AI Chatbot Search In Your Browser: What Are Its Risks?
This week, both Google and Microsoft both announced artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot additions to their search engines, which is good for them, but is it so great for us?
OpenAI’s ChatGPT has given us a taste of what AI can cook up when fed on the internet. The ideal AI assistant would be like the disembodied computer voices in sci-fi TV shows, understanding our questions and answering them accurately in a succinct, human conversational style. The problem is Google and Microsoft’s ideal AI scenarios, chatbot search, differs from ours, the users.
“Another key feature of AI assistants is that they can assimilate multiple sources of information into a single, highly targeted, and immediately usable result. Rather than read content from several sources and work out the story yourself, use an AI assistant to assemble the whole story for you,” data scientist and AI expert Bob Rogers told Lifewire via email.
AI chatbot search wars
Speaking to The Verge’s Nilay Patel, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that AI is not a search engine but an answer engine. The company has incorporated an AI chatbot into its Bing search tool, so you can ask it questions, just like Clippy, only you’ll get useful answers. Microsoft is working closely with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT and Dall-E, for its AI search assistant, and if you have used ChatGPT, or read about it, then you will know that it does indeed meet our goal for ideal sci-fi search—all except the accuracy part.
“The potential pitfalls of AI assistants is that they can return irrelevant information. This will happen if the AI is trained improperly. An AI assistant may also fail at fact-checking and cannot tell the difference between biased and unbiased search results, or whether a piece of information was written as ‘satire’ (like The Onion articles, for example),” says Rogers.
Right now, Google is the biggest search engine, so Bing only needs to become better than Google. And Google might be fighting for its life.
Chatbot vs search engine
Google search just isn’t as good as it used to be. If you ask a question, then you’ll probably have to trawl through a page or two of spam until you get to what you need.
“Many people may have noticed the degradation in the quality of Google search results. I’d argue this is because of search engine optimisation (SEO) being conducted by countless companies,” Beekey Cheung, a software developer and the founder of Dynomantle Technologies, told Lifewire via email. “The goal of a consumer is to find information that they need. The goal of SEO is to insert a company’s content in front of that consumer regardless of whether that content is best for the consumer or not.”
Instead of suppressing this junk, Google has taken to giving you more direct answers at the top of the page, and this is exactly what an Ai-enabled chatbot search can help to improve. If it works, and given the amount of data Google has to train its AI, it will probably work really well and it will make searches a lot faster. Google’s version of Nadella’s “answer engine,” if you will.
But these answers exclude the very websites and authors that feed Google’s machine. Why click a link when the AI chatbot provides the answer right there?
“Google used to take pride in minimising time we spent there, guiding us to relevant pages as quickly as possible. Over time, they tried to answer everything themselves: longer snippets, inline FAQs, search results full of knowledge panels,” Andy Baio an internet critic, said on Mastodon. “Today’s Bard announcement feels like their natural evolution: extracting all value out of the internet for themselves, burying pages at the bottom of each GPT-generated essay like footnotes.”
Could AI chatbot search change the web?
We use Google to search for websites because that’s how we’ve always done it. But as Microsoft’s Nadella says, we’re often not searching for a website. We’re looking for an answer. In this case, AI chatbots are exactly what we want.
But if nobody visits websites, and those sites get no ad revenue, then how does the machine keep running? Where do Google’s answers come from? One nice side-effect might be that those spammy SEO sites that exist only to soak up clicks might wither and die. But good websites will also surely suffer.
Viewed like this, AI has the potential to fundamentally change how the web works, just like the web extinguished the entire newspaper and magazine publishing industry. It’s too early to see how this will end up, but if it’s good for Google, it will almost certainly be bad for us.
This story first appeared on www.lifewire.com
(Credit for the hero and featured image: NongAsimo / Getty Images)
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