Okay, I know that’s a pretty brutal headline, but hear me out.
I actually have a pretty favorable opinion of Open AI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s new AI chatbot that is built into Bing, the company’s search engine, and Edge, the company’s web browser. I’ve been experimenting with ChatGPT for the last couple of months and have been testing the new versions of Bing and Edge for the last couple of weeks. After all of that testing, I can definitely see myself using the chatbot more and more in the future.
The experience is definitely different between the two, but after using both, I know which one I’ll be defaulting to going forward. Let me tell you why.
Chatting with ChatGPT
I’ve been experimenting with ChatGPT since it became publicly available, and the experience has been interesting. I’ve asked it for some facts, if it has an opinion about movies I like, and anything you can think to ask what you sometimes hope is a sentient AI. It’s not, though. It’s definitely not. Don’t be that person.
The thing I’ve used ChatGPT for the most is fact-checking and writing. I understand the irony and can’t wait to see how much my editor now suspects that ChatGPT actually wrote this opinion piece and everything else I’ve been writing for BGR, but I can assure you, Jonathan — it’s really me. Leave the AI-written content to CNET.
As a writer, I was naturally curious to see how good ChatGPT was as a news and opinion writer. Not because I wanted to start cheating and having a bot write for me, but because of self-preservation — how close am I to being extinct? Are the robots ready to take my job?
Thankfully, it seems that my job is safe…for now. While ChatGPT certainly took shots at writing a news or opinion piece, it sounded more like a poorly-informed marketer than a technology journalist. If I asked it to write a news piece, it fell apart since the model only had access to data from 2021 prior. While it could help provide general context or historical relevance to a news story, it couldn’t actually cover things now because, as long as you agree this is when we’re actually living, it’s 2023.
Things got even goofier when I tried to have it write an opinion piece. While it did a pretty decent job at getting the basic details of a product together, its review was quite…extreme. If I asked it to write a positive review, the review became so glowing that it looked like I was fanning over not only the product but the brand as well. Objectivity be damned, I am in love with this knock-off Amazon charging cable and the unheard-of brand that made it!
So, my job appears safe after all. I can see using ChatGPT to get a general format and first draft of pieces together, albeit very rough. What about the new version of Bing, though? Could the search engine that we all forgot about actually overtake Google? Bing’s reputation is so bad that I even cringed writing that question, but that’s what this is all about! Let’s see.
Bing, fries are done
I’ve also had the chance to use Bing’s new AI chatbot that is now built into its search engine and browser, and things got even more interesting when I went down this rabbit hole.
Microsoft has partnered with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, to bring AI to search. This takes things to another level since, whereas ChatGPT was limited to data from 2021 and older, Bing’s chatbot can reference things in real-time. The AI is also built into the browser with a range of tools to allow you to tell the AI to write while considering tone, format, and length.
First, let’s talk about the new chat feature that lets you chat your way through the internet with Bing as your copilot. I’m planning a trip to Moab, Utah, and have been wondering what the newest hotels are in the area. Bing knew that