Will A.I. Break the Internet? Or Save It?

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

The internet is in decay. Do a Google search, and there are so many websites now filled with slapdash content contorted just to rank highly in the algorithm. Facebook, YouTube, X and TikTok all used to feel more fun and surprising. And all these once-great media companies have been folding or shedding staff members, unable to find a business model that works.

And into this weakened internet came the flood of A.I.-generated junk. There’s been a surge of spammy news sites filled with A.I.-generated articles. TikTok videos of A.I.-generated voices reading text pulled from Reddit can be churned out in seconds. And self-published A.I.-authored books are polluting Amazon listings.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio App, Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

According to my guest today, Nilay Patel, this isn’t just a blip, as the big platforms figure out how to manage this. He believes that A.I. content will break the internet as we know it.

“When you increase the supply of stuff onto those platforms to infinity, that system breaks down completely,” Patel told me “Recommendation algorithms break down completely. Our ability to discern what is real and what is false breaks down completely. And I think, importantly, the business models of the internet break down completely.”

Patel is one of the sharpest observers of the internet, and the ways technology has shaped and reshaped it. He’s a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Verge, and the host of the “Decoder” podcast. In this conversation, we talk about why platforms seem so unprepared for the storm of A.I. content; whether an internet filled with cursory A.I. content is better or worse than an internet filled with good A.I. content; and if A.I. might be a kind of cleansing fire for the internet that enables something new and better to emerge.

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio App, Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View a list of book recommendations from our guests here.

(A full transcript of this episode will be available within 24 hours of publication in the audio player above.)

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Nilay Patel

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Claire Gordon. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, with Kate Sinclair and Mary Marge Locker. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld, with additional mixing from Isaac Jones and Efim Shapiro. Our senior editor is Claire Gordon. The show’s production team also includes Annie Galvin, Rollin Hu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

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