ChatGPT Another Phase in the Web's Death Spiral

February 12, 2023

The foundation of the web used to be a large series of independent websites that linked to each other. Directories and eventually search engines would link you to these independent sites. These small sites were either labors of love, or supported by banner advertising. Social media killed the incentives and now ChatGPT threatens to freeze the state of web knowledge.

Why It Matters

ChatGPT will save folks a lot of time searching for information. However it takes the incentives out of the production of new information and knowledge. AI systems are limited by the data in their training systems. As the state of human knowledge advances, ChatGPT will create an environment where it is stuck in the past.

The Best Knowledge is Not on the Web

Much of the great content that was in blogs back in the day has migrated to YouTube where it can be monetized. The best programming documentation is in books or courses available for purchase. Great news reporting or interesting policy analysis sits behind paywalls at Substack or newspaper websites. In AI the golden rule is garbage in means garbage out, and if training data is limited to the open web right now, ChatGPT answers will often be a poor substitute for the best ones.

Do Not Bet the Farm on ChatGPT

If you want a glimpse of the antiseptic answers ChatGPT will provide you need only look at the declining quality of Google search results. A rambling restatement of a question, followed by a shallow synthesis of other websites, ending without any meaningful conclusion. ChatGPT will merely skip the rambling restatements and provide a mediocre synthesis. There is something short sighted about betting the farm on an incremental improvement like this.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.