Antonio Arcidiacono (EBU Director of Technology & Innovation)

The way our community chooses to use and engage with AI-based applications will dictate whether public service media (PSM) remain a – or even be the – trusted source of content, from news to education or sport. A reaction based only on passive defence and/or throwing up legal barriers against AI-based applications would help to limit potential negative impacts on PSM, but we should also be aiming to use these technologies to enhance PSM’s essential guiding role in society.

The exponential growth of AI-based applications, after so many years bubbling under, is paving the way for a new industrial revolution that goes well beyond the software-centric evolution of the first internet generations. And this revolution is intrinsically connected with basic human nature when it comes to dialogue, learning and the development of common cultures.

AI now presents itself as a kind of ‘augmented self’, extending the cognitive and functional abilities of the individual. Enhancing human capabilities in this way can allow for more effective collaboration between human and artificial intelligences. It seems likely that conversational engines will outflank and progressively replace applications and websites, with these new AI-powered ‘individuals’ becoming our daily counterparts. Would this world be again dominated by (new or old) big players?

This conversational evolution will also stimulate the emergence of small and medium sized companies creating the LLM (large language model) based assistants that will appear everywhere, from cars to mobile phones, watches and wearables. All these conversational agents need raw material to build upon and a new offer will materialize to feed them. Direct traffic to websites will progressively fall, and the mediation of those conversational agents will probably become the new way of being relevant for the wider public.

Should PSM be frightened by such a trend? Big companies and private investors are putting massive amounts of money into developing this new world; it is only by combining the forces of medium-sized and small players that we can have a fighting chance to defend our culture and quality of life. We need to privilege all the native human advantages, combining the physical and digital worlds, leveraging technologies to stay in the lead, building our future together.

Media literacy

Citizens, starting from the new generations, need to have diverse sources of information and to learn how to interpret the biased perspectives pushed to them. In this accelerating environment it is more important than ever that citizens have means of tracing sources and assessing their trustworthiness.

Media and AI literacy is becoming more important every day. It should be applied at the ‘age of curiosity’ for children from 7 to 11 years old, developing their ability to understand the underlying mechanisms and then analyse and criticize ideas.
Parents, too, should be indirectly involved in this educational exercise, de facto accelerating two entire generations at the same time.

Sources of information can often be biased by some agendas to the detriment of other groups of people. The truth should be the result of a critical analysis by each citizen, and each citizen should be given a multiplicity of diverse sources of information.
Kai Gniffke, Director-General of SWR and the General Intendant for ARD, recently underlined the urgent need to invest in education bringing “journalism and technology together and demonstrating a certain Technikfröhlichkeit*.”

“I would like SWR to strengthen people’s media skills even more. Our goal should be for every pupil in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg to come into contact with an SWR media literacy project during their school career. After all, we must not leave young people to the non-transparent algorithms of foreign tech companies alone.”

It is only by leveraging these technologies to the advantage of citizens and young generations – from strong education to diverse and trusted information – that we will grow a new cultural environment that can endure and avoid surrendering to the dominant forces of big companies or the distortion induced by perverse market players.


* Technological happiness

This article first appeared in issue 59 of EBU tech-i magazine.

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