May 21, 2024

Google is pivoting to REALLY leaning into preferring AI summaries of information rather than traditional web links and snippets. This article is a workaround that (at least for now) makes it easier to stick to web results.

But this trend so infuriating! Google made its mark with a brilliant "BackRub" algorithm: banking on the idea that a source is more useful and trustworthy based on how many OTHER sites refer to it. That's not Truth, but it's a good first order approximation.

This throws that out the window. They are putting all their eggs in a basket of how "people just want a simple answer" (As Nolan Bushnell puts it, "A simple answer that is clear and precise will always have more power in the world than a complex one that is true") and so replacing its history of "trust us, we'll show you who you can trust!" to a simplistic "just trust us (i.e., our Bot)"

And sure, knowing whom to trust online has always been as much an art as a science - people have to develop their own nose (starting with their own preconceptions) using the content and (for better or worse) the design and presentation of a site. (And while not infallible, I think it shows the wisdom of Wikipedia's approach - insist on citations, and let knowledgeable parties slug it out. Of course conservatives suspect it has a slant - but progressives tend to think of Colbert's "It is a well known fact that reality has liberal bias") But the "blurry JPEG" that is AI causes information to lose its flavor, all piped through the same Siri- or Alexa- or Google-Assistant- friendly stream of words.

And when the AI is wrong - boy there are some anecdotes out there. The one about what to do about a Rattlesnake bite is a killer. Possibly literally. It's almost enough to make one hope for some huge punitive lawsuits.

There is a weird "Idiot Ouroboros" aspect to Google's pivot away from connecting people to other knowledge sources - the AI has its knowledge base from what was gleaned from the web. And now the incentives for building up a reputable parcel on the wider information landscape fades away, and eventually the whole web starts to look like those dark corners of social media where Spambots try to pitch their wares to fake user account bots, endlessly.
Red Lobster going away, maybe a victim of that endless shrimp plan?? Beyoncé will need a new place to take your ass...