Humans Wanted: Do Not Leave Information Curation to AI

March 15, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Remember RSS feeds? Before social media took over the Internet, they were the way we got updates from sources we followed. It may be time to dust off the RSS, for it is part of blogger Joan Westenberg’s plan to bring a human touch back to the Web. We learn of her suggestions in, “Curation Is the Last Best Hope of Intelligent Discourse.”

Westenberg argues human judgement is essential in a world dominated by AI-generated content of dubious quality and veracity. Generative AI is simply not up to the task. Not now, perhaps not ever. Fortunately, a remedy is already being pursued, and Westenberg implores us all to join in. She writes:

“Across the Fediverse and beyond, respected voices are leveraging platforms like Mastodon and their websites to share personally vetted links, analysis, and creations following the POSSE model – Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. By passing high-quality, human-centric content through their own lens of discernment before syndicating it to social networks, these curators create islands of sanity amidst oceans of machine-generated content of questionable provenance. Their followers, in turn, further syndicate these nuggets of insight across the social web, providing an alternative to centralised, algorithmically boosted feeds. This distributed, decentralised model follows the architecture of the web itself – networks within networks, sites linking out to others based on trust and perceived authority. It’s a rethinking of information democracy around engaged participation and critical thinking from readers, not just content generation alone from so-called ‘influencers’ boosted by profit-driven behemoths. We are all responsible for carefully stewarding our attention and the content we amplify via shares and recommendations. With more voices comes more noise – but also more opportunity to find signals of truth if we empower discernment. This POSSE model interfaces beautifully with RSS, enabling subscribers to follow websites, blogs and podcasts they trust via open standard feeds completely uncensored by any central platform.”

But is AI all bad? No, Westenberg admits, the technology can be harnessed for good. She points to Anthropic‘s Constitutional AI as an example: it was designed to preserve existing texts instead of overwriting them with automated content. It is also possible, she notes, to develop AI systems that assist human curators instead of compete with them. But we suspect we cannot rely on companies that profit from the proliferation of shoddy AI content to supply such systems. Who will?

Cynthia Murrell, March 15, 2024


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