Out Damned Ring

Image via Meta

Meta a.k.a. FacebookInstaWhatsappGram has gone all-in with its focus on generative AI to the extent that it is stuffing the Meta AI ring into everything. Open any Meta app and you can see it, a Siri-like bug that’s ready to help you do something ridiculous, like draw a picture of a superhero singing. Or even search the app for something — imagine that.

This effort, an attempt to shoehorn AI into everything, is frustrating for one good reason: it turns the internet from a jungle of competing ideas and voices into one voice, a voice that really wants you to draw pictures of pandas in jet packs.

Image via Meta

As we’ve written before, AI is becoming a utility. Like with most utilities, the companies that run the show make all the money and folks who connect to those utilities, be it for electrical power or AI output, are losing money. It has always been thus.

But now the utility is being given to us for free, for very good reason. AI makers like Meta and Google know that they have to grab much more than just a few power users or dedicated programmers using their API. Instead, they need mass adoption of their platform. As more and more people use the platform, they make more and more money. And because AI is so resource-intensive, they need that money to pay for the servers and electricity they’re churning through.

This results in a very weird situation. First, Meta doesn’t want users going crazy with its models. Drawing a panda with a jetpack is computationally expensive and letting anyone conjure one in a chat window on a whim doesn’t make much sense. In fact, this whole “gather customers and worry about making money later” is problematic in AI because every power user is a massive cost. To put it another way, this is like Twitter if each tweet could brown out a small city.

So you’ve got a perfect storm of startup adoption: Meta needs people to use its AI products if only for the simple reason that usage will help train the AI. Meta will be spending millions if not billions running those products. But because they have to stick those products in front of everyone, they’re almost certainly going to upset a certain subset of folks who will bow out of Meta’s AI entirely, and the only way to do that is to delete (or just not use) the apps. You have to annoy everyone to get mass adoption and by the time you’re done you’ve alienated an entire population.

The Meta Ring is only one example of AI everywhere that is going to drive us all crazy. AI is everywhere now, and it’s probably costing companies lots of money to add these little baubles and gewgaws to our websites. The primary questions is simply whether these tools make our lives easier, better, and simpler. If they don’t, maybe we can get rid of them. Companies like Meta better hope we don’t discard the apps that serve them up at the same time.

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