Synthetic AI is coming for the Internet

Stable Diffusion is an impressive AI image generator going viral.

Synthetic AI is coming for the Internet

Written on August 28th, 2022 - 2,100 words. 

Hey Guys, 

You are reading Machine Learning Times, a new Newsletter around my thoughts and research in A.I. trends as it (and they) impacts society, business and technology. You can filter my articles by category here. 

The Synthetic internet refers to any number of trends including RPA, no-code platforms, more sophisticated chat bots, the future of gaming, and now also these text-to-image prompting AIs. Digital twin technology, Metaverses and Synthetic AI itself will also contribute. Many aspects of the  Synthetic Internet have yet to be invented in 2022. 

TikTok adoption of AI generation with Green Screens is an example of how the internet becomes "more synthetic". From memes, to GIFs to viral movements, our behavior is getting easier to moderate (think "behavior modification") at scale. 

Stable Diffusion is a great symbolic example of the evolution of A.I. adoption on the internet. 

Going down the rabbit hold of a more synthetic internet now appears inevitable. But who are our guides and where does it lead?

We are Witnessing the Birth of a New More Synthetic Internet 

Recently with the launch of Stable Diffusion there's a new explosion of content yet again on the internet of AI Generated images and art. 

Stable Diffusion seems to be more accessible than OpenAI's Dalle-2 technology, and there's now more and more of these AI image generative products coming online each month. 

Stable Diffusion now even has its own Reddit

In the 2020s what we consider "content" and "communities" online will radically change. You may yourself have noticed this shift?

More automation and more A.I. will also continue to change how we relate to media, our peers, society and very importantly, each other. How we experience censorship, freedom of speech and misinformation online is also be "moderated" by A.I. 

For a visual tour, let's look at some early creations of Stable Diffusion in its first weeks. 

Twitter and Reddit are both great sources for new images, and some of them are stunning - the twitter hashtag #StableDiffusion is a good place to begin browsing. 

It is a Utopia moment for AI generated Art no doubt: 

I'm not an artist or a designer, but even I find it somewhat stimulating. 

Even Internet technology influencers and leaders are talking about it and showing it off: 

THIS is clearly a different experience of creative GIFs and the power of AI generation on the future of the internet. 

Stable Diffusion is just a few weeks old but already feels a part of the internet. Stable Diffusion is a state of the art text-to-image model that generates images from text. For faster generation and forthcoming API access you can try DreamStudio Beta

If you think about it, even the NFT hype of 2021 is part of the Synthetic Internet movement. AI image generators now have a long list of pretty good products: 

  • Stable Diffusion

  • Dalle2

  • Midjourney

  • NeuralBlender

  • Craiyon, formerly dalle mini

  • NightCafe

  • Deep Dream Generator

  • And so many others

Click on the above Tweet to see the animation #StableDiffusion 

If you want to read more of my work, follow this Twitter account

The advent of Stable Diffusion in August, 2022 for me is another step forwards into the Synthetic Internet.

A.I. will change the content, the creator, the medium and the future, forever.

Eventually it will automate code, marketing, sales and also the written word online. Weirdly, this is not fully being appreciated. 

How can it be? What are you talking about? They say to me. Google's Deepmind neural network is now able to create 30-second videos from a single image. Eventually entire YouTubes will be AI generated, including some of the people in the videos. Functionally we won't be able to tell the difference, just like a deepfake. 

The Synthetic Internet will be a powerful all-encompassing case study and experiment. It will also disrupt many folk who make a living in the digital economy. It will also create new solo entpreneurs with jobs that have yet to be invented. It will also enable new startups to grow and automate their tasks and scale faster. 

A.I. disrupts and it creates, and it makes some people exceptionally rich - so we go along with the game. We praise it along the way. An internet of hype for the internet itself (which has devolved into an Advertising and Cloud computing Utopia, and little else). 

I invite you if you haven't already, to try a prompt demo of Stable Diffusion here. How do people augmented with AI generators, bots and Metaverses, paint the future of the internet together?

When social platforms like Roblox or TikTok are more immersive, they involve more creative investment by the user.

No more showing off images on Instagram guys. The Synthetic Internet is totally different. It's more than a YouTube video or your 5-seconds of TikTok fame. I think Gaming and modding exemplifies more the direction of the Synthetic Internet. 

It's no longer about the cover, but about the experience. If I've been gamified into being a creator in the creator economy, I'm basically a gig-economy worker for a platform. 

There's also a sense of perversity personified in what happens to people "augmented by AI". What do they end up creating? Are they creating for the supposed perks and benefits of the said attention? How are they incentivized to produce increasingly synthetic content? What are the business, commercial, behavior modification and user-interface parameters of A.I. ethics involved here?

Who is in control. 

There's a "Wow-factor" but I'm not sure we fully appreciate what the Synthetic Internet becomes as an end-game. 

