April 15, 2024

The theory of the dead Internet, explained

Have you heard of the dead internet theory? It has been gaining ground on the site formerly known as Twitter, now X.

What is the theory of the dead Internet?

The dead internet theory is the belief that the vast majority of internet traffic, posts, and users have been replaced by bots and AI-generated content, and that people no longer shape the direction of the internet.

The theory was floating around 4Chan in the late 2010s, but was solidified and amplified in 2021 after a long post describing the theory was published in a thread titled “Dead Internet Theory: Most of the Internet is Fake” , on the Agora Road forum. Macintosh Coffee.

Writing about the theory for The Atlantic, Kaitlyn Tiffany described the publication as the “ur text,” setting out the shape of the theory to come. Tiffany even managed to contact the original author, a Californian man who claimed to seriously believe the words she wrote.

His post describes a feeling of unease, paranoia and loneliness, expressing deep disappointment in the state of the modern Internet. It suggests that AI has successfully drowned out most human activity online, transforming the Internet into a more controlled algorithmic form that exists only to sell products and ideas.

But the theory goes beyond simply condemning today’s Internet as boring corporate garbage: the post suggests that we rarely interact with real humans on the Internet, or even see posts created by them. He also delves into some strange ideas, suggesting that the popularity of the Raptor Jesus, Foul Bachelor Frog, and Pepe the Frog memes are evidence of an evolving shape-shifting AI life form.

The post was written in 2021, before the commercial launch of ChatGPT and before AI became such a hot topic (although it was always a topic of speculation and discussion). Now, the theory has become something of a meme and a semi-ironic description of the Internet.

Last week, the dead internet theory was widely cited after a post on X drew attention to the platform’s bot infestation.

What happened to bots on X (Twitter)?

A popular post on

It’s hard to say if the title is relevant, as the video was mistakenly uploaded without audio; Therefore, many users assumed that the bots thoughtlessly liked the post.

This led to X users reposting the video and declaring that the site formerly known as Twitter was “cooked.” Nowadays, this is a common topic of conversation on the site.

Regular X users have long complained about the number of stupid, irrelevant, and clearly AI-generated answers that have infested X, especially lately; A swarm of robots has descended on the site like flies on excrement, turning the chains of responses into endless and useless jokes between no one.

Although X users still manage to find clever and strange answers from their human companions, the proliferation of bots is affecting the user experience. Others pointed out that it’s not just about X: Generative AI is also used to autocomplete product descriptions and names on Amazon.

For several months, artists and writers have lamented that the Internet is filling up with AI-generated images that have no value beyond novelty, and AI-generated writing that no one wants to read.

Critics predicted the rapid accumulation of AI-generated trash at the time the technology was introduced, and those predictions are slowly coming true.

Like the large patch of plastic trash floating on the surface of the ocean, AI-generated trash is starting to rise to the surface.

It’s not exactly the dead internet theory (humans still provide most of the content and conversations on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and TikTok), but it seems like the conspiracy theory could be depressingly close to reality.

Is the theory of the dead Internet real?

There are bots out there, sure, but theory doesn’t describe today’s Internet, much less in 2021. Social media sites have always taken steps to block spam bots and still do, even as bots are evolving, with the help of generative AI. .

At the moment, generative AI is not capable of creating good content on its own, simply because it cannot understand context. The vast majority of posts that go viral – crazy opinions, quips, astute observations, reframing the familiar in a new context – are not generated by AI.

The Internet may seem boring, broken, spammy, and algorithmic, but we are not adrift alone in a sea of ​​electronic NPCs. Aside from reposting human-created content, bots don’t rule the internet as theory suggests: influencers do, and bots follow suit.

The bizarre and witty comments, deliberate misinterpretations, personal attacks, and unhinged opinions that fuel online discourse still flow from human users. But the AI-generated garbage around it seems to be increasing.

There are points in the “ur text” that are true and have only become more relevant in the years since. For example, algorithms dictate our browsing experience and can create (or break) viral posts.

Today’s Internet is much more sterile than the wild and unpredictable Internet of the past, as the diverse ecosystem of small user-created sites has been replaced by a handful of huge platforms built by large corporations seeking to monetize our browsing and sharing. often to the detriment of the user experience.

Today’s Internet seems much more restricted and corporate than ever. Even Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is disappointed with the state of his creation, stating: “The Web is not the Web we wanted in every way.”

Interesting and fun things still happen online all the time, but the good stuff is getting harder to find and trends are getting mixed up in marketing campaigns, like the Stanley Cup and even the Grimace Shake.

The dead internet theory may not reflect the reality of the average browsing experience, but it does describe the feeling of boredom and alienation that can accompany it.

Like the best conspiracy theories, the Dead Internet Theory fictionalized a depressing truth; The Internet has been walled off by megacorporations and is now starting to fill with AI-generated sludge.

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