Generative AI: The Digital Version of Fast Food

Aug 4, 2023 | Techonomy

Generative AI’s raison d’etre is to help us go faster. But snackable content can be digital junk food.

Mind your AIs. Many of them are turning your work into the digital equivalent of snack food. Looks scrumptious, but not particularly good for you.

I’m calling November 2022, Generative AI’s birthday since that’s when ChatGPT was unleashed on the general public.  Since that immersion, we’ve seen AI functionality added into just about every part of our digital life from emails to dating. 

We’re starting to realize a few things. First, AIs really need humans to stop them from making terrible decisions. Second, AI might be better at cutting and snipping than creating. Third, there’s a look and feel to AI-generated content and video that can be downright irritating, leaving you wondering who is to blame, the AI or your faulty directives.  

Still content overfloweth and AI is only going to add to the flood, letting us spit out more and more content, faster and faster. According to various estimates around 4.5 million blog posts are published on WordPress alone every day. Additionally, more than 500 million tweets are sent on Twitter  (before the X renaming) daily, and more than 500 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every minute.  Video is now responsible for more than 50% of all Internet content.  I’m predicting that AI tools are going to be a big part of why those numbers will double in 2024. 

The  irony is that so much of this content never gets seen, by anyone.  According to Pex, around 90% of videos people upload on their YouTube channels never reach 1,000 views. For a video-sharing site that gets more than 5 billion views daily, you’ve got to wonder who is making all of this content that never reaches an audience.


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AI Shines at Snackable Content

In AI circles the buzzword de jour is “snackable content”. For businesses, that means that no one wants to watch your CEO’s entire 40-minute presentation, for webinars, they want to cut to the chase, and for articles like this one, they don’t really want my voice – just a summary of the facts. 

I’ll argue that AI is changing our reading habits, turning everything we look at into digital CliffNotes. I use a Chrome add-on called Merlin that summarizes every website I search for, often letting me find what I’m looking for without ever visiting the website.

Merlin, a ChatGPT-powered add-on for Chrome browsers summarizes my search before I even visit a website.

The acronym TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) is a welcome mat to readers who’ve come to expect a quick summary of the longer pieces. Audiences on websites and social media now have an average attention span of just 8 seconds . 

For academics there’s  This will take the most inscrutable academic paper ( I believe academics are secretly paid by the word) and provide a really solid summary including an audiobook version for the true readaphobics.

Axios is a daily email newsletter that provides a summary of top news stories from around the world. It is designed to deliver information in a quick and easily digestible format. The company calls its formula, Smart Brevity. Now Axios has codified “Smart Brevity” into a commercial AI so that we can all be brief and to the point. It’s called Axios HQ. You enter the key points of what you’d like to say and Axios HQ does the rest. Its output is big on bullet points, headlines, and subheads and its AI smarts underscore why a particular missive is important to you. 

Bite-Sized Videos

Bite-sized information is not just for text. For video, it’s the same story. Two of the most astounding fast food AIs I’ve used recently are Opus and VidyoMunch is similar, but with a starker UI.

Opus and Vidyo have this uncanny ability (at least some of the time) to take a long video and chop it up into salient video clips. Opus even assigns the clips a ranking score. Conor Eliot, Head of Creator of Partnerships at Opus, told me that even his own team was surprised at the enthusiasm of the corporate world about Opus. The AI was designed with social media creators and influencers in mind but has been inundated with requests from the corporate world, everything from real estate to product launches. 

The most astounding magic trick of Opus is that it scores the most relevant parts of your video and offers an explanation of why it chose that particular section.

But for all their smarts, the hours of videos that Opus and Vidyo have created for me often miss what I consider the main point of the story, and have a generic look to them that shouts “AI made this.” I expect they’ll continue to improve as more users help iterate the products. For now, whether it’s text or video, I still prefer my snackable content over theirs. Theirs just takes less time. Not unlike a piece of handcrafted furniture versus an assembly line knockoff.

If you really want to go down the rabbit hole of snackable content, binge There’s An AI For That. It has an entire section of recommendations on AIs that produce snackable content. But use self-control, you might find yourself snacking for hours on end. 

Last thoughts on snackable content: I quote travel essayist and author Pico Iyer as a cautionary tale. “In an age of acceleration”, he writes, “nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.”


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