When Google's LaMDA becomes your AI companion, and maybe a better friend than some of the humans in your life, what happens to your mental health and reliance on these AI bots? The Synthetic Internet will indeed take many forms. 

From automating your healthcare, to providing you with better access to housing, financial products to scoring you in any number of ways, it's the precursor to a global universal social credit system of Surveillance Capitalism. All of this doesn't seem to have much to do with Stable Diffusion. 

But the speed of adoption of good products is always impressive. If you think of WhatsApp or TikTok and how they spread to Billions of people. Or how software from Microsoft reaches hundreds of millions of professionals everywhere, you get an idea of how the scale of the Synthetic AI will quickly grow. Just as the gaming industry has grown in the last decade. 

In a world where GenZ finds Tinder lame, we are nearing a time when AI companionship could be big business. For me the viewer, a deepfake kitten still melts my heart. 

The Synthetic Internet thus becomes like living in a simulation. One step into the fire, two steps down the Matrix rabbit hole. The normalization of pervasive user and employee Surveillance is happening, even in the so-called guise of "digital transformation" in the remote work and work from home trend. 

Be careful what you wish for. 

The Synthetic Internet normalizes and will accelerate the adoption of social credit scoring of all human activities in an Ads-centric internet framework.

In the past fifteen years our mobile behavior has literally warped our consciousness. Young people respond differently to mental health, empathy, face to face socialization and even to work-culture norms. I think the quiet quitting trend is such an example. 

Monopoly Capitalism needs a second act. Those walled gardens need new business models to scale and grow even bigger and faster. Microsoft acquiring itself into a Gaming monopoly is an example too of the rise of the Synthetic Internet.

Facebook trying to manifest the Metaverse, is the perfect example. IBM working on Quantum computing to deliver even more powerful "simulations" for global corporations is yet another example. The convergence of all of these things will be gradual but also build a new kind of an internet. 

Stable Diffusion was made by a small company called Indeed AI startups promote themselves as being part of the AI for good movement or like Hugging Face, part of the democratization of A.I. But really these startups are fostering what the Synthetic Internet becomes.

But let's be honest, these lame mission statements are not that inspiring. They are puppets of the times, easily manipulated pieces on a chessboard for the commercialization of A.I. that is controlled in part by the Cloud computing and digital Advertising leaders. It's hard to see Hugging Face not getting acquired like GitHub did. 

This is the motto of Stablility.AI: 

The problem is what the Synthetic Internet becomes won't be for the people, it will be for the corporations.

Roblox is something (that is sometimes) compared to a child-labor camp. This aspect worries me. TikTok is clearly able to allow the CCP to mould ideological trends of young people all around the world today.

The corporate profit motive skews everything. From app product behavioral designers trapping us in dopamine feedback loops with recommendation engines, to what will happen in the years to come.

Google's motives for AI domination may not be helping the world become a better place. Microsoft's proliferation of paid subscriptions might not really be empowering us. 

There are no ground-rules, codes of conduct, A.I. regulation or side rails (guard rails) in the development of the Synthetic Internet and how A.I. will become more powerful in how it drives human behavior online for profit.

It's a winner-takes-all dynamic and we barely have any freewill in its development, outcome or the exploitation of our data, privacy and experiences. If we are the product on walled garden platforms, what are we in "the Metaverse"? Can you even imagine what is coming?

The Synthetic Internet could be a nightmare of digital transformation, a veritable dystopia of Surveillance Capitalism, and young people won't even know the difference or remember a time when the internet was more free. They won't even know in the history books of how Silicon Valley or China went wrong. When human data, privacy and human rights and freedoms become expendable. Their digital identity will strip them of the freedoms of human experience their grandparents once took for granted as life. 

As AI becomes more pervasive it also funnels wealth in consumerism and capitalism differently. 

"All that glitters is not gold"

The Evolution of Surveillance Capitalism is a Snare

A.I. will augment, transform, empower and upgrade us, but it will also corrupt, bias, disfigure and dehumanize us. Just as the dumb algos of digital advertising's supremacy over the last decade has. 

So long as monopolies control the fate of the internet and the future of the software that is eating the world, people won't matter. The behavior of the user, citizen, puppet, and peasant will continue to be modified. Not for the greater good, but for the profit motive. A.I. under the current plutocratic Capitalistic system will be weaponized beyond recognition. 

The Synthetic Internet could harm us as a human civilization, just as A.I at scale without regulations could lead to our human extinction. This could happen far faster than the impact of global warming though however devastating, we are witnessing today with droughts in China, floods, record temperatures, drying up of rivers, a mounting energy crisis, and so forth. 

AI business models at scale will increase the vulnerabilities of our debt based consumerism, that thing that drives the GDP of the United States, arguably the most important economy in the world. That thing that artificially inflates our expectation of never-ending growth. Just as Bitcoin, A.I. at scale in its current form, will act as a wealth re-distribution system that will lead to world with less, not more freedom. You have been warned.