An AI Future Is Much Shakier Than You Think

December 31, 2023

Foreign Policy

We are often told these days that the world stands at a technological crossroads; that we are hurtling forward into a future shaped by artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT. I suspect, instead, that 2024 will be the year we are reminded of the Ghost of Napster—and other failed digital futures.

If you’re under 35 or over 60, you probably don’t know what Napster was. But for a moment, it was the future. Napster was a peer-to-peer file sharing service. For a few years—roughly 1999 to 2002—it had an aura of futurity about it. The basic logic of Napster was simple enough: Somebody buys a CD. They upload the songs to their computer. The computer is connected to Napster’s peer network. Napster renders those songs freely available for download to every other user of the network. You could think of this a bit like making infinite mix tapes and distributing them everywhere. But, from the perspective of the music industry, it was also quite a bit like theft.

Read the full article in the Foreign Policy.