Opinion "The pleasure is fleeting, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable." Famously about sex but more probably about golf, this quote is now most accurately ascribable to AI-enhanced search engines.
Google proved this last week when a wrong answer from its rival to Microsoft's ChatGPT cost Alphabet a cool $100 billion on the markets, thus also proving another old saying: to err is human, to really muck up takes a computer.
Widely and doubtless accurately seen as the big G getting its knickers in a twist over a very flash demo of Microsoft's OpenAI-boosted Bing, it may in fact be the bargain of the year for Alphabet. The share price will recover – a single very good demo is no more proof of a very good product than a very bad one is of catastrophe – and if there's one thing that needs to be shown off to everyone it's that mixing AI and search is a bad idea. It's bad if it doesn't work to drive traffic, and far worse if it does. If Google realizes this, it may yet dodge one hell of a bullet – as may we.
Search is as polluted by SEO as Chernobyl is by misplaced spicy isotopes. If the search results we see are what a company, any company, is feeding its machine learning model as a corpus of ranked facts, no amount of subsequent linguistic legerdemain will render it less rancid. Quite the opposite, as we argued recently. If anything, ChatGPT's charming way with words makes it more dangerous to us humans.
If the search companies have got some super new way to...
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