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The Ruttle Report - We're real, AI is the 'fake news'

"I find that using artificial intelligence to sell people on the notion that someone is real and has a whole life story to be cheap." The Ruttle Report for December 7
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It's a bit of a coin toss, when you get right down to it.

On the one hand, technology can be an incredible and amazing thing that is capable of pushing the limits of human capability, especially in the medical world. It's all seven levels of cool whenever I read a story of a young child who'll receive a second chance at a normal, everyday existence because of medical advancements that allow us to get back up and pick up right where we left off in life.

On the other hand, technology can also show itself to be a cold and deceiving act of pure trickery in the form of AI (Artificial Intelligence) robots who are designed to take the place - and the jobs - of actual, warm-blooded human beings. Those self-checkout lanes at Walmart that everyone seems to actually be encouraged to use? The ones that are actually eliminating the jobs of humans, and will eventually see scores of people getting the proverbial pink slip? Bingo.

Let me delve a little deeper with you on this.

When someone says 'Sports Illustrated', what do you think of? Me, I think of one of the most celebrated publications in the Western world; a magazine that since 1954 has told countless stories, covered endless events, and served as a beacon of fair and balanced journalism in the sports world.

And then, as far as I'm concerned, their legitimacy took a heavy blow that they'll be recovering from for some time when some troubling facts came out in the news world. It was discovered that Sports Illustrated was using AI bots to create articles, but of course, they deny doing so. In any case, when they were questioned about several articles that appeared to be created using what's called generative AI, Arena Group (Sports Illustrated's publisher) denied using it and scrubbed their website of all such content, pointing the finger to AdVon, a third-party company hired to produce content.

How was this uncovered? Well, an article on a media website called Futurism explained the process, which saw their reporting staff trace the headshots of Sports Illustrated article authors to a website that sells AI-generated images. Sources told them that the stories published by the sports giant using the headshots of these "authors" were produced by AI, as well. They were told that "the content is absolutely AI-generated, no matter how much they say it's not."

One of the authors in question was one Drew Ortiz over at Sports Illustrated, and on the surface alone, there really wasn't anything to suggest that "he" was anything besides a fellow human being. Ortiz even had an author bio that delved a little bit into his personality and showed readers what kind of things he enjoyed doing for fun and recreation.

The bio reads, "Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature. Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn't out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents' farm."

Of course, the one and only alarmingly major problem with that brief look into Drew's life is the fact that he doesn't seem to exist. Futurism found no social media presence and no publishing history prior to having a byline with Sports Illustrated. And to follow that up, his profile photo on the company's website was found to be for sale on another website that sells AI-generated headshots, where Drew was described as a "neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes."

Isn't the digital age just grand?

The topic of using artificial intelligence is very much a hot one, particularly in our news world. The question of whether it's ethical or even a good idea to use AI technology is what drives much of the conversation.

So what's my take? Well, strap in, folks.

To be perfectly blunt, I find that using artificial intelligence to sell people on the notion that someone is real and has a whole life story to be cheap, low, and downright disgusting. In a lot of ways, it's also terrifying to think that actual human beings think that this is okay, the act of pulling the wool over peoples' eyes and telling them that "this is reality", when in fact it's purely snake oil.

Artificial Intelligence is capable of doing good, but when you use it in this fashion to actually "write" content and discard actual human beings who have bills to pay, then I believe that companies deserve every morsel of backlash and scrutiny coming their way. Too many people have their heads shoved so far in the machine that they can't see any more humans around them, and that's too bad.

In other words, you screwed up big time, Sports Illustrated. You might need to hit the bench for a few games, champ.

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.