AIs from Microsoft and Google will transform the way you search the web

  • AI-powered search engines from Microsoft and Google are set to change the way we search the web.
  • The new versions of Google Search and Bing are intended to give conversational answers to complex queries.
  • It’s “more like asking a personal assistant to do something,” an AI expert told Insider.

When you search for anything on the web today, you’re likely to come across a long list of links. And despite a few tweaks, like Google’s “people also ask” box, which tries to answer questions related to a search query, the user experience has been fundamentally the same for years.

The new artificial intelligence developed by Microsoft and Google is about to fundamentally change the way we search for information on the web. Make no mistake: this is a big problem.

In a blog post on Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai laid out his company’s plans to bring its new AI technology, like its Language Model for Dialog Applications, or LaMDA, to Google Search. On Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled his company’s new AI-powered version of its Bing search engine, powered by OpenAI’s AI chatbot ChatGPT and its GPT-3.5 technology.

The new Bing and the new Google offer conversational answers to complex questions. The link lists will still be there, but they may soon be redundant. Enhanced search engines from Google and Microsoft aim to get to the crux of the information people really want when they search the web, allowing users to ask natural questions in their own words, instead of trying to guess what combination of keywords could be more effective, and receive responses in a more digestible format.

Take the example Pichai used in his Monday blog post, where the search query was “Is the piano or the guitar easier to learn and how much practice does each need?”

AI features in search, Google

Google Courtesy

That’s not the kind of question we’re used to asking a search engine, nor is it the answer we’re used to getting.

“It’s going to be a lot more like asking a personal assistant to do something,” Michael Wooldridge, the foundation’s director of AI research at the Alan Turing Institute, told Insider. New search engines “need to understand the nuances of what you’re asking and the kind of context you’re asking it in,” he said.

Benedikt Schönhense, head of data science at consultancy Springbok AI, told Insider that search will most likely become much more intuitive, with an experience “much more like a natural conversation.”

Nadella said in media interviews Tuesday that the overhaul of AI-powered web search represented “a new paradigm” for the industry. “Start a new career with a whole new platform technology,” she said. In fact, ever since Microsoft-backed OpenAI launched its boisterous ChatGPT chatbot in November, Google has been eager to show that it’s not being left behind.

But there are valid limitations and concerns about this brave new world of conversational search. The new search AIs pull their answers from the web at large, and the information on the web isn’t always accurate, to say the least. If a search AI confidently presents an ill-informed and inaccurate answer to a sensitive question, as ChatGPT has been shown to do, there is a risk that search, the foundation of human interaction with the web, will bring back misinformation generated by AI into the mainstream.

Abhishek Gupta, founder and principal investigator of the Montreal Institute of AI Ethics, told Insider that the change in the way we search the web could cause a “discontinuity in the search experience” for users who are used to browsing and make their own decisions. Instead, he said, people will be “told” what the “correct” answer is, driven by the expectation that the AI ​​interface is “providing a well thought out and crafted answer” to their query.

“Problematic information issues — disinformation, misinformation, and misinformation — will become more rampant,” Gupta said. “Users will need to become more media-savvy and digitally literate in order to combat this.”

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