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First there was “spam.” Now, with AI, we have “carelessness”| GuyWhoKnowsThings


You may not know exactly what “drain” means in relation to artificial intelligence. But on some level you probably do.

Slop, at least in the changing world of online message boards, is a broad term that has gained some traction in reference to shoddy or unwanted AI content on social media, art, books, and every again, in the search results.

Does Google suggest that non-toxic glue could be added to make cheese stick to a pizza? That's garbage. So is a low-priced digital book that looks like the one you were looking for, but not quite. And those posts on your Facebook feed that seemingly came out of nowhere? They are also garbage.

The term became more prevalent last month when Google incorporated its Gemini AI model into its search results in the United States. Instead of directing users to links, the service attempts to resolve a query directly with a “AI Overview” – A snippet of text at the top of a results page that Gemini uses to guess what the user is searching for.

The change was a reaction to Microsoft incorporating AI into its search results on Bing, and it made some immediate mistakes, leading Google to state that revert some of its AI functions until the problems can be solved.

But as mainstream search engines have made AI a priority, it appears that vast amounts of machine-generated information, rather than being largely curated by humans, will become a daily part of life on the internet for the foreseeable future. .

Hence the term “slop,” which conjures up images of mounds of unappetizing food being shoveled into cattle troughs. Like that kind of thing, AI-assisted search is developing rapidly, but not necessarily in a way that critical thinkers can support.

Kristian Hammond, director of the Center for Advancing Artificial Intelligence Security at Northwestern University, noticed a problem with the current model: AI overview information It is presented as a definitive answer, rather than a place to start an Internet user's research on a given topic.

“You look for something and you get what you need to think, and that really encourages you to think,” Hammond said. “What it is becoming, this integration with linguistic models, is something that does not encourage you to think. It encourages you to accept. And that, I think, is dangerous.”

To address a problem, giving it a name can be helpful. And while slop is an option, it remains an open question whether it will catch on with the general public or end up in the slang dump with cheugylove and skibidi.

Adam Aleksic, linguist and content creator using mango etymologynerd on social media, he thinks that trash, which he says hasn't yet reached a broader audience, has promise.

“I think this is a great example of a low-key word right now, because it's a word that we're all familiar with,” Aleksic said. “It's a word that seems naturally applicable to this situation. Therefore, it is less obvious.”

The use of slop as a descriptor for low-quality AI material apparently arose in reaction to the launch of AI art generators in 2022. Some have identified Simon Willison, a developer, as an early adopter of the term, but the Mr. Willison, who has pushed for the adoption of the phrase, said it was in use long before he encountered it.

“I think I might have actually been pretty late to the party!” he said in an email.

The term has emerged on 4chan, Hacker News, and YouTube comments, where anonymous posters sometimes project their competence on complex topics using the group's language.

“What we always see with any slang is that it starts in a niche community and then spreads from there,” Aleksic said. “Usually, cold is a factor that helps it spread, but not necessarily. We've gotten a lot of words from a bunch of coding nerds, right? Look at the word “spam.” Generally, the word is created because there is a particular group with shared interests, with a shared need to invent words.”

In the short term, the effect of AI on search engines and the Internet in general may be less extreme than some fear.

News organizations are concerned about shrinking online audiences as people rely more on AI-generated responses, and data from Chartbeat, a company that researches internet traffic, indicates there was an immediate drop in Google Discover references to websites in the early days of AI reviews. . But that drop has since recovered, and in the first three weeks of review, overall search traffic to more than 2,000 major websites in the U.S. actually increased, according to Chartbeat.

Willison, who identified himself as an optimist about AI when used correctly, thought slop could become the preferred term for machine-generated junk content.

“Society needs concise ways to talk about modern AI, both positive and negative,” he said. “'Ignore that email, it's spam' and 'Ignore that article, it's junk' are useful lessons.”


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