The internet is slipping out of our reach

Do you often append "reddit" or "wiki" to your Google search queries?
Seek out human discourse on specific websites, when search engines were invented to do it for you? Worry not, for soon search engines will be useless.

If you searched Google for a movie review in 2005, you'd get a review. Today, you get paid search results, ads, third-party cookies, trackers, newsletter prompts, notification requests, and, if you're lucky – a movie review. No matter what you search for, SEO-hacked content farms will blot out the sun.1

The average essay is written not to be read, but to be found—by a search engine, that is—so it can monetize every fiber of your eyeballs. Keep you scrolling, clicking, and sharing. Like this article? Maybe you'll like this e-book too. It's free! (Just enter your email ;)).

The internet continues to grow in volume, but shrink in diversity. As if everything has moved to a few select apps, which then sell our words to AI slot machines. Images on Instagram, videos on YouTube, and discussions on Reddit. Dare to venture out of this bubble, and you'll be pelted with SEO spam by content farms squabbling over search ranks and impressions.

But do you know what's worse than SEO spam?

AI generated SEO spam.

With services that generate thousands of articles, post them on multiple websites, then create fake profiles to market them2; the phrase "As an AI language model" now turns up on LinkedIn, Amazon, Twitter, and even Google scholar. In a matter of weeks, LLMs can generate more text than has ever been written in human history. Every passing day, humans grow farther apart, and bots fill the void in between.

This steady decline hearkens me back to my early teenage years – when I was an active user of several RTS video-game forums. At the time, the internet was smaller and fostered organic growth. Smaller websites were easier to find, game mods and fanfics weren't subreddits, and personal pages didn't live on Substack or Medium3.

When I'm older, I expect to surf an internet that will have exploded with AI content, like the big bang leaving a dark forest behind4. Online TV shows and webtoons with unending episodes generated on the fly, digital journals overflowing with articles, and chat apps with AI companions to ease loneliness. Human interaction will stay burrowed underground, in the tight confines of small and heavily moderated groups.

For the past few years, I've been holed up in small discord servers – the only place where I expect to freely interact with meaningful messages that aren't marketing posts in disguise. And if you too have been hiding in telegram groups and mailing lists – good, don't leave. It's dark outside.



This is by design, Of course. A search engine cannot make money by nimbly leading you to webpages free of charge. The real money is in hiding pages. Showing only the results from firms that can pay to retain their position in the results page – either by paying Google directly, or by hosting ads that share revenue with Google.


I've come across several tools that "grow" your online presence by auto generating soulless content. Here is just one example.


That is not to say blogs on Substack or Medium are inferior. Some of my favourite blogs are on Substack. Only that reading everyone's blogs on the same few platforms doesn't feel as diverse.


While writing this post, I came across an excellent talk by Maggie Appleton.