Simon Willison’s Weblog

Subscribe

Slop is the new name for unwanted AI-generated content

8th May 2024

I saw this tweet yesterday from @deepfates, and I am very on board with this:

Watching in real time as “slop” becomes a term of art. the way that “spam” became the term for unwanted emails, “slop” is going in the dictionary as the term for unwanted AI generated content

Update: that account has been deleted so the Tweet is a 404 now—the tweet quote tweeted this one by @allgarbled.

I’m a big proponent of LLMs as tools for personal productivity, and as software platforms for building interesting applications that can interact with human language.

But I’m increasingly of the opinion that sharing unreviewed content that has been artificially generated with other people is rude.

Slop is the ideal name for this anti-pattern.

Not all promotional content is spam, and not all AI-generated content is slop. But if it’s mindlessly generated and thrust upon someone who didn’t ask for it, slop is the perfect term for it.

Remember that time Microsoft listed the Ottawa Food Bank on an AI-generated “Here’s what you shoudn’t miss!” travel guide? Perfect example of slop.

One of the things I love about this is that it’s helpful for defining my own position on AI ethics. I’m happy to use LLMs for all sorts of purposes, but I’m not going to use them to produce slop. I attach my name and stake my credibility on the things that I publish.

Personal AI ethics remains a complicated set of decisions. I think don’t publish slop is a useful baseline.

Update 9th May: Joseph Thacker asked what a good name would be for the equivalent subset of spam—spam that was generated with AI tools.

I propose “slom”.

Venn diagram: the left-hand circle is red and labeled spam, the right hand circle is green and labeled slop, the overlap in the middle is labeled slom