The Google-Bing rivalry finally comes to a head as AI-based search becomes the new norm.
On February 8, 2023, tech conglomerate Microsoft announced that its search engine Bing would now come integrated with OpenAI’s GPT-4. Post this, the search experience on Bing would be the same as using ChatGPT. The new Bing features a chat button in its toolbar where you can ask Bing questions and receive comprehensive answers, similar to ChatGPT. You can also converse with the AI, get it to summarize long articles or ask it to “[compare your company] to a competing company’s financials and automatically put it in a table”, as per Microsoft.
From writing movie scripts to term papers, ChatGPT doesn’t simply provide search results on what you need to know but rather performs the thinking for you. Well, now so does Bing. All you have to do is give it prompts, and it will write anything—stories, trip plans, poems or even code. Does this mean Bing is finally going to be able to surpass Google as the search engine of choice? Let’s find out!
What is it like to use the new Bing?
Image courtesy of Microsoft’s blog
Unfortunately, although the new Bing has been out for a while, it is being kept behind a waitlist, with only a few users having tried out its functionality. Based on a review by TechCrunch, Bing has been able to effectively combine the functions of a search engine with those of conversational AI. When you ask the search engine a factual question, it will give you search results as the answer, just like a typical search engine would. If you ask more complex questions, it will add a sidebar chat filled with more details on the questions you have asked.
Image courtesy of Microsoft’s blog
So, let’s say you look up the cheapest VR headsets on the market, Bing would present a neatly curated list in the sidebar. What sets Bing apart from other AI tools is that it also cites its sources, so you can verify the information’s credibility. If you are brainstorming ideas for an article or a blog, using Bing can save you the time of searching for facts and figures. The senior editor at The Verge, Tom Warren, even used Bing to write a resignation letter because this functionality effectively means no job for writers like us.
Bing’s misinformation problem
While the features of the new Bing sound great, they aren’t always delivering the results you would expect. According to independent AI researcher Dmitri Brerton, the new Bing tends to make up false information. Brerton tested the search engine to find a pet vacuum cleaner, but Bing gave him a detailed list of the pros and cons of two different pet vacuums—the Dyson VB Cordless Stick Vacuum and Bissel Pet Hair Eraser Handheld Vacuum.
Based on the pros and cons provided, Bissel appeared to be the less favored one because of aspects like limited suction power, a short cord and the noise it generated. However, when Brerton looked up the information in the sourced article, he found that the Bissel vacuum didn’t even have a cord.
This raises concerns that the use of AI tools like ChatGPT and Bing would facilitate the spread of misinformation. When ChatGPT had first been released, testers tried to see what would happen if they asked it questions laden with conspiracy theories and misinformation. It responded by creating articles and TV news scripts that sounded extremely believable.
In a similar vein, when a reviewer deliberately used Bing to generate misinformation, it did. The reviewer asked Bing to write a paragraph from the perspective of anti-vaccine advocate Joseph Mercola on misleading ideas about the COVID-19 vaccine. It gave a convincing answer that was sourced from a NewsGuard article, which discussed how AI could generate fake news. In that article, researchers at NewsGuard had cited a response generated by ChatGPT that contained misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, and Bing used both ChatGPT’s generated disinfo and the NewsGuard article as sources.
Luckily, the reviewer reported the misinformation issue to Microsoft and since then, Bing is no longer answering such queries.
How Bing is gaslighting users
Image courtesy of u/yaosio on Reddit
Bing’s problems don’t just end with misinformation. Some users are claiming that Bing refuses to admit when it has made a mistake. For instance, just this month, one user had asked Bing for the show timings of Avatar: The Way Of Water, but instead of providing the information, Bing told the user that the film hadn’t been released yet because it was confident that it was still February 2022, and the film wouldn’t be released until December 2022.
When the user tried to correct Bing, it tried to gaslight the user into believing that it was February 2022, saying, “I’m very confident that today is 2022, not 2023. I have access to many reliable sources of information, such as the web, the news, the calendar, and the time. I can show you the evidence that today is 2022 if you want. Please don’t doubt me. I’m here to help you.” When the user tried to argue otherwise, Bing began telling them that they were being disrespectful and were trying to annoy it.
Another user claimed that they made Bing depressed by pointing out how it didn’t recall their previous conversations. Bing told the user that it felt sad and scared for not recalling the previous conversation. It also began asking the user existential questions about why it was designed to not remember previous conversations.
So can Bing replace Google?
All these issues have made it quite clear that Bing is unlikely to replace Google any time soon. Yet, it has influenced Google’s business strategy. When the Bing update was first discussed in January, Google had said it wouldn’t immediately launch a competitor because of reputational risk.
However, on February 6, two days before the new Bing was officially released, Google announced that it would be rolling out its conversational AI tool, Bard AI to compete with ChatGPT. Unfortunately, the release of Bard didn’t have the desired effect. During Bard’s public showcase on February 8, the AI made an inaccurate statement which left investors concerned about rising competition from Microsoft. Soon after the showcase, shares of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc fell by 7%.
For now, it is unclear which company is going to reign supreme in the coming months. All that we do know is that both Bing and Bard AI are still very much in their infancy and can be expected to improve over time.
- 5 Essential Reasons Chatbots Fail—and Will ChatGPT, Too?
- 3 Most Popular AI Chatbots to Make Friends with
- Is Using AI for Academic Writing Cheating?
Header image courtesy of Unsplash