War between content generators

In my recent piece on dream logic, I linked to this article about the possibilities of creating computer intelligence. There’s an interesting passage in it that I failed to really notice the first time I read through it.

It’s also reasonable to expect computers to help clean up the mess they have made. They dump huge quantities of information into the cybersphere every day. Can they also help us evaluate this information intelligently? Or are they mere uncapped oil wells pumping out cyber-pollution — which is today just a distraction but might slowly, gradually paralyze us, as our choices and information channels proliferate out of control? As each of us is surrounded by a growing crowd of computer-paparazzi all shouting questions and waving data simultaneously, and no security guards anywhere?

This is something I’ve been thinking about in relation to webpages and search engine results. Since the 90s, people have really been writing web content for two audiences: humans, who actually read the articles, and search engines who “spider” the articles and rank the pages in search results. The sad fact is that if you want to get your article read by humans, you need to keep in mind the demands of search engines which use various, ever-changing algorithms to rank pages.

In the early days, people could trick search engines into ranking their pages highly by using various strategies that created pages which were often completely worthless to humans. For example, if you were trying to rank highly for the keyword “dog” you could create a page which had words like “dog, canine, Fido, Rover” etc. in big bold letters at the top. Search engines liked this, people said “what the fuck?”

Since then, things have gotten better, but you still see a lot of “junk” pages out there. However, as I recently pointed out, computer software is getting better and better at writing news articles. It seems like things could quickly get to the point where people could publish 1000 similar articles on the same topic, figuring that at least some of them would dominate search engine results. At this point, human authored articles would be competing with computer-generated articles for search engine rankings. And, in any battle between humans and computers, computers always win.

The point the author makes above is that maybe computers could help weed through all the computer generated muck and find what would truly be useful. At which point an arms race between computer software develops: content generating computers versus content filtering computers. It seems that the only possible outcome is the complete destruction of humanity and the rise of a flesh eating race of cyborg aliens.

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