Then came spam. With AI, we have’slop.

You might not understand what artificial intelligence means by “slop”. You probably know what “slop” means on some level.

Slop is a term that, at least on the fast-moving online message boards, has gained some traction to describe shoddy AI content, whether it be in social media, books, or art.

Google suggests that you can add nontoxic adhesive to make the cheese stick to pizza? That’s slop. A low-priced digital book that looks like it’s the one you want, but isn’t quite. What about those Facebook posts that seem to have appeared out of nowhere? These are also slop.

Last month, Google’s Gemini AI model was integrated into the US-based results of its search engine. Instead of sending users to links, this service tries to answer a user’s query directly by using an “AI Overview”. This is a block of text that appears at the top of the results page and uses Gemini to make its best guess as to what the user wants.

Google announced that it would be rolling back some AI features until the problems could be resolved.

It appears that, with AI being a top priority for search engines, the vast amounts of information generated by computers, and not largely curated or filtered by humans, will become a part of daily life on the Internet in the near future.

The term slop is used to describe the unappetizing food that is shoveled into livestock troughs. AI-assisted searches are a lot like that type of slop. They come together quickly but may not be in a manner that critics can stomach.

Kristian Hammond of Northwestern University’s Center for Advancing Safety of Machine Intelligence noted a flaw in the current model. The information presented by AI Overview was presented as a definitive solution, instead of a place where Internet users could begin their research on a particular subject.

Hammond stated that “you search for something and get what you need to think, and it actually encourages to think.” In this integration of language models, it is becoming something that doesn’t encourage you to think. It encourages you accept. “I think that’s dangerous.”

Giving a problem a name may help to target it. While slop may be a good option, the question remains whether or not it will catch on among a wider audience.

Adam Aleksic is a content creator and linguist who goes by the handle “etymologynerd” on social media. He believes that slop, which has not yet reached a wider audience, shows promise.

Aleksic stated, “I believe this is an excellent example of a non-obtrusive phrase right now because it’s a familiar word.” It’s a natural word for this situation. It’s therefore less in your face.

Slop was used as a term to describe low-quality AI material in response to the release of AI art creators in 2022. Simon Willison is often credited as the first adopter, but Willison who has been pushing for the phrase to be adopted, says it had already been in use before he discovered it.

In an email, he wrote: “I’m not sure if I was late or not.”

This term is used in 4chan, Hacker News, and YouTube comments where anonymous posters can project their expertise in complex subjects by using group language.

Aleksic explained that slang always starts out in a small community, and then spreads. Coolness can be a factor in spreading slang, but it’s not always the case. We’ve heard a lot from coders. Consider the word “spam”. The word is usually created by a group of people who have similar interests and a need to create words.

The short-term impact of AI on search engine and internet may not be as severe as some fear.

Data from Chartbeat, an Internet traffic research company, shows that Google Discover referrals to websites dropped immediately in the days following AI overviews. Chartbeat reports that the dip in search traffic has recovered and, in the first three week of the overviews in the US, the overall search traffic for more than 2,000 websites actually increased.

Willison, an AI optimist who believes that AI can be used properly, thinks that the term slop will become synonymous with the lower forms of machine generated content.

He said that society needs to find concise ways of talking about AI, both its positives and negatives. “Ignore the email, it’s spam, and ignore that article, it’s slop” are both valuable lessons. – The New York Times

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