Feb 28, 2024

AI is killing the blog (and then some)

I love the internet. I love blogs. I even love to tinker with the software that makes it tick. But enough is enough.

Machines are scraping our words and ideas, remixing them into models which are used to churn out generic content, polluting our online haven. It used to be just words, then audio, and now video has caught up. AI (a ridiculous buzzword) mush is starting to fill every available space.

SEO spam sites were a problem prior to ChatGPT, but it’s taken a turn for the worse. Buy a defunct blog, churn out AI crap, cash in. YouTube is next, channels will become AI generated things, either to save money, or because the owner cashed out. Instagram is overflowing with AI generated nonsense, respected publications use AI imagery to illustrate their articles, and sometimes AI gets bylines (which is better than not disclosing it, to be fair).

I don’t want this. I don’t want to partake at all. This is not what I believe in, and this is not technology – machine learning, as it were – used well.

Enhance, not engulf.

A low resolution photo can be upscaled with AI. This does not steal or replace anything, it enhances what’s already there, i.e., the photo. I’ve used this many times to save bad quality photos while staying true to the original. The upscaled photo doesn’t rip someone off, it isn’t steal a style – it’s just fine-tuned to the extent of a higher resolution. Much like you would edit a photo digitally to enhance its meaning, fixing colors and touching up things.

This is an AI feature I can get behind. It enhances the way I work with images, it doesn’t let me engulf the work of others through a cheap service description.

That’s what AI generated video will do. Sure, it’s ways off replacing people in videos – the uncanny valley is there, and there are too many weird things going on with hands and faces – but it’s early days.

These early days will definitely give stock drone photography a serious hit. Need waves breaking at a coastline? AI can do that. Need clouds with seagulls? AI can do that. Need bustling trees at sundown? AI can do that. These things are easily shot with drones, but it costs money in terms of manpower, and technology. You even have to wait for the right weather.

Not so if you use AI to generate the generic stock photo you’d envisioned for your landing page, your presentation, your YouTube video, your whatever. It’s just there, along with a bunch of variations as you realize that it should be a sunny day and not cloudy, at no additional cost other than your $20 monthly subscription. Or something like that, whatever it is, it’s a lot less than buying a stock drone video for $100-200, it adds up.

It’ll add up to unsold licenses for drone videographers, too.

Early days, remember? AI – no matter the type – is as bad as it’s ever going to be, right now. It’ll keep improving.

I’m actively blocking AI scrapers on this site. I don’t want them to use my writing to train a model, or rather, I don’t want them to do it for free at least. In reality, blocking AI scrapers does very little, at least for text. There’s an abundance to learn from already, my words make no difference. It’s the principle, it’s the fact that major tech companies blatantly steal the work of creators, and then use it to build products that will further hurt those same creators’s incomes. You can argue that we had this with robots in factories in various iterations since the industrial revolution, but that doesn’t mean that it’s reasonable or right. As a society, we should know better than to disrupt people’s livelihood.

But hey, all bow to Big Tech, and the money it generates for the lucky few.

I gave ChatGPT 4 the prompt: Write a 600 word long blog post critically exploring the effect of AI on writers, photographers, and drone photographers. Make it easy to read and personal, with a conclusion and recommendation for creators in the end.

The response is the typical mush an AI spits out. This is what’s flooding the web now, obscuring personal voices from bloggers and traditional online publications. The problem is, it’s a believable mush for most. (Pasted as-is, with supplied markup.)

The AI Effect: Navigating the Creative Landscape for Writers, Photographers, and Drone Photographers

In recent years, the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has undeniably reshaped the creative industry, casting a long shadow over traditional roles such as writers, photographers, and, more recently, drone photographers. This transformative wave has sparked a vibrant dialogue about the implications of AI on creativity, originality, and the very essence of human expression. Today, I'll delve into this nuanced debate, exploring the effects of AI on these artistic domains, aiming to offer a personal yet critical perspective on the matter.

