Time Cover on AI Declaring ‘End of Humanity’ Slammed as Fake News: ‘Not Only Widely Inaccurate but Dangerous’

The magazine’s ominous style tries to capture the zeitgeist but elicits anger

Time Magazine Cover Photo by Getty
Time Magazine

Time revealed its latest cover, entitled “The End of Humanity: How Real is the Risk?” with the twist being that the word “humanity” has a glowing “a” and “i,” referencing the uptick in artificial intelligence danger talk that folks such as OpenAI CEO Sam Altman have made household topics of discussion over the past few months.

The cover has not been received kindly following its debut on Twitter.

“Tech doomers at it again,” one user replied. The term “doomer” is modern internet slang used to describe people perpetuating overwhelmingly apathetic or pessimistic attitudes, with the word’s precise meaning shifting on a contextual basis.

“It’s certainly going to be hard to claim to ‘fight against fake news’ after a cover like this… This is not only widely inaccurate but dangerous,” another user wrote.

Another user referenced Time’s old Y2K cover, highlighting that attention-grabbing imagery capitalizing on contemporary fears has been a staple of the publication’s cover stylings for a long time.

As can be expected on Twitter, some people just had a fun time meme-ing on Time, chalking up the ominous cover to unwarranted hysteria worthy of farcical derision by way of Elmo.

The Time cover does have the subtitle “How Real is the Risk?” to highlight that the magazine recognizes many do not see the current AI boom as some Earth-shattering event on par with nuclear war or the recent pandemic.

Still, it’s clear that, qualified or otherwise, the cover is chiefly concerned with grabbing attention in a way that could be perceived as fearmongering.

According to the Alliance for Audited Media, Time’s 2022 circulation number totaled approximately 1.35 million. This illustrates a further reduction in the magazine’s presence since Time’s plan to reduce circulation to 2 million starting in 2018 (as reported by Wall Street Journal). Whether ongoing decline has anything to do with the brand’s bold cover strategy is unclear.

For reference, the brains behind current AI developments have also been shouting about the dangers of artificial intelligence. OpenAI has argued for regulation, Microsoft has publicly discussed how it plans to move forward safely with AI developments and Google has expressed the need for caution with deployment of the tech. With all that being said, threat of a catastrophic event caused by AI has yet to publicly emerge, outside of the events of films like “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Time did not reply to a request for comment in time for publication.