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The Dark Side of Quora: Unmasking the Rise of AI Answers


Original graphic of man with his hood up obscuring his face reaching toward the camera with the text "Dark Side of Quora: Unmasking the Rise of AI Answers" overlaying the image

Have you noticed an increasing number of bland, formulaic answers that lack real substance on Quora lately? You are not alone. We are witnessing the rising trend of answers on Quora written by Artificial Intelligence (AI) writing tools. These answers certainly look polished and articulate. But if we take a closer look, are these AI answers enhancing the Quora experience? Or are they actually diminishing it?



What are AI writing tools?

AI writing tools, such as ChatGPT and Google Bard, are applications that generate humanlike text in response to a prompt or question from a user.


The complex AI models behind these tools have been trained on billions of pages of text from the internet. This training allows AI writing tools to learn how to mimic human writing styles, giving them the ability to understand the context of questions and provide detailed, humanlike answers.



Are people using AI writing tools on Quora?

Yes! We are seeing people copying Quora questions and pasting them into AI tools like ChatGPT. The AI tool analyzes the Quora question and writes a detailed, articulate response with correct grammar and vocabulary. To the untrained eye, these AI-generated answers may seem to be written by a human.



Why is it a problem if people use AI tools to answer Quora questions?

In two words - user experience. The ability of AI to mimic human writing is impressive. However, these tools answers are often formulaic, opinion-less and bland. These AI-generated responses lack the personal perspective, nuanced thought and passion inherent in human writing.


People use Quora as they enjoy reading other humans' unique insights and opinions. Bland answers written by AI are not what they are looking for on Quora. The increasing prevalence of AI-generated responses ultimately dilutes the platform's unique value in connecting people. This results in a disappointing user experience.


If people use AI to assist them in writing answers, but the answer still includes their insights and perspectives, that is fine. The problem is the people who copy and paste AI answers directly into Quora without adding their opinions or thoughts.



Let's examine an example of an AI answer to a Quora question

To better illustrate the issues with AI-generated answers on Quora, let's look at the question below:

A sample question on Quora

The below screenshot shows three separate answers to this question from 3 different people. Note that I have placed the answers side by side for comparison purposes and added some colour (poorly):


3 Quora answers compared side by side to identify similarities

First, you will notice that the three answers are suspiciously similar in their layout. All three use bullet points of similar size.


Next, you will notice that the content in the bullet points is suspiciously similar. In fact, I have coloured the points that are identical across all three answers. Some words are slightly different, but otherwise, the content is an exact match.


The reason is that all 3 of these answers are written by AI. Specifically, they have been written by tools using OpenAIs GPT-3.5 model.


The proof? Here's the top part of the answer I get if I copy and paste our Quora question into ChatGPT:

ChatGPT user interface showing the answer to a Quora question

Looks familiar? The exact same bullet point format with identical content to our 3 Quora answers. From this, we can deduce that all three people answering this question on Quora have copied and pasted the answer ChatGPT gave them.



Poor quality of AI answers

AI writing tools could benefit Quora if people used them to create helpful answers. But when I read the answer to this question, any of the three versions, it is not useful. It does not tell the person any specific places to find AI automation agencies.


Suggesting the person "search online, ask your network or attend industry events" is not helpful. In fact, the person asked on Quora to get recommendations from real people with knowledge or insights to share. These AI answers tell them to seek out recommendations, which is literally what they are doing on Quora. Unhelpful responses like this result in a poor user experience.



The three answers are duplicates of each other

Another problem is 90% of the content in the three answers is identical. Having people read the same answer three times is highly annoying. The answer should be there once, and if it is genuinely helpful, others will use the Quora "Upvote" button.



Implications of AI written answers on Quora

The main problem with AI-written answers on Quora is their bland and formulaic feel, resulting in a lower-quality product.

Quora mission statement

Looking at why Quora say they exist in the image above, the human element is removed with AI. So in Quora's own words, their reason for existing is removed with AI answers. Instead, people connect with a machine learning algorithm with no perspective of its own and no ability, or desire, to understand the perspective of a human.


Quora themselves have an AI writing tool called "Poe", which people can ask if they want an AI answer. Having Poe is a good idea as it allows people to get an immediate reply from AI, which may be enough in many cases. However, if people ask a question on Quora itself, we can assume they are not looking for an AI answer; they are looking for the insights of other humans, as otherwise, they could just ask Poe.



How will this play out?

As mentioned above, writers can use AI tools like ChatGPT in a positive way to them craft better answers. The issue is the AI answers copied and pasted directly from ChatGPT that lack the personal experiences, insights and anecdotes the Quora community was built on. If left unchecked, the quality of answers on Quora will be diluted, leaving it a far less interesting place.


However, Artificial Intelligence is a fast-moving space. I am hopeful that with the right decisions and protections in place, Quora will continue to be the rich and insightful knowledge-sharing platform it always has been.

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