Ross: Amazon needs to fight back against their phony AI books

Aug 8, 2023, 8:36 AM

amazon phony AI books...

A man is seen using the OpenAI ChatGPT artificial intelligence chat website in this illustration photo on 18 July, 2023. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The New York Times reports that Amazon has been selling sham travel guides written by AI.

Not only was Amazon selling these books, these phony guides have been propped up by phony five-star ratings, so they float to the top of Amazon’s search results.

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They come with phony author biographies and phony AI-generated portraits of phony authors. One of the authors is “Mike Steves” of Edmonds – who doesn’t exist.

And according to disappointed customers who bought the books, the text is cut and pasted from the Internet, unlike the travel books by the more famous Mr. Steves, that being Rick Steves, who is even now in Europe updating his travel guide with actual human-generated information.

These books appear to be generated using the ChatGPT language model, which strings together sentences based on which word is statistically most likely to follow the previous words, which is fun to play with but poisonous to anything supposedly based on facts.

I’m sure that’ll be fixed eventually — there are some very smart people working on it — but the main problem with AI goes much deeper than just improving the algorithm. The main problem with AI is that no one is responsible for it.

An algorithm has no skin in the game, no reputation to protect, no fear of unhappy customers, doesn’t understand what it’s writing, has no conscience, and suffers no consequences.

Amazon’s content guidelines are very clear: “We do not allow descriptive content meant to mislead customers or that doesn’t accurately represent the content of the book.”

And Amazon is taking down the books that the New York Times identified.

But that’s not enough. The people who sold those books should be sued for fraud. Set a precedent, make it clear that using AI to generate a book does not immunize you from liability.

Because it’s not just travel books that have been infected.

The Times said their reporters used an AI detector and found AI-generated books on cooking, programming, gardening, business, medicine, and mathematics. These are things that are supposed to be fact-based.

And this will only get worse unless Amazon makes it hurt.

Find out who collects the royalties on these ghost books, and haul these people into court.

And maybe hire a few more people who can vet books before they go on your website instead of leaving it up to the New York Times.

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Ross: Amazon needs to fight back against their phony AI books