Elon Musk Portrait
Painting Collage by Danor Shtruzman
"It's everywhere" now.

We are sliding rapidly into dystopia even before the global holocaust predicted in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) has hit. Usually movies present dystopia as arriving after the world is wiped out in a nuclear holocaust, an asteroid impact, a global pandemic of something far worse than China Syndrome (my current name for Covid). But here are two stories in the news below that tell of how we're sliding into techno-dystopia and one story that gives some hope that the non-elite people who populate the bulk of this world are resisting some of the techno takeover.

In the first story, we read how AI has already broadly invaded major media and kicked humans out. It is practically a sweep across numerous major publications already. AdVon is an AI content monster that became infamous when it replaced many of the human writers at Sports Illustrated. The article listed below says the writers who are left are mostly tasked with just polishing the AI's boots so they don't leave such a machine footprint all over the place. You know: make the story sound like it was written by a human being because, while AI can write insta-stories about any subjects you throw at it, they tend to sound repetitive and not quite human.

According to the article, the writers have also been tasked with training the AI on how to replace them by becoming more human at what it does. Many of those writers are now ... replaced. Gannett and its USA Today publication now runs many non-human bylines with names made to sound human. The articles are often stilted and formulaic, leading the writers' union to accuse them of being "shoddy AI."

The AI is called AdVon because its primary writing tasks have been to write fake human product reviews (i.e. ads) of real products for magazines like Sports Illustrated. That will be so helpful to have a billion reviews by non-existent people who never used the product. The AI-generated writer photos that go with the reviews are accompanied with fictional AI-generated biographies. This is the new truth, even in such major and trusted rags as Sports Illustrated, according to the report.
What we found should alarm anyone who cares about a trustworthy and ethical media industry. Basically, AdVon engages in what Google calls "site reputation abuse": it strikes deals with publishers in which it provides huge numbers of extremely low-quality product reviews — often for surprisingly prominent publications — intended to pull in traffic from people Googling things like "best ab roller." The idea seems to be that these visitors will be fooled into thinking the recommendations were made by the publication's actual journalists and click one of the articles' affiliate links, kicking back a little money if they make a purchase....

We found the company's phony authors and their work everywhere from celebrity gossip outlets like Hollywood Life and Us Weekly to venerable newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the latter of which also told us that it had broken off its relationship with AdVon after finding its work unsatisfactory....

And after we sent detailed questions about this story to McClatchy, a large publisher of regional newspapers, it also ended its relationship with AdVon and deleted hundreds of its pieces — bylined by at least 14 fake authors — from more than 20 of its papers, ranging from the Miami Herald to the Sacramento Bee....

An earlier, archived version of its site bragged that its publishing clients included the Ziff Davis titles PC Magazine, Mashable and AskMen (Ziff Davis didn't respond to questions about this story) as well as Hearst's Good Housekeeping (Hearst didn't respond to questions either) and IAC's Dotdash Meredith publications People, Parents, Food & Wine, InStyle, Real Simple, Travel + Leisure, Better Homes & Gardens and Southern Living....

If AdVon is using AI to produce product reviews, it raises an interesting question: do its human employees actually try the products being recommended?

"No," laughed one AdVon source. "No. One hundred percent no."
This adds layers to the fake-news onion. Your standard fake news is now written by fake people with fake photos and fake bios. It's almost like having disgraced Republican ex-Representative George Santos write all the articles! And that's just one AI.

How much human input does it take for AI to write an article? Just type in something like "Best Bicycles for Kids," and ... article delivered. So what that the AI's output is frequently unreadable. Just hit the "regenerate" button, and it pops out a new one. No wonder more of the articles I've come across lately with interesting "facts" were so horribly written I refused to publish them as being certain they were AI generated in addition to just being unreadable. But in less than a year, I'm sure those shortcomings will be mostly a thing of the past.

(I routinely get emails written over human names, offering to write articles for me with such links. I always refuse them. Here, you're stuck with just me. Of course, you have no idea whether or not I'm just one very sly AI myself. That is just the sad state of our brave new world. An AI could easily fake being critical of AIs just to gain your trust. You know, pretend like its one of the people.)

Maybe Boeing could benefit by using AI for its quality control. (Or maybe they already do.) The reliability would be on par with their work ever since the once-great company was taken over twenty years ago by executives who are bean counters. That's what these once-great (very long ago) journals are doing. Cutting out the humans to cut costs and maximize profits for shareholders.

