Artificial intelligence is about to transform the way you browse the internet

Artificial intelligence is about to transform the way you browse the internet

Today, if you want to find a good moving company, you might turn to your favorite search engine – Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo perhaps – for advice.

After walking past half a page of ads, you get a bunch of links to articles about moving companies. You click on one of the links and finally read about how to choose a good ‘un. But not for much longer.

In a big reveal this week, Google announced plans to add its latest artificial intelligence chatbot, LaMDA, to the Google search engine. The chatbot was named the “Bard”.

I hope William Shakespeare’s descendants sue. It is not the job of arguably the greatest writer in the English language to answer everyday questions about how to find a good moving company. But he will.

Ask the Bard how, and he’ll answer almost immediately with a logical eight-step plan: start with reading reviews and get quotes, and finish with recording referrals.

No more wading through pages of links; the answer is immediate. To add Shakespearean insult to injury, you can even ask the Bard to respond in the form of a sonnet.

The AI ​​Race!

Microsoft quickly responded to Google, saying it would incorporate the ChatGPT chatbot into its search engine, Bing.

It was only recently that Microsoft announced it would invest $10 billion in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, on top of a previous investment of a billion or more in 2022.

ChatGPT has already been added to Microsoft’s Teams software. You can expect it to appear in Word soon, where it will write paragraphs for you. In Outlook, it will compose entire emails, and in PowerPoint, it will help you prepare slides for your next talk.

Not to be outdone, Chinese web giant Baidu has also gotten in on the action. It recently announced that its latest chatbot will be released in March. Baidu’s chatbot will be trained on 50% more parameters than ChatGPT, and will be bilingual. The company’s share price rose 15% in response.

AI-driven search

Google, along with the other tech giants, has been using artificial intelligence in search for many years. For example, artificial intelligence algorithms order the search results that Google gives.

The difference now is that instead of searching based on the words you type, these new search engines will try to “understand” your question. And instead of sending you links, they will also try to answer the questions.

But new chatbot technology is far from perfect. ChatGPT sometimes just makes things up. Chatbots can also be tricked into saying things that are inappropriate, offensive or illegal – although researchers are working hard to reduce this.

Existential risk

For Google, it was not only described by the New York Times as an AI race, but a race to survive.

When ChatGPT first appeared late last year, alarm bells rang for the search giant. Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, returned from their outside activities to oversee the response.

Advertising revenue from Google Search results contributes about three-quarters of the $283 billion annual revenue of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

If people start using AI chatbots to answer their questions rather than Google Search, what will happen to that revenue?

Even if Google users stay with Google but get their answers directly from the Bard, how will Google make money if no more links are clicked?

Microsoft may see this as an opportunity for its search engine, Bing, to overtake Google. It is not out of the question that it will. In the 1990s, before Google came out, I was very happy with AltaVista – the best search engine of the day. But I jumped quickly once a better search experience arrived.

Nadella clearly senses a once-in-a-generation moment to claw back large chunks of lost ground at Google

— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeFT) February 7, 2023 Will the AI ​​race lead to cutting corners?

Google previously did not make its LaMDA chatbot available to the public due to concerns that it would be misused or misunderstood. Indeed, it fired one of its engineers, Blake Lemoine, after he claimed that LaMDA was prudent.

There are a host of risks associated with big tech’s rush to power the future of AI search.

For one, if tech companies won’t make as much money from selling links, what new revenue streams will they create? Will they try to sell information obtained from our interactions with search chatbots?

And what about people who will use these chatbots for basic purposes? They can be perfect for writing personalized and persuasive messages to trick unsuspecting users — or flood social media with conspiracy theories.

Not to mention, we’ve seen ChatGPT do a great job of answering most homework questions. For now, public schools in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania have banned its use to prevent cheating – but it seems unlikely that they could (or should) ban access to Google or Bing.

A new interface

When Microsoft introduced Windows, it was the start of a revolution. Rather than typing cryptic instructions, we can just point and click on a screen. That revolution continued with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone – an interface that shrunk computers and the web into the palm of our hands.

Perhaps the biggest impact of AI-powered search tools will be on how we interact with the myriad of ever-smarter devices in our lives. We’ll stop pointing, clicking and touching, and instead start having whole conversations with our devices.

We can only speculate about what this might mean in the longer term. But, for better or worse, how we interact with computers is going to change.

Toby Walsh is Professor of AI at UNSW, Research Group Leader, UNSW Sydney.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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