The “Boring Apocalypse” Of Today’s AI

Machines writing dreary text, to be read by other machines

Clive Thompson
6 min readMay 31, 2023


Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

I recently learned a very useful concept for thinking about our AI future.

It’s in a recent column by the New York Times writer Ezra Klein, in which he grapples with the impact of large language-models like ChatGPT.

At one point, he perceptively notes that language AI could be used as a sort of denial-of-service attack on any institution that’s predicated on human feedback.

Consider, he noted, a city that proposes a new building development, and asks residents to submit letters opposing or supporting it. A NIMBY local resident could use ChatGPT to crank out “a 1,000-page complaint” in an instant, as Klein notes.

That could really drown a thinly-staffed housing department, right? A bad thing.

Except, as Klein adds, the housing department staff might well use ChatGPT themselves — to auto-summarize the incoming letters from residents. Fighting fire with fire!

That sounds … useful? Sort of? Except now you’ve got a situation in which people are using AI to parse text that was itself cranked out by an AI.

It’s an incredibly weird and soul-deadening prospect, perhaps all the more depressing because of how…



Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”.