Nadella said in media interviews Tuesday that the AI-powered overhaul of web search represented "a new paradigm" for the industry. "A new race is starting with a completely new platform technology," he said. Indeed, since Microsoft-backed OpenAI launched its buzzy ChatGPT chatbot in November, Google has been keen to show it's not falling behind.
But there are limitations to, and valid concerns about, this brave new world of conversational search. The new search AIs draw their answers from the web at large, and information on the web isn't always accurate, to say the least. If a search AI confidently presents an ill-informed, inaccurate answer to a sensitive question — as ChatGPT has been shown to do — there's a risk that search, the bedrock of human interaction with the web, brings AI-generated misinformation to the mainstream.
Abhishek Gupta, the founder and principal researcher at the Montreal AI Ethics Institute, told Insider the change in how we search the web could cause a "discontinuity in the search experience" for users who are used to browsing and making their own decisions. Instead, he said, people will be "told" what the "right" answer is, prompted by an expectation that the AI interface is "giving a well-thought-out, crafted answer" to their query.
"The issues of problematic information — misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation — will become more rampant," Gupta said. "Users will need to become savvier on media and digital literacy to be able to combat this."