Down the rabbit hole of the chatbot

1 year ago

Later generations humans — or robots — may one day look back on this week as a watershed moment in how computers and humans interact. On Monday, CEO Sundar Pichai announced a new Google chatbot dubbed Bard based on the previously disclosed LaMDA AI bot. (Reportedly, he also did $400 million investment at big language model startup Anthropic.) A day later, Microsoft introduced a new version of the Bing search engine based on OpenAI’s breakthrough hit ChatGPT. In little more than the time it takes to complete a query, AI systems have become a critical component of search, the most powerful application on the web.

Get ready for an endless discussion of consequences. But I’ve already fallen down that rabbit hole after thinking about a lesser-known beta product. soft start last December and open to the public a week ago. This is a chatbot called By, created from all companies Quora, a social network with a 14-year history that helps users find answers to questions using the knowledge of other users. As with Quora itself, you enter your question and wait for a response. But Poe, which supposedly stands for Platform for Open Exploration and is not a reference to a creepy story writer, provides its answers using text generation algorithms such as Anthropic’s ChatGPT and Claude. Since the person does not need to think about the question and answer, the answers come instantly.

This struck me as a strange U-turn for a social network. But when I contacted Adam D’Angelo, co-founder and CEO of Quora, he noted that even when he was in high school and working on projects with classmate Mark Zuckerberg, he was excited about the possibilities of AI. “That’s what really got me excited,” says D’Angelo, who joined Zuckerberg’s startup Facebook. When he left his CTO position to found Quora in 2009, using other people to answer questions was kind of a fallback because the AI ​​wasn’t advanced enough for that. “Making AI work at the time was very, very difficult,” he says. “But there was just this huge untapped potential of connecting people to other people over the Internet. So instead of worrying about building this AI before it’s ready, why not just let people have access to all the other intelligence that exists?”

This turned out to be a pretty good idea. While Quora never became as big as Facebook, it has more than 300 million monthly users, says D’Angelo, and it was widely reported in late 2021 that the company was IPO preparation with a possible $4 billion valuation. While the recent downturn in advertising has led Quora to lay off some workers Late last month, D’Angelo said the service was receiving more questions than ever and he expected the ad market to recover.

But as a board member of OpenAI, the progenitor of ChatGPT, he saw firsthand the impressive advances in the field and sensed an opportunity. By providing an interface to multiple bots, Quora may be able to make it easier to access the source of AI knowledge. Their conversational responses will look in the same vein as the human responses presented on Quora itself. So his team got access to the OpenAI bot and Anthropic chatbot to Claude (he doesn’t want to share terms) and created Poe.

Quora’s move tells us a lot about the depth of change that AI is forcing on the world right now. In case you’ve lost the symbolism, let me hammer your head: a company whose very foundation was built on connecting people to each other to share knowledge now embraces a model where people don’t talk to each other, but to robots for information. . their answers.

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