I hate to say it: "I told you so" and I avoid it as much as I can. But lately, with all the discussion going on Steemit around the curation rewards and the entire philosophical (or not too philosophical) dilemma on wether we should eliminate them or not, I decided to take a stand and repeat what I already wrote 3 months ago in this blog post: Useful And Unfair - The Rise Of Bots On Steemit. I love this blockchain thing, it can keep track of stuff and give the actual proof that something happened.
To save you a click, I will give you a two sentences brief of the article: "In the beginning all progress is unfair. The more disruptive its effects, the more turmoil it generates."
What Is At Stake With Curation Rewards?
There seem to be two polarized groups here: one that sees curation rewards as necessary and useful and another one that sees them as a bad thing. I will not give all the arguments here, @timcliff summarized them exhaustively in this blog post.
But the core issue in this entire discussion seems to revolve around bots. And how dumb is to use bots. And how this will destroy us, in the end. The painted picture is sometimes apocalyptic: "Steemit curation is ran by bots", "We're in the Matrix", etc. Almost always, the fact that those bots were coded by a human seems to be completely ignored. It's like the bots are just some wild beasts that are acting on their own.
I know I will disappoint the curation "slashers", but I find the assumption that "bots are dumb" quite stupid. Maybe the bots are dumb now. But that doesn't mean they will always be. The fact that they are taking a monotonous, repetitive task and execute it for a human is extremely useful. To an extent, that's the very definition we have for "tool".
At the current level, bots are very unsophisticated "ploughs", if we compare curation on Steemit with the dawn of agricultural revolution 10.000 years ago. They are doing something faster, with less energy and more effectively than we, humans, can do. But they have a lot of room for improvement.
Are they on par with our own judgement? Nope, not quite. The probability to hit it right with every vote, no matter how well coded bots are, is, in my experience, less than 20%. That means that out of 5 votes, only one will be "100% valid". The rest may be "so and so", "maybe" and probably every once in a while we will meet a "definitely not". But that's acceptable right now. That's the price we need to pay, in terms of performance, to improve the entire process.
What Exactly Means To Be A "Curator"? Is This A Job?
I think curation is a fundamental process in Steemit and one of the fundamental differences from other, centralized platforms, like Facebook. The Facebook algorithm, for instance, is notoriously sneaky and it wasn't designed for the platform user, but for the advertiser. The distribution of posts on Facebook is like a black box, just like Google ranking algorithm, with which it starts to share more and more every day. We don't know how our posts will get onto our friends' walls, if ever.
Curation in Steemit plays at many other levels, not only at the basic, "trending" page display, hence, it's intrinsically part of the platform's value. Take this out and Steemit will be just a Tsu clone, with a little more math for the rewards, and a very fast blockchain, with all the attached benefits (censorship-resistant, 100% availability, etc). It's still promising, but way less than it could be.
In my personal opinion, the more granular the curating process is, the better the content. And granularity will increase in the automatic curation processes once more AI will sneak in.
Right now it may be seem like the bot driven curation is off, and it's driven primarily by the potential reward. And I agree, most of the time they are off. But it's exactly this reward that drives innovation. By keeping bot makers incentivized, and by creating some playground for the competition, they will create more and more sophisticated curation bots, putting more and more AI into them.
Do I think this is a good thing? I will refrain myself from "good" or "bad". I will just say that this is happening and it can't be stopped, just as using ploughs 10.000 years ago, during the agricultural revolution, couldn't be stopped. Steemit bots, and, by drastically generalizing, all the AI revolution we're seeing around us, cannot be stopped.
AI, by itself, is just a tool and, as a tool, it will make our life easier, not harder (provided we will use this "knife" to cut the bread, not our fingers). Some jobs will disappear in this process. Just like the traditional farmer roles in the dawn of the agricultural revolution disappeared too.
Whenever there is progress, there will be a lot of disruption and turmoil, but the end result will be a positive one. At lest that's what I think, you don't have to agree with me.
But try for a second to imagine how agriculture would have looked nowadays, if the "individuals", the guys who were against the plough, considering it "unfair", would have been succeeded. No ploughs. No automation. No mass market. We would have all lived off of what we can grow around the house, which means we couldn't leave house, not knowing if we're going to find the same type of food somewhere else, and a lot of other consequences, all quite limiting and surprising. We take for granted agriculture and the fact the earth gives us food , but it wasn't always that easy.
In a not-so-distant future, we may all take for granted the fact that we see only the most accurate, most interesting content, delivered pristinely by our heavily AI enhanced bots on Steemit.
When we will reach that point, we should all remember that it wasn't always that easy.
I'm a serial entrepreneur, blogger and ultrarunner. You can find me mainly on my blog at Dragos Roua where I write about productivity, business, relationships and running. Here on Steemit you may stay updated by following me @dragosroua.