Will StackOverflow survive AI?

Will StackOverflow survive AI?

If you ask most people today what MySpace was, most people probably wouldn't know, but MySpace was the largest social media network on the planet 20 years ago. I suspect if you ask the average junior developer 5 years down the road what StackOverflow was, he or she would have no idea. If you don't believe me, check out the above traffic graph from StackOverflow. Extrapolating these figures implies it'll have zero users 2 years from now.

StackOverflow just laid off 28 percent of its staff because of AI eating its market share. Since its peak of 20 million monthly users, it's now at 9 million. This happened in 1 year!

In 1 year StackOverflow lost 55% of its users!

The reasons are obvious, generative AI such as ChatGPT and CoPilot is simply ripping out the rug beneath SO's feet, and there's no reason to phrase your questions to Google when you can ask CoPilot and ChatGPT to create your code. The effects on StackOverflow is dramatic.

Legal battles

StackOverflow again is threatening to sue OpenAI and others, wanting to charge them for using their material to train their models. There's just one problem, the copyright to the content at SO doesn't belong to SO, it belongs to the users who created it. SO only have a "license to use it for their purposes", similarly to how Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have "licensed"our content.

That means that SO can in theory prevent crawlers and such from scraping their site, but they cannot (legally) prevent AI from using their content, simply because it's not their content, it belongs to who ever created it, implying me and you. Let's look at the above chart once more to understand the gravity here ...

StackOverflow eaten by AI

Following the above graph to its natural conclusion means SO will no longer exist 12 months from now.

Disrupting disruption

Every single crowd sourced website have the same problem, which is that "their content" isn't actually "their content", but belongs to those who created it. Facebook doesn't own the copyright to its database for instance, that copyright belongs to me, you, and 3 billion additional users, who created our status updates and comments over the years. This implies that if you can legally gain access to Facebook's database somehow, you can copy and paste that content as much as you please, and do whatever you wish with it, without Facebook being able to do anything to legally stop you.

The users who actually created the content might sue you for copyright violations, but Facebook cannot not, since the copyright belongs to YOU and not Facebook

In addition AI never creates a copy anymore than the human minds creates a copy when it taught itself things by reading books, for then to apply that knowledge in creating new things. It's like saying that every single artist that painted anything after Picasso, stole Picasso's work as they painted modern art. It simply doesn't work that way.

If you paint a red canvas, I look at it and become "inspired", and I paint a red canvas - Then my red canvas belongs to me, and your red canvas belongs to you

Trying to create laws that prohibits AI from becoming inspired inevitably will result in laws prohibiting human beings from becoming inspired, at which point we could say that everything is the copyright of the human being who invented painting 40,000 years ago, and the human being who invented literacy some 10,000 years ago. The madness of this is self evident.

Sorry StackOverflow, it's not yours to control

Sorry StackOverflow, your precious code and answers aren't yours, they never were, and they never will be. This is exactly how it should be. 20 years ago you were "the shit", and people were happy about your services. At some point you grew fat and lazy, and couldn't keep up anymore, and somebody came and took your cheese.

You built your entire existence upon taking somebody elses cheese, now somebody else are taking your cheese. It's over, go home StackOverflow, you're done for, and that's the way it should be ...

Sound of me scraping StackOverflow for YOUR copyright. Let me know if you've got issues with it, because it's not SO's business to be honest with you ... 😉

Thomas Hansen

Thomas Hansen I am the CTO of AINIRO.IO AS and the CEO of AINIRO.IO, Ltd. I am a software developer with more than 25 years of experience. I write about Machine Learning, AI, and how to help organizations adopt said technologies. You can follow me on LinkedIn if you want to read more of what I write.

Published 18. Oct 2023

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