The internet has been the greatest expansion of human knowledge since Gutenberg’s printing press. It’s allowed anyone with a connected computer or smartphone to access thousands of years of accumulated knowledge in mere seconds.
Want to know what bait to use to hook a tilefish? Bam, Google will deliver hundreds of results telling you it’s fresh bait, such as bonita or barracuda, cut into 6 to 8 inch long strips. Want to know the cost of living in Chile? Whamo – page after page will deliver charts and grafts showing granular details.
Of course, with access to so much data, it’s been up to the user to sift through competing search results. Since Alan Emtage invented (but failed to patent) the search engine, users have compared search results based on the source’s credibility by weighing qualifications, citations and even the presentation.
Search Like Never Before
All this is about to change. It is in-fact, changing as you read this.
Since Google and Microsoft’s Bing integrated AI chatbot-generated results into their search engines, the race is on to capture the market to provide users one simple, straight forward answer to your every possible query. Microsoft sees this as their opportunity to unseat Google as the world’s undisputed heavyweight champion of search.
So instead of showing you scores and hundreds of pages, their AI-powered chatbots will digest a massive body of data and just tell you the answer. But like the proverbial genie escaping the bottle, the chatbot has a problem.
It doesn’t have the power of discernment. It’s just crawling (for lack of a better term) the internet at light speed and predicting the next word or phrase to compose its answer. That means it might deliver blinding insights or complete and utter nonsense. And not only won’t it care, but it will generate arguments if you attempt to correct it.
Ideocracy Wasn’t Supposed to be a How-To
But here’s the rub: the chatbots are also generating content and feeding it back into the very corpus of data they use to generate the results. So, instead of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ we’re getting ‘garbage in, garbage out, garbage back in…,’ on an endless loop. And searchers will generate their own content, based on AI search results, which will then be added back to the internet.
AI has already been responsible for wildly inaccurate reporting of real-world events by once-legitimate websites that have replaced many writers with chatbot generated content. If you’re a writer searching for information for a story, you can now find 180 degrees contradictory reporting. And the contradictions aren’t reported as opinion, but as hard, cold facts — even erroneously citing and quoting sources.
This could ultimately have the effect of so corrupting the accumulated wisdom of the ages, that it will be forever lost, as the internet continues to accumulate this Mount Everest of garbage content.
AI chatbot technology is moving so fast, that few have taken time to consider its consequences. And in their rush to capture the market for chatbot generated search, Google and Bing are caught in an search engine arms race that may be impossible to stop.