The Future of Search is Here: AI-Powered Chatbots Take the Lead
The search for knowledge has been a never-ending journey. From the Library of Alexandria to the vast corpus of human knowledge that is the internet, the quest for answers continues to evolve. This week, two major players in the technology industry, Google and Microsoft, announced their plans to change the way we search for information online.
Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, declared that the search engine giant is about to integrate AI-powered features into its search. This means that instead of scrolling through pages and pages of links, users will receive assistance from an AI-powered chatbot named Bard. According to a Google blog post, these features will “distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats, so you can quickly understand the big picture and learn more from the web.” The chatbot will present search results in complete sentences, just as a human would.
Following suit, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, announced that their competing search engine, Bing, will also integrate AI, utilizing the technology behind the popular AI chatbot, ChatGPT. Microsoft sees this move as an opportunity to challenge Google’s dominance in the search world.
But what exactly are these AI-powered chatbots and how do they work? The technology behind them is called large language models, which are pieces of software that can extract related words from a vast database and produce sophisticated writing and visual art based on limited prompting. Despite their sophisticated nature, these chatbots are not truly intelligent. The debate about the best way to know things has been raging for decades, and the integration of AI into search engines is at the center of this discussion.
On one hand, there are those who believe in engaging with the complexity of competing information. On the other hand, there are those who believe that an authority should reduce everything to a simple answer. The AI-powered chatbots like Bard have a simple answer to this age-old question. They will provide straightforward answers to specific questions, such as the most popular dog breed or Madonna’s age. However, they may not be as effective when it comes to exploratory searches, where the user is not sure what they don’t know.
Chatbots are also susceptible to errors, as they simply regurgitate information they have absorbed without truly understanding it. This tendency to “hallucinate” and produce incorrect answers is a major concern for researchers. Chatbots are also vulnerable to spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories, and lies with as much confidence as the truth.
To address these concerns, a 2021 paper from Google Research concludes that for an AI chatbot to be effective in search, it must incorporate more authority and transparency. Bias must be removed from its training database, and it must be taught to incorporate diverse perspectives. Only then can the chatbot transform from a dilettante to a reasonable facsimile of a “domain expert.”
Despite the concerns, the integration of AI into search engines is a significant step forward in the quest for knowledge. The future of search is here, and AI-powered chatbots are leading the way. Whether or not they will revolutionize the way we search for information remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain, the journey towards the ultimate answer continues.