it.
I think, if Microsoft or OpenAI figure out a fair way to share the income and ChatGPT gives us more of a connection to content originating websites, the internet could survive, and even thrive.
ChatGPT might discourage us to remember things - after all we can quickly look things up again – but it might encourage us to widen our horizons. As long as ChatGPT can resist learning our preferences, it will inform us independently of political persuasion, race and level of education - utopian equalizer. We have extra time with ChatGPT and not just do we gain time to go deeper, ChatGPTs answers are already broader than expected.
On a different topic, ChatGPT makes the internet transparent, so if we think of the near future, it adds total comparability to the internet. There are areas where each product is unique, but many live from obfuscation. E.G. prices are created by combining components like shipping or rebates, bundles and all these things where our brains' heuristics fail us. If we add numbers like 2x $7,99 + $3,99 + tax we might think of $17 where it's actually more like $21. A simple question, like what product with xyz specifications is the cheapest including shipping, suddenly has a definitive answer. What will this mean for competitions? Will this mean, the big stores like amazon will leave even less crumbs for the rest?
A brand new Internet? Humans are adaptive and while changes can be partially predicted, it might be, that simply different values will influence the internet. While the risk is, that humans basic instincts for simplification, relaxation, power and reputation drive us towards destruction, in theory there is suddenly more space for meaning and art. The core humanness creates expressions through paintings, poetry and words of kindness that a machine can create, but only if meaning is meaningless. A ChatGPT poem might sound nice and accidentally or methodically invoke meaning, but the expression of a human and his soul is missing and will not be perceived as a deeply touching moment. Stable Diffusion has created million variations of the Mona Lisa, but who truly sits in front of one of them waiting for inspiration or meditating for enlightenment. So, I would guess the beauty of writing and creating is safe.
I think of these things far more practical as it might sound. We might have forgotten that we are not just machines, to make money, satisfy our insecurity and go to sleep, but we are still humans. Maybe we are closer to a Star Trek utopia, where humans work for fulfillment and joy rather than money, closer than we think.
So Please …
Please Microsoft, make sure you plan ahead. You need contributors and while ChatGPTs kind of content stealing is currently legal in some countries, greed should not destroy your future business. Credit where credit is due, pay up in links and money.
Please readers, make sure you as humans benefit. Not just in time, but in knowledge, in appreciation when you have the time to consume something real and speak up if you think things go wrong - because the world will start to change even faster, so we need to react faster!
¹ Sorry you will probably have a lot of "let's assumes" here. Surprisingly enough they are not because I am a math guy and want to do pure "if this than that" things. Instead I am using it in a physics way were I look at a simplified a scenario, but assume it does not change much in a real world scenario or scaled up.
² Damn this let's assume is none of the above, I am just simplifying the numbers to make calculation easier. So it's easier to follow as I illustrate the situation.
³ A loofah is a hard sponge (often) on a stick. And it's just fitting that we humans started our existence with a hard rock on a stick and end it with a sponge on a stick since a data sponge brought us that end. (In case you wondered the author tries to be smart and funny but actually knows he is neither.)
⁴ I know there is a huge discussion about App Store and their policies. I personally wish they will be regulated but not opened, I am fine a single company owns the store (it's easier for me), but states should be involved to control rejection rules, prices etc. - Sorry nothing funny in this footnote, please look somewhere else.