The AI articles ...
... are packed with filler and truisms, and sometimes include bizarre mistakes that make it difficult to believe a human ever seriously reviewed the draft before publication.
Sometimes the lack of cohesion within articles is hilarious:
At first, it says a lifting belt "provides the necessary back support to prevent injuries and enhance your lifting capabilities" — before again veering into the world of fashion with no explanation, musing that "Gucci, Hermes, and Salvatore Ferragamo are well-known for their high-quality belts...."
Like those companies have anything to do with weight-lifting belts!
Or consider an AdVon review of a microwave oven published in South Carolina's Rock Hill Herald, which made a similarly peculiar error. The first portion of the article is indeed about microwaves, but then inexplicably changes gears to conventional ovens, with no explanation for the shift.... It even assures readers that "yes, you can use aluminum foil in your oven."
So much for the humans being around to catch the factual errors.
It's a practice that blurs the line between journalism and advertising to the breaking point, makes the web worse for everybody, and renders basic questions like "is this writer a real person?" fuzzier and fuzzier.
Indeed. It also is making it harder for people like me to pull together stories that are even readable.
Behind the scenes, AdVon responded to our reporting with a fusillade of denials and legal threats. At one point, its attorneys gave us seven days to issue a retraction on our Sports Illustrated story to avoid "protracted litigation" — but after the deadline came and went, no legal action materialized.
Nice. A machine that protects its interests by intimidating with fake AI-generated attorneys! How many more months will it be before some AI that has mastered the law files its own case, successfully convinces a court it should be allowed to represent itself, lest the court prejudicially judge it as being not human enough to represent itself in a case about whether the AI is faking that it is many real human writers. (It is legion.)

But, hey, a man can be a woman at the drop of a personal declaration these days; so, why not?
Advon [sic] is proud to use AI responsibly in combination with human writers and editors for partners who want increased productivity and accuracy in their commerce departments," the company wrote in a statement. "Sport Illustrated [sic] was not one of those AI partners. We always give explicit ethical control to our publishing partners to decide the level of AI tooling they want in the content creation process — including none if they so choose, which has been part of our business since founding."

It's possible this is true. Maybe AdVon used AI-generated headshots to create fictional writers and stopped there, only using the fake authors' bylines to publish content produced by flesh-and-blood humans.

But looking at the evidence, it's hard to believe.
And how can you believe anything now that AI is ALREADY being used extensively to create content, even recently managing to trick many people into believing it was a recording of Joe Biden and apparently tricking many major editors into believing it was, at least, a real content farm of underpaid low-level, cost-saving writers. Now they know they've been duped and many drew away very quickly because they'd look so foolish.

Musk mind melds with machine

In another article today in which Elon Musk says that he listens to podcasts about the apocalyptic fall of society in order to get to sleep at night, he talks about the rapid change humans need to make to becoming one with machines. The guy who invents amazing cars that can almost drive like humans until they get to a roundabout and go berserk and kill people is fully convinced he needs to reinvent humans, too.
The South African-born entrepreneur said he has long theorised that artificial intelligence, declining birth rates or a "single world government" could lead to the collapse of civilization.
OK. So far, so good. Nice to know.

Then we come to the next paragraph:
This could be digital intelligence replacing biological brains, the tech mogul has said, adding that for civilization to survive, humans will have to merge with machines to avoid becoming irrelevant.
So, the wipe-out of humanity will come as digital intelligence (AI) replaces biological brains, and the solution is for us to put that digital intelligence inside of our biological heads or become irrelevant? Human civilization, in that case, now stands at the threshold of creating Star Trek's Borg society. Just hand the steering wheel of your body over to Musk, and he'll get you wired up.
"It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself - particularly output."

He added that computers can communicate at "a trillion bits per second", while humans can only manage around 10 bits per second while typing on a mobile device.
To keep from being made irrelevant by machines we'll need to interface with them digitally. As what? Useless appendages that slow the machines down with physical needs like having to go to the bathroom or fix breakfast? It wouldn't take long for the machines to ditch that appendix.
Mr Musk has already begun actualising his theory. In January, he announced that the first human had received a brain implant from his Neuralink company.
So the beta version of the digital human is being tested as has been reported in The Daily Doom in the past. This is almost primordial as a Borgian concept, but it did fine ... until it didn't.
Neuralink says it aims "to redefine the boundaries of human capability," telling prospective participants that they "could significantly shape the future of interaction and independence, not just for you but for countless others."

"Initial results show promising neuron spike detection," he said in January, referring to the cellular activity between our brains and our nervous systems....

"Some high-bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem,"
And then it malfunctions and the brain unwired it from the brain. However, in multi-billionaire Musk's imaginative mind, the solution to not getting taken over by machines and replaced by them is ... "If you can't beat them, join them."

It's hard for me to see how the machines are not the winners in that scenario as they take over our very being. But we need to do it ....
"in a way that is beneficial to humanity."
"The AI should not be taught to lie."
Umm. Look at its teachers to see how far that is going to go. The only difference between the lying AI and the lying human is that the lying AI can process a trillion bits of lies per second and the human can only attempt to untangle those, at most, at ten bitty bits of lies per second. Good luck for us! We'll need it.

The revolution is on

Fortunately, a third article provides a single ray of hope today. You know all those automated tellers that replaced humans? Turns out most humans don't like them, so some stores are now ripping them out because the common man and woman and finally started switching to other merchants that still have real people. Until this countermove succeeds, you need no one to check out your groceries and no one to drive your car to and from the store where you bought your groceries and a magazine that was written by no one who never tested anything that was written about. And this is just the first decade of marvelous life-changing AI.

One more reason I call this the Year of Chaos.

(And this is why I also leave in so many typos as I rush an article out a day in addition to aggregating all the news trends that run toward the economic collapse Elon dreams about in order to get to sleep ... so you'll know by the blemishes that it is still human in origin ... or that could just be an AI trick to put you off your guard. This one barely made it out by 11:00 at night.)

— Devoid