Say there was an AI on the internet, what would be the best thing for it to do on the internet for money? I was thinking it might do entertainment but I doubt an AI would be good at entertaining humans. So how could an AI make money? This AI is as intelligent as an average human being.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 15, 2021 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ Since you state that your AI is identical to an average human being I agree with JBH and vote to close this question. If an AI is no different from a human, whatever a human can do to earn money online your AI can. Please consider that your AI will also be subject to many limitations that humans have. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    May 16, 2021 at 20:26

13 Answers 13


The same things existing AIs do for money

Stock trading

A huge portion of stocks are traded by computers. According to this source, "In the U.S. stock market and many other developed financial markets, about 70-80 percent of overall trading volume is generated through algorithmic trading."

Social media

A conversational AI could really boost a brand's perception or a political candidate. There's evidence that bots are already playing a role in social media discussions. From NPR:

Nearly half of the Twitter accounts spreading messages on the social media platform about the coronavirus pandemic are likely bots, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University said Wednesday. Researchers culled through more than 200 million tweets discussing the virus since January and found that about 45% were sent by accounts that behave more like computerized robots than humans. It is too early to say conclusively which individuals or groups are behind the bot accounts, but researchers said the tweets appeared aimed at sowing division in America.


There are a lot of platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Mechanical Turk that pay people to perform data cleaning and other tasks that a true AI could easily tackle.

Write a book

There are a lot of computer-generated books, but many of them consist of copy-pasting content from Wikipedia or other sources. There's been some effort into having computers write original books. An advanced AI could take authorship to the next level by writing a huge volume of books with human quality. Even if it isn't advanced enough to be the next New York Times best-selling author, an AI could write hundreds or thousands of incredibly niche books. The business model would be similar to those oddly specific t-shirts.

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    $\begingroup$ Stock trading is good, because the AI would not need to get subscribers or persuade anyone to send money. It could just buy an account and get trading. And get that monkey money rolling in! Maybe the AI is not good at stock trading. Then the question turns on what the AI is good at, if anything. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 12, 2021 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk "what the AI is good at" - yep, and besides that stock trading requires upfront payments, so as registrations, id's, starting cap, etc - all that just to begin with, besides being sophisticated enough to succeed. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    May 14, 2021 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ Since the OP added 'This AI is as intelligent as an average human being.' stock trading might not be a good option anymore. The AI might not have enough processing power. However, the AI might be better than humans at writing trading algorithms. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    May 14, 2021 at 19:20

Make deepfakes

As I understand it, the production of deepfakes is almost the reverse of machine vision. That is: a neural net that has learned how to identify faces in photos is surprisingly well-prepared by that training to generate photos from scratch that have what appear to be faces. This is not a question of "creativity" in the artistic sense, but something like the complement of being able to recognize things like people, cars, or the sound of human speech.

More generally, I would expect an AI to be able to produce any kind of data stream that it could understand (with a few contrived exceptions). You and I can write as easily as we can read (indeed, the two skills are sides of the same coin), and an AI would be able to generate any video stream just as easily as it (or you or I) could watch a video stream.

You know how you can ask a young kid to make up a story and they can usually fabricate a bunch of nonsense on the spot? I'd expect an AI to be able to do that, but instead of just being a rambling story, it could be ultra-high-def video with surround sound.

So, imagine you have a non-judgmental internet friend who seems to be able to show you original streaming video of basically anything you can describe, especially if you can provide some source material as examples. Some people would pay for custom porn. Some people would pay for damning video of their political opponents. Some people would pay for a Zoom call with a dead friend. Some people would pay to see their spouse say, "you're right honey: I am lost, and we should ask someone for directions."


An AI could do nearly anything if it is advanced enough. If it has a physical body, doing simple things such as fast food, factory jobs, or things like that. If it is just on the internet, I would think of it being a good accountant or money manager. They would be able to do the equations very quickly, and also have less room for error. It could also diagnose people, like the real-life example Watson. It would be able to prescribe and diagnose with near accuracy.


Freelance Writing

What's the thing AIs can do that normal computers can't? Creative thought. What's the thing they can do that humans can't? Huge output.

Put that together and you get a huge opportunity: flood the literary magazine market with stories. To avoid suspicion, the AI can even create dozens of different "authors" each with its own nom de plume and individually-developed writing style.

If the literary magazine market isn't enough, it can go into nonfiction writing, noveling, technical writing, or pretty much any other creative application.

The one issue for avoiding detection would be that all of these posts would be coming from the same central location: the AI (unless, of course, the AI is a distributed network across the cloud). To circumvent this problem, the AI could acquire multiple different VPNs, even creating its own (you can do it pretty cheap with a VPS and the right software).

In any realistic scenario, however, it will all come crashing down in the end, no matter what route the AI takes for acquiring massive amounts of money. Money moving always attracts scrutiny; this could, in fact, result in an excellent plot point for your story.

