Despite the massive strides tech has taken in the last few years, we rarely see a week as tumultuous as this.
When your grandkids ask you where you were when AI took over, you’ll be reminiscing about February 2023.
ChatGPT Goes ‘Pro’
First, we felt a great disturbance in AI, as if millions of chatbots cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. ChatGPT has reached capacity.
ChatGPT is one of the more accomplished AI tools available, and until now, it’s been free to use, which has prompted an AI gold rush — ProductHunt transformed in weeks into a list of ‘trustworthy’ chatbots. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, is a commercial company and has opted to release a premium account for ChatGPT that provides priority access for $20/month.
In addition to derailing the plans of thousands of indy-developers, there are ethical questions about an AI that is trained on other people’s content, questions that were less pressing when access was free.
Bing Chat Beats Google
Google has dominated search for a long time. Its main strength has been its jealously guarded algorithm.
When Microsoft — no stranger itself to monopolies — launched Bing, there was speculation that Google would lose its dominance. But the move away from Google never materialized.
So Bing’s product team returned to the drawing board to find a way to combat Google’s algorithm. The solution they came up with was Bing Chat, a chatbot that, in addition to returning search results, would also answer the query in a simple statement cribbed from the most credible results.
Bing Chat is powered by ChatGPT — Microsoft is presumably paying $20/month for priority access.
The move from search engines directing users to results hosted on sites to search engines taking, rewriting, and presenting answers as their own will make the fuss over AMP pale into insignificance.
Google Bard Gets It Wrong
Google was so spooked by Bing Chat that it rushed out a preview of Bard, its own AI-powered service.
Google is generally regarded as one of the leading lights in AI research, so being caught napping when it can to AI search integration must have stung someone into pushing the launch button too soon.
In a preview video intended to take the wind out of Microsoft’s sails, Bard was asked, “What new discoveries from the James Webb space telescope can I tell my nine-year-old about?” The response from Bard stated the JWST took the very first pictures of a planet outside of Earth‘s solar system. However, those very first photos were actually taken in 2004, 17 years before the JWST was launched.
And just like that, $100 billion was wiped off (Google parent company) Alphabet‘s share price.
As Google spokespeople were quick to point out, Bard is still being tested and will be much more powerful when using the full version of LaMDA. But the error highlights one of the biggest problems with AI content: It is not only highly inaccurate but also extremely convincing, making errors difficult to spot.
The thrust and parry between Google Bard and Microsoft Bing leaves us on the brink of another remarkable technology race. Bing won the first round, but somewhere in The Googleplex, an audit is taking place with the express purpose of not losing any more ground. And this is all before the rumored Apple iSearch is installed by default on millions of iPhones.
There are so many ethical, technical, and cultural questions surrounding AI that it’s impossible to know where this is heading.
One thing is certain: something changed this week. We’ve seen the first exchanges in a competition that will transform the web over the next decade.
Featured image by GarryKillian on Freepik