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Last Modified: May 2, 2024
We asked three magazine editors to weigh in on A.I.’s growing capacity to disrupt the industry.

By Katherine Abbass

Q: What are your biggest fears and biggest hopes for A.I. when it comes to the future of the magazine industry?

Steven Sandor, Editor-in-Chief, EDify:

“Right now, A.I. is only as good as the information programmed into it, only as good as what it’s learned. When it comes to analytics, I think there’s a lot it can help with in terms of crunching numbers and better understanding our readership. We guess a lot: it’s like playing darts with a blindfold on, trying to figure out what works. So on the back end, I think there’s a future for A.I.

On the creative side, it’s a very slippery slope. Writing is an exceptionally human endeavour, and I would like to think that people pick up a magazine for human takes on human things. At some point, A.I. might do a faster, more efficient job. But would it connect with people? Would it be trusted? Would it understand that feeling of going on a voyage of discovery? Technology can only go so far. We can’t remove humanity from what we do; if we get to that point, we’ve really screwed up as a society.”

Jason Lee Norman, Editor, Funicular:

“My biggest fear is that it’s already too late. That after all the work magazines have done to create spaces for young, old, queer, trans, disabled, racialized, unique voices, the literature-reading-and-buying public has already decided it doesn’t care. That people just want content they can click through before falling asleep. My biggest fear is that we’ve already chosen computers over people. My biggest hope is that A.I. can help magazines find their readers: when they like to read, where they like to buy, how much a magazine should weigh when you hold it in your hands. I hope an A.I. program is invented to apply for government grants in ten seconds, to create crowdfunding campaigns and donation mailouts using the perfect language to reach people at the exact moment they feel like donating the most money possible…an A.I. program that writes letters our readers can send to their local politicians, telling them how important local art is.”

Ethan Vilu, Managing Editor, filling Station:

“Broadly, I’m concerned about the stultifying effect A.I. seems to have on art and writing. I believe the goal of producing a magazine is to create something worth engaging with, and if A.I. should embed itself in the industry, then that goal will only get harder to reach. Not to say that the technology should be wholly taboo – I’m aware of some fascinating work in conceptual art and digital poetics that incorporates A.I., though much of it doesn’t translate well to a print magazine. My overarching concern is this: art and writing are some of the most essentially human and rewarding activities we can apply ourselves to. When we produce magazines, we create space for this activity, and it would be a complete abdication of duty for us to cede that space in the name of economic expediency. Instead of offloading the production of art onto A.I., we should be creating conditions where more living and breathing humans are able to actualize themselves through the process of creation.”