Will AI Degrade Online Communities?

Kalie M. Mayberry is a social impact researcher and educator, exploring activism practices and community governance models at Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. From generating novel recipes to drafting emails to coding, people have found various ways to use generative AI chatbots. Google Labs even helped me put this piece together, providing a short outline that I then began to edit and build out with specifics. But what is at risk by relying on generative AI is not only the many problems inherent in the technology – including bias, hallucinations, potential for spreading disinformation, and lack of transparency about how the models are trained and how they work – but also how it may affect online collaboration, shrinking and even drying out some of the robust communities that have been built over the past thirty years online.  Like many people, I have always used the internet to find answers to questions and solutions to problems – from reminding myself how many eggs to put into pancake mix to wondering if anyone else is experiencing an Instagram outage. Odds are that I can usually find someone else out there with the same question I have, likely because that person has typically started a thread on an online community-based forum to find the answer. The main problem I typically face is actually finding that thread. Sometimes remembering three words from a song I can’t recall the name of is enough to find exactly what I am looking…Will AI Degrade Online Communities?