Home/ Technology / News/  Will ChatGPT kill search engines or make them smarter?

Microsoft is reportedly planning to integrate a version of its Bing search engine with the AI-powered ChatGPT to answer search queries instead of just displaying a list of links, according to The Information. If true, will this move make search engines redundant or radically transform them? 

Will ChatGPT be a search engine killer? 

Google Search will return thousands of results if you ask 
this question. The reason for this buzz is that ChatGPT, which can write poems, articles, tweets, books, and even code like humans, is interactive while search engines passively provide article links. This has made many believe that search engines will become redundant. The New York Times even termed ChatGPT as a ‘Code Red’ for Google’s search business. Gary Marcus, author of Rebooting.AI, tweeted in jest: “...Sure but you can make it (ChatGPT) work! All you have to do is... hook it up to ... a...search engine!"

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But they work differently. How? 

ChatGPT is based on a large language model (LLM) called Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT-3.5). Trained to predict the next word on a large dataset of text and present it in a user-friendly manner, it has even impressed the likes of Elon Musk and Chris Andersen, curator of TED. Search engines like Bing or Google Search, on the other hand, are fully automated and use software known as web crawlers to surf the internet regularly to locate pages that can be indexed in real time, following which they serve the information relevant to a user query. 

What limitations do search engines have? 

Search engines only provide links to articles but even these can be manipulated by page-ranking algorithms. Unlike ChatGPT, they cannot engage with users or respond to queries in a user-friendly dialogue format. Search engines may also show irrelevant links or display unwarr-anted ads if their algorithms think it fits your profile as defined in your settings. 

What are ChatGPT’s limitations? 

ChatGPT is still being tested and lacks knowledge of current events, having trained on data only till end 2021. It is also not connected to the internet. It overuses certain phrases, and repeats sentences by wording them differently. It sometimes writes “plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers", says OpenAI, which launched the chatbot. ChatGPT also does not provide the source of the information and has no fact-checking mechanism. It relies on correct phrasing of the question, unlike search engines. 

Will ChatGPT reinvent search engines? 

ChatGPT is not a search engine killer as yet. It will need to be trained on current data and connect to the internet to provide better results, but its costs (estimated to be $3 million per month) will escalate. Meanwhile, Bing already provides DALL-E 2 AI image generation, and Microsoft may want to do the same with ChatGPT. Meta’s BlenderBot3 is already connected to the internet. And OpenAI’s WebGPT prototype uses a text-based browser to submit search queries, follow links, scroll web pages, and also cite sources. The shift is already happening.

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Leslie D'Monte
Leslie D'Monte has been a journalist for almost three decades. He specialises in technology and science writing, having worked with leading media groups--both as a reporter and an editor. He is passionate about digital transformation and deep-tech topics including artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, crypto, metaverses, quantum computing, genetics, fintech, electric vehicles, solar power and autonomous vehicles. Leslie is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Knight Science Journalism Fellow (2010-11). In his other avatar, he curates tech events and moderates panels.
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Updated: 07 Feb 2023, 04:20 PM IST
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