Writers: The Double-Edged Sword

For writers, AI's impact is akin to a double-edged sword. On one hand, tools like AI writing assistants have democratized writing, enabling a broader swath of people to express their ideas more coherently and creatively. They serve as an invaluable resource for overcoming writer's block, generating content ideas, and even refining grammar and style. Yet, there's an underlying fear that AI could dilute the essence of writing, turning it into a formulaic exercise stripped of its soul and the personal touch that defines great literature. The challenge lies in balancing efficiency with authenticity, ensuring that AI aids rather than dictates the creative process.

Photographers: An Artistic Revolution

Photography, too, has felt the seismic shifts brought about by AI. Advanced editing software powered by AI has revolutionized post-processing, enabling photographers to achieve effects that were once unthinkable without extensive time and resources. However, this ease of manipulation raises questions about the authenticity of photographic art. Where do we draw the line between artistic vision and digital distortion? Furthermore, AI-generated images present a profound ethical dilemma, blurring the boundaries between reality and fabrication, challenging the integrity of photography as a truthful medium.

Drone Photographers: A New Perspective

Drone photography, a relatively new entrant into the visual arts, has been particularly affected by AI advancements. AI-driven drones can autonomously navigate complex environments, capturing breathtaking perspectives that were once beyond reach. This innovation opens up a realm of possibilities for exploring and documenting the world from above. Yet, it also introduces a level of detachment; the photographer's eye, traditionally the lens through which we perceive the nuanced beauty of our world, is now, in some cases, replaced by an algorithm. This shift begs the question: can AI truly replicate the intuitive grasp of timing, perspective, and emotion that human photographers possess?

Navigating the AI Landscape: A Personal Reflection

As we stand at the crossroads of this AI-driven creative revolution, it's imperative to approach the future with a balanced perspective. The integration of AI into the creative process is not a threat but rather an evolution of our tools and methodologies. It challenges us to redefine what it means to be creators in the digital age, pushing the boundaries of our imagination and capability.

Conclusion and Recommendations for Creators

The effect of AI on writers, photographers, and drone photographers is profound and multifaceted, intertwining opportunities with ethical and artistic dilemmas. As creators, it's crucial to engage with AI as a collaborator rather than a competitor. Embrace the new perspectives and efficiencies it offers, but guard the essence of your creativity fiercely. Use AI to enhance your voice, not replace it.

For those navigating these waters, my recommendations are threefold:

  1. Embrace Experimentation: Use AI as a tool to explore new creative avenues and push the boundaries of your work. The fusion of human intuition with AI's capabilities can lead to unprecedented forms of expression.
  2. Maintain Ethical Integrity: As you integrate AI into your creative process, remain vigilant about the ethical implications, especially concerning authenticity and originality. Let your moral compass guide the use of AI in your work.
  3. Cultivate a Unique Voice: In an era where AI can mimic styles and techniques, the uniqueness of your personal voice and vision is more valuable than ever. Focus on developing a signature style that AI cannot replicate.

In conclusion, the journey into the AI-augmented creative landscape is both exciting and daunting. By leveraging AI's capabilities while preserving the authenticity of human expression, creators can navigate this new era with confidence and curiosity, forging a future where technology and creativity coalesce in harmony.

Several content management systems (CMS) have AI built-in, natively or through extensions. This includes the world’s largest CMS, WordPress, through plugins such as Jetpack which connects the open-source version of WordPress, to Automattic’s hosted variant on WordPress.com. Automattic also owns Tumblr, and is rumored to be selling its content for AI training, which means that WordPress.com with its 40 million+ blogs isn’t far behind. They’re good people at Automattic, or at least that’s my view of them, so I’m sure they’ll share the profits somehow, but it just underlines the situation that we’re in, as bloggers, creators, and online publishers.

Reddit is already selling its content. Automattic seems to be following suit, so I’m sure the likes of Medium and Substack (which you should leave) won’t be far behind. And with that, ChatGPT will write a better blog post on that same prompt. It’ll likely still be mush, but less obviously so than before.

2024 might very well be the year of the blog, I’m seeing great things in the blogosphere (are we still calling it that, or is it IndieWeb now?), but it might not be in the way that we’d want. Because if publishing is as easy as a vague idea and a ChatGPT prompt, then what’s the point?