Paul Graham in 2011
The rise of generative AI has been lauded by major figures in tech like Paul Graham.A rapid expansion of AI tools is affecting the way the web looks and is used. That’s not always a good thing, as Graham recently discovered when searching a cooking question.
Even the tech industry’s most noted figures are getting irked by the ways generative AI is capable of degrading reliable and quality content on the web.
Paul Graham, a venture capitalist, entrepreneur and co-founder of famed startup accelerator Y Combinator, on Friday took to X, the app formerly known as Twitter, to complain that a web search of even straightforward questions is being muddied by content that is unclear, in authorship or word, or otherwise can’t be trusted.
“I’m looking up a topic online (how hot a pizza oven should be) and I’ve noticed I’m looking at the dates of the articles to try to find stuff that isn’t AI-generated SEO-bait,” Graham griped on X.
It’s a shift in tone for the VC. Only a few weeks ago, he praised AI as “the exact opposite of a solution in search of a problem.” Instead, he said AI is “the solution to far more problems than its developers even knew existed.” He’s also called AI “the first big wave of technology” in many years and suggested ways public market investors could get invest in startups that are still almost entirely private.
The rapid proliferation of Generative AI tools since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT less than a year ago has created a number of problems and concerns.
There is the issue of authorship, like Graham experienced, as there is currently no mandate or regulation requiring the labeling of content created by AI. If the AI Act, a regulatory proposal currently up before European Parliament, passes later this year, that could change.
The issue of quality is also growing in importance, as AI tools tend to present incorrect information in an authoritative way. When an AI tool does present authoritative information that is correct, it is often based on or is a near copy of work that legally belongs to another company or person, creating new concerns around legality and ownership rights.
AI could give way to a full-blow information crisis. Malte Ubl, a former engineering director for Google Search and now CTO of cloud platform Vercel, said on X that the “AI contamination” of web content is akin to the affects of nuclear fallout.
“The analogy I’ve been using is low background steel,” Ubl wrote, “which was made before the first nuclear tests.”