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How AI is impacting the media, election information and the environment

A cursor moves over Google's search engine page. (Don Ryan/AP)
A cursor moves over Google's search engine page. (Don Ryan/AP)

Artificial intelligence has permeated the tech sector, and more and more platforms are adding it to the user experience. Recently, Google integrated AI for basic searches. If you Google a question, an AI-generated text box pops up at the top of the page with an answer.

Though technology reporter Kara Swisher says Google’s AI is becoming pretty accurate, it could hurt media companies. Offering the answer through AI dissuades people from clicking on news content, therefore slowing web traffic to media sites. That could lead to a drop in revenue, further hurting media companies struggling to survive in the digital age.

“It just sort of essentially scrapes information and re-presents it to you. There’s no need to go anywhere but Google,” Swisher says. “They become the all-answer. And at some point, this AI can make content of its own.”

Some news companies are responding. The Financial Times will license its content; whenever it’s used by AI companies like ChatGPT, the company will get paid. Others like the New York Times have filed lawsuits against AI companies.

“You don’t have a choice in this way,” Swisher says. “You either sue them or deal with them.”

3 questions with Kara Swisher

What can news companies do in the face of AI?

“Find a new economic business model … Google and Meta, Meta and Alphabet control digital advertising pretty much.

“So the economics have been hollowed out of these organizations over time. You have to figure out other ways, like subscriptions or swag … Or making things that really, you can’t replicate. And there’s certain things like that.

“‘Morning Joe’ is ‘Morning Joe.’ … Fox News is Fox News. Can that be replicated? Can a columnist for the New York Times be copied? Maybe not.”

How might AI impact the way people vote in elections?

“They can maybe make [President] Biden look a little older; it’s already in their people’s minds and he is old, right? Make Trump seem a little crazier. He already seems crazy, so make him crazier. It could also target people individually based on their use of the internet or whatever digital tools they use to just give them a little more nudge over the edge.

“There’s lots of people, both domestic and foreign, trying to figure out all kinds of ways to mess up the information environment, which has been messed up.

“It’s flooded. We used to have an information desert. Now we have an information flood. Similar effect. Do you want your population ignorant or do you want them confused?”

What does the future of climate tech look like?

“These early people, whether it’s hydrogen or heat exchange or water power, there’s all kinds of interesting things. Carbon capture is obviously the best-known one. There’s a lot of money going into this because it’s going to be our existential crisis.

“I don’t know if climate tech is going to solve the problem, and the problem we have with every one of these things is humanity. Humanity’s the problem. I always say I’m not scared of AI. I’m scared of humans using AI.

“Someone’s going to start to come up with some real solutions because humanity is going to need these much more so than many of the other technologies being bandied about.”

Kalyani Saxena produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtGrace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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