The ‘Dead Internet’ Theory Posits Forums are Now Almost Entirely Overrun By AI
Ideas from 4chan (including its paranormal section) have percolated into the “dead internet” theory, writes the Atlantic, with a seminal post on another forum by “IlluminatiPirate” now arguing that the internet is almost entirely overrun by artificial intelligence:

Like lots of other online conspiracy theories, the audience for this one is growing because of discussion led by a mix of true believers, sarcastic trolls, and idly curious lovers of chitchat… Peppered with casually offensive language, the post suggests that the internet died in 2016 or early 2017, and that now it is “empty and devoid of people,” as well as “entirely sterile.” Much of the “supposedly human-produced content” you see online was actually created using AI, IlluminatiPirate claims, and was propagated by bots, possibly aided by a group of “influencers” on the payroll of various corporations that are in cahoots with the government. The conspiring group’s intention is, of course, to control our thoughts and get us to purchase stuff… He argues that all modern entertainment is generated and recommended by an algorithm; gestures at the existence of deepfakes, which suggest that anything at all may be an illusion; and links to a New York story from 2018 titled “How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually.”

“I think it’s entirely obvious what I’m subtly suggesting here given this setup,” the post continues. “The U.S. government is engaging in an artificial intelligence powered gaslighting of the entire world population.” So far, the original post has been viewed more than 73,000 times…

The theory has become fodder for dramatic YouTube explainers, including one that summarizes the original post in Spanish and has been viewed nearly 260,000 times. Speculation about the theory’s validity has started appearing in the widely read Hacker News forum and among fans of the massively popular YouTube channel Linus Tech Tips. In a Reddit forum about the paranormal, the theory is discussed as a possible explanation for why threads about UFOs seem to be “hijacked” by bots so often. The theory’s spread hasn’t been entirely organic. IlluminatiPirate has posted a link to his manifesto in several Reddit forums that discuss conspiracy theories…

Anyway … dead-internet theory is pretty far out-there. But unlike the internet’s many other conspiracy theorists, who are boring or really gullible or motivated by odd politics, the dead-internet people kind of have a point… [Y]ou could even say that the point of the theory is so obvious, it’s cliché — people talk about longing for the days of weird web design and personal sites and listservs all the time. Even Facebook employees say they miss the “old” internet. The big platforms do encourage their users to make the same conversations and arcs of feeling and cycles of outrage happen over and over, so much so that people may find themselves acting like bots, responding on impulse in predictable ways to things that were created, in all likelihood, to elicit that very response.
That 2018 article in New York magazine had argued that (at that time) a majority of web traffic was probably coming from bots — including especially high bot traffic on YouTube — while even the engagement metrics for major sites like Facebook had been gamed or inflated.

But whether or not that’s changed, the Atlantic shares a compelling argument from a forum poster arguing that their very presence in this discussion proves they must be a bot. “If I was real I’m pretty sure I’d be out there living each day to the fullest and experiencing everything I possibly could with every given moment of the relatively infinitesimal amount of time I’ll exist for instead of posting on the internet about nonsense.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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