this week The world’s largest search companies have entered the competition to use a powerful new generation of “generative AI” algorithms.
Specifically, Microsoft announced that it is rebuilding Bing, which is somewhat behind Google in popularity, to use ChatGPT, the insanely popular and often amazingly capable chatbot created by artificial intelligence startup OpenAI.
If you’ve lived in outer space for the past few months, you know people are going crazy about ChatGPT’s ability to answer questions in an amazingly coherent and seemingly insightful and creative way. Want understand quantum computing? Need recipe for everything in the fridge? Can’t be bothered write this school essay? ChatGPT will support you.
The all-new Bing is just as chatty. The demos the company put on at its Redmond headquarters and a quick test drive by WIRED’s Arian Marshall, who attended the event, show it can effortlessly plan a vacation, summarize key points from product reviews, and answer tricky questions. questions such as whether a piece of furniture will fit in a particular vehicle. This is a far cry from the ill-fated and hopeless Microsoft Clippy office assistant that some readers may remember bothering them every time they created a new document.
To keep up with Bing’s AI reboot, Google said this week it would be releasing a ChatGPT competitor called Bard. (The name was chosen to reflect the creative nature of the underlying algorithm, one Google employee told me.) The company, like Microsoft, demonstrated how the underlying technology could answer some Internet search queries and said it would start making AI, behind the chatbot available to developers. Google appears to be worried about the idea of taking a backseat to search, which provides most of Alphabet’s parent company’s revenue. And its AI researchers might understandably be a little pissed off, as they actually developed the machine learning algorithm at the heart of ChatGPT known as the thunk, as well as the key technique used to generate AI images, known as diffuse modeling.
Last but not least in the new AI search wars is Baidu, China’s largest search company. He joined the fray by announcing another ChatGPT competitor, Wenxin Yiyan (文心一言), or “Ernie Bot” in English. Baidu says it will release the bot once internal testing is completed this March.
These new search bots are examples of generative AI, a trend fueled by algorithms that can generate text, create computer code, and come up with images in response to a query. The tech industry may be facing massive layoffs, but interest in generative AI is booming, and venture capitalists imagine entire industries are realigning themselves around this new creative direction in AI.
Generative language tools like ChatGPT are sure to change what web search means, shaking up an industry with hundreds of billions of dollars annually, making it easier to find useful information and advice. Web searches can be less about clicking links and browsing sites than about kicking back and taking a chatbot’s word for it. Just as importantly, the underlying language technology can transform many other tasks as well, perhaps leading to mailers that write sales pitches or spreadsheets that dig up and summarize data for you. To many users, ChatGPT also seems to signal a change in the ability of AI to understand us and communicate with us.
But there is, of course, a catch.