Remember the date of March 3, 2023.
It might be just another Friday on the calendar, but it’s actually the day a well-known social media company announced their own demise. It’s also the beginning of the end for all social media.
That’s right, March 3 is when LinkedIn announced a new “collaborative article” concept, which (if you follow AI trends and know how these things usually pan out) seems harmless enough at first. Prior to this, it was — a voicebot will always be available in your home or a robotic car will drive you to work. In the announcement, LinkedIn mentioned this innocuous phrase: “These articles begin as AI-powered conversation starters, developed with our editorial team.”
What’s really happening here? My guess is that LinkedIn is using AI to scan their own platform (what they claim is “10 billion years of professional experience”) to generate AI-created content. As humans, we’ll respond to these posts because they will be tailor-made to encourage a response and debate. How these posts will be labeled is still unknown. What’s clear is that there will be a plethora of AI-enabled content meant to encourage more engagement.
One report called this semi-automated social media. I tend to take a darker view. I recently wrote about how an AI chatbot is posting on Twitter, and that the commenters are often a bit confused about whether the account is powered by a real human or not. It’s a curious development. I’m in favor of AI helping us do our work. I’m not in favor of people thinking content created by a human is actually something cooked up by an AI, mostly because it means the entire experience will degrade, one post at a time. I’ve already experienced way more LinkedIn spam messaging of late, to the point where I now barely read any direct messages at all. The last thing I need is AI spam.
The question is where this all will lead. Once AI starts controlling the algorithm and posting content to lure us into more discussions, it’s just a matter of time before more and more accounts that appear to be human (with an AI-generated face and a fake location) start invading these networks, ruining the experience for all of us.
Imagine how this might work.
On a typical day, you might login to LinkedIn or Facebook, scrolling through your feed. You see plenty of comments and lively discussion. But it’s all a ruse. The social media platform has allowed and even enabled the AI accounts to create the discussions (and the comments), and they are geared for you — your interests and proclivities. The chats will always look appealing because the social media networks know what you like and what you usually follow.
On Instagram and TikTok, bots will know which photos and videos you like the best, but without the human element, it will all become nothing more than a way to grab your attention even more and keep you hooked longer on the apps, showing you ads that are also fine-tuned to your interest. Not to make it all sound too dire, but think of The Matrix and the moment Neo realized he was (spoiler alert for the five people who don’t know this) nothing more than a battery in a tube.
When we are all surrounded by AI bots acting like humans, looking at content that was not generated by humans and looking at ads powered by algorithms, it will feel about the same as The Matrix. None of it will seem real. And then one of it will have value.
With apologies to Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, this might be when we reach behind our neck and pull the cord out. It might be when social media finally loses its grip on us and we realize it was all designed to keep us hooked to their advertising formulas after all. I hope we do wake up before that nightmare occurs.