I know that the seemingly random “Sports Illustrated” articles that popped up about Utah over the course of the year had raised some eyebrows here. Namely, who the hell was actually writing them?
Turns out…it was probably AI writing the articles. SI would then slap on their brand and a “headshot” (a stock photo) for the author and call it a day.
Ortiz isn’t the only AI-generated author published by SportsIllustrated, according to a person involved with the creation of the content who asked to be kept anonymous to protect them from professional repercussions.
“There’s a lot,” they told us of the fake authors. “I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist.”
“At the bottom [of the page] there would be a photo of a person and some fake description of them like, ‘oh, John lives in Houston, Texas. He loves yard games and hanging out with his dog, Sam.’ Stuff like that,” they continued. “It’s just crazy.”
The AI authors’ writing often sounds like it was written by an alien; one Ortiz article, for instance, warns that volleyball “can be a little tricky to get into, especially without an actual ball to practice with.”
According to a second person involved in the creation of the Sports Illustrated content who also asked to be kept anonymous, that’s because it’s not just the authors’ headshots that are AI-generated. At least some of the articles themselves, they said, were churned out using AI as well.
I remember the days when getting the weekly SI was a big deal. I would read through nearly every single story and loved their reporting. Now? An AI-generated crapfest. Mirrors the larger media world, I suppose, but still kind of a wild story.
A sophisticated program can regurgitate the raw numbers ( win/loss records, carries, throws, yardage, sacks, baskets/assists/rebounds, etc.) but takes a human to understand capture and put into writing the emotion, feelings, passion, etc. of sports.
I’ve been a loyal SI subscriber for as long as I can remember, but when this subscription is up I’m not renewing. They might have a pretty well-written detailed story every three or four months, but that’s it. That, and for the last two years they’ve not sent me the swimsuit issue. Contact them? Go ahead and try. They’ve made that too much of a chore. I’m done, and will save some trees in the process.
“hard working” and SI haven’t gone together in quite sometime. SI used to be fun to read, but since they’ve gone online only, it’s like reading a high school newspaper, minus the editorial abilities of a teacher. I “read” newsweek for the Cat stories. Otherwise Newsweek hasn’t been good since, I don’t recall when they were good in my lifetime.
Here’s a recent example of AI in a deep fake by an otherwise talented actor/impressionist. At first, I missed the actuual technology and was admirable of Hader’s obvioius talent, but later, I saw comments on reditt that made me look again (now I can’t un-see it.
What is distrubing to me is: who made the effort to add both Pachino’s and Schwartzinager’s eyes over Bills? It makes the impression so much more “real”, but is it even nescessary? Bill’s Pachino voice is spot-ON!. Was it done by the Conan team at the time, or was this added later? Now that I know, how insidious this technology can be for something as inocent as a gag, I worry about outcomes that are much more consiquential.
Maybe some of the more tech folk minded here can opine on this event.
Use of AI is more widespread in reporting than most realize.
MS caught some flak for an inappropriate poll next to a story about a tragedy in their news feed. The criticism was completely justified, of course, but that event tells me AI is already doing a fair amount of the lifting, in this case the editing process failed. I would presume that was a human who missed it.
I would say 30% of professionals I work with who do a lot of writing are using it, at least in the formative stages of their material. It can be a dramatic accelerator in helping you get started, there’s really no more “writer’s block”.
But ask the attorney who submitted legal briefs with false case history if it’s wise to completely depend on it. The technology isn’t there yet for the Large Language Models to be 100% error free. It’s improving, there is a lot of work being done to fix this issue, but we’re in the early days of LLMs being widely used.
Other types of AI don’t have this particular problem - flight systems, medical systems with AI, email autocorrect, grammar checkers, etc.
While I’m a little melancholy about this, having been a subscriber for over 40 years, I also think they had it coming. Two straight years they’ve not sent me the swimsuit issue. Coach Sub-Prime as Sportsperson of the Year just reinforced my decision that I was done with them and wouldn’t renew when my subscription expires this year. They lost the bubble a long time ago.