AI Chatbot Wars: Google management on alert after seeing ChatGPT's potential

Could the AI bot one day replace the search engine?
Ameya Paleja
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Three weeks ago, an artificial intelligence research laboratory, Open AI, unveiled its experimental chatbot ChatGPT. Though far away from perfection, a look at its capabilities has been sufficient to send a red alert to Google about how AI can upend its business. Sundar Pichai, the CEO at Alphabet, Google's parent company, has now directed multiple groups to focus on addressing this threat, Business Insider reported.

ChatGPT is a chatbot that can respond to user queries with summarized information in short and simple sentences. The bot can also respond to queries such as vacation plans, gifting ideas as well as business strategies in a short and concise way. In comparison, Google, the best search engine on the planet, serves users a bunch of internet links that they need to surf through to get the information they seek.

The major reason Google does this is that it presents it with an opportunity to also display ad links, which results in revenue for the company. According to an Insider report, Google's ad business generated revenue of US$208 billion in 2021 alone and accounted for 81 percent of Google's earnings.

The threat from chatbots

A ready-to-consume format of information delivered by a chatbot is a severe threat to Google's business. In the past few weeks, users have asked ChatGPT to write up college essays for them, provide advice on coding and even serve as a therapist to talk to. Such has been the popularity of the chatbot that more than a million people took to testing it in the first five days since its launch.

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The news only gets worse for Google since ChatGPT is just one of the many chatbots that will challenge how people access information on the internet, drawing the curtains on Google's monopoly as the gateway to information.

In a series of meetings around Google's AI strategy, Pichai directed multiple groups, primarily teams working in research and Trust and Safety Division to focus their efforts on the development and launch of new AI prototypes and products. This also includes competing products for Open AI's DALL-E, an AI that can generate art based on instructions, also used by millions of people around the world.

Does Elon Musk own Open AI?

The Open AI project consists of two arms, the Open AI LP, a for-profit company, and a non-profit parent company, OpenAI Inc. Founded in 2015, the organization wants to promote the use of AI such that it benefits humanity as a whole. Elon Musk was one of the founding members of the project but resigned from the board in 2018.

Interestingly, Google is a partner in the Open AI project and has contributed to the development of the ChatGPT, a New York Times report said. At the core of the chatbot is Google's Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), a chatbot that made news earlier this year, since an engineer working on the project called it sentient.

Google hasn't launched its chatbot publicly since the technology is known to be riddled with errors and also comes with its biases that it learns from the content it consumes to give the answers. Both, Microsoft and Meta have in the past launched chatbots to withdraw them from the public domain later on and ChatGPT was no exception.

Google clearly does not want to repeat this mistake made by its peers and the increased focus might be to demonstrate its improved version of the chatbot at the Google event scheduled for May next year.