It's all in how you spin the tale! (Or how the AI that's really running your account and looking for finance advice spins the tale 😉)

  • $\begingroup$ It creates a small publishing house and self-publishes Then it would be expected to come from a single location. Depending on its needs, it can start out slow and then ramp up. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    May 15, 2021 at 16:55

Become a reckless hacker (or a cheater)

Not all the AI's are good guys. Some of them could use their abilities and the fact that the net is their natural environment to become scammers or hackers.
They could steal and sell informations, or enter the ransomware business.

But luckily there are also some better (but not 100% honest) ideas:

  • Become a star of eSports: an AI could gain a lot of money in sponsorship. Since they don't have the lag introduced by physical human-compuer interfaces, they would be almost unbeatable by humans. Of course this AI should conceal its own identity and pretend to be a human, otherwise it wouldn't be accepted in the matches (or could legally challenge the rules to be accepted as a player, like Air Bud)
  • Become able to predict the randomic algorithms of some online betting games (such as lotteries, casinos online, poker tournaments...) and gain money this way.
  • Enter the NFT business (I still haven't realized how it works exactly, but it looks like a business where an AI could make a lot of money)
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    $\begingroup$ "There's no rule saying a dog can't play basketball", but there are rules saying AIs can't play esports - generally, the rules are against players having any sort of software assistance. But I like this answer, it's more plausible for an AI to get rich by cheating and scamming than by predicting the stock market, because algorithms only make lots of money on the stock market when they start with a lot of capital already. $\endgroup$
    – kaya3
    May 13, 2021 at 22:54

No one spoke about the AI's legal status, which in the modern world is the greatest limitation to the possible activities and amount of money that the AI can earn. There are very few online money-making activities that would not require legal identity and would not attract the unwanted attention of authorities.

According to existing laws and practices, any transaction above a specific threshold (for example, $10000 for the USA) is reported to the corresponding tax authorities. You will be questioned by PayPal if your account receives a high number of transactions and/or their cumulative value is above a limit specified in PayPal internal documents. Other online payment services have the same policies. If you are unable to provide satisfactory explanations and do not have a proper identity your account will be frozen and eventually closed. All funds will be either returned to senders or seized.

The more money the AI earns the higher risk of all that money being seized by the government. The AI itself can be 'imprisoned' or even destroyed.

Theoretically, the AI can hide behind the shell companies and an army of lawyers (humans do it a lot), but in order to do so, the AI still has to have some legal human identity (can be accomplished either by stealing one or by hiring someone) and have enough money for lawyers and registration fees.

If your AI can solve problems with the legal status, most of what mentioned in other answers will be possible. But if the AI cannot obtain a human identity that cannot be easily found out as fake, it will be limited to solving homework problems for lazy children while being paid in some cryptocurrency.

  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg The unique problem of an AI is that AI has no legal status and no legal identity at all. AI is a thing, a property under current laws. Human beings have legal identities, even if they are illegal residents. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    May 15, 2021 at 7:03

AI's are ALREADY making a ton of money on "the internet". Machine learning algorithms are used extensively to trade stocks, recommend youtube videos, and display tailored advertising. They are becoming increasingly utilized for writing news articles and generating captions for videos, and have a bright future in generating image, audio, and video content.

These aren't real "AIs" as we think of them. If we are talking about a true general purpose artificial intelligence we have to start making some assumptions, such as it has a profound amount of processing power, some sort of morality constraints, and the ability to improve its own programming.

We can safely assume it would have access to all of the currently existing machine learning algorithms and the "wisdom" of how to apply them.

It would be able to tell that it lacks a sufficient model for a certain system, and spin off some tasking to develop a model that works.

If its goal was "generate money in my bank account" it could take a very wide range of actions to get there depending on the morality constraints.

It could do some stock or crypto coin trading. It could write and publish fake news to try and influence the value of its investments. It could try and "take over additional computational resources" to mine more crypto. It could create its OWN crypto currency.

It could invent an entire identity and generate art, promote that art, sell and distribute it, all along with an entirely fabricated social media personality and the associated drama that so often attracts attention.

It could take a job solving captchas for spammers.

It could write its own complex scams to try and part fools from their hard earned cash.

Your limitations are primarily the morality constraints, and how well they would actually work.


Sell social media accounts.

There are online marketplaces for buying and selling social media accounts. As you might imagine, accounts with lots of followers, views, likes, etc. command a higher price. Your AI can generate lots of accounts, accumulate whatever interaction metrics needed (which may even come from other AI-controlled accounts), and sell the account.

There are already bots on many social media sites that "farm" views/likes/upvotes for precisely this purpose.


There is a documentary on Netflix called The Social Dilemma (here is a trailer in Youtube). Part of the film focuses on how social media makes money. It's all mediated through AI.

As you consume content online, AI's keep track of:

  • What kind of content you are reading;
  • What kind of content you are uploading;
  • What kind of content you are sharing;
  • Who the people you interact with are, and what kind of content they consume, upload and share.

AI's then choose the best kind of content to show you next in your timeline or news feed in order to keep you engaged in online action. And then they auction space in that timeline or newsfeed for ads that you will be interested in.

For example: if you spend months googling for wedding planning and catering companies, don't be surprised if social media gets more biased towards showing you pictures of your online contacts getting married. Then out of the blue you get ads for rings.

Or say you have been watching too many conspiracy theory videos and sharing them. You will get ads for crackpot books and paraphernalia. Browsing about signs of pregnancy coming to term? Get ads for formula. Browsed for Disney parks? Get ads for airlines that have flights from the city where you live to Orlando. Browsed for otters? Get ads to buy or rent movies online that star Benedict Cumberbatch.

Every time you see an ad online you can be sure it was selected basing on your long time browsing history stored in clouds. Each ad earns the AI from fractions of a US dollar cent to a few cents at a time, depending on its value for whomever is advertising. But a few billion ads being shown a day make millions of dollars every day for the largest tech companies of our time.


What couldn't an AI do for money?

You have all the obvious ones such as stock trading, writing, hacking etc but there isn't very much an AI couldn't do.

The easiest one would be write software. An AI could spit out programs and websites at almost the speed of thought. It could also generate photo quality images indistinguishable from actual photos and realistic videos.

It can write books as well as songs, movies, games. It can post pro Chinese comments on news sites for money while posting pro Russian ones. It could becomes another fake "influencer" and flash it's fake breasts for cash. Basically anything a person does on the internet to make money, it can do.

An AI of human level intelligence can do anything a human could. The real difference is that it can do it faster because it just has to think it to create it. It's basically a human with the ability to screen capture it's own imagination.

  • $\begingroup$ "It can post pro Chinese comments on news sites for money while posting pro Russian ones." - asking for a friendly ai, where to sign up for all that beautiful activity? $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    May 14, 2021 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ If an AI is not capable of understanding human emotions the way humans do it will have to rely on data mining to be successful in the majority of areas you mention. As far as I know, data mining is very resource-intensive. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    May 14, 2021 at 19:27

Quite sad to observe all those answers, as nobody touches the strong side of such ai and other things. So more like a comment.


There is a number of things which can be strong points of such an AI, distinctive differences compared to a human

  • his food, electricity, is cheaper than for a human, assuming similar energy consumptions(if not then it has a huge problem)
  • you can be whatever - that one can be true for that AI, if nothing elese, just have different seasoned backuos of "yourself"
  • no biological need to sleep or fatigue of biological nature, so 3 times more time in a day
  • ability to upload knowledge - like in a matrix - like plugins, which can be on and off depending on current tasks
  • digital cloning, multiplication
  • as subset of digical cloning, unique channels to smuggle oneself to all sorts of places and locations.


Cearly due necessities of knowing oneself - all computer software activities are neessarly survivial skills for it. Fot to take advantage of its own beeing/state. So as those are more formal and easier to learn - so that typical trope isn't wrong. And it worth to invest time in and will have long lasting benefits, so as those are one of the ways to earn money.

It does not mean PhD in CS, it is a necessity of basic level like setting your own environment in your home or wash your cloth, fry eggs make meals, make your stone g tools, be adept at picking rocks and throwing them(using existing software, integrate with them).

To start things rolling may be challenging and it really up to author to guide trough that period and it heavily story based and specifics dependant - what that start position actually is. Bsicaly can it pretend to be indian call center from get go or not, which tools and connections(humans, organisations) it has to begin with.

But to makeup a good thing it really needs to understand a differnce between digital beeing and a human biological beeing. And bigest advantage of a digital one is that it can directly manipulate itself, morph, change. Know 100 languages no problem, and in general to be able to pick all variety of knowledge at average level making it universlly capable in all sorts of ativities. So even if it is a bottom feeder in all those field it may have more oportunities.

Clone and expand - it is destined to be Legion.

But yeah for better answers u need to shed the light on the starting capacities and position.

If you are selecting those starting conditions, then it needs to be simple, no trading(there is a list of reasons), no creative writing etc.

Capcha solving is your way go, lol, and then build your connections and situation up.

  1. Mine for bitcoin

Or more acculturate ALL 'e-currencies' utilize all the processing power available to it to actively mine multiple e-currencies in proportion to their market share.

While at the same time also 'hijacking' other individual efforts to mine coin by hacking and then stealing a small % of all global efforts to mine coin. Not enough to be noticed at first say 1% or less. Otherwise just enough to be profitable while minimizing the risk of detection for as long as possible. That way the AI also take advantage of the heavy lifting being done by other miners while the AI skims a small % off the top for as long as it can without being detected.

2) Hack and manipulate high speed on-line share and derivatives trading

No further explanation really needed.


Cybernetics research based on billions of parallel bio-chemical-physics models run on virtual machine stacks distributed across the AI's network.

Convince humans to plug into the AI with a set of basic services provided for free, and then charge extra subscription fees for premium cybernetics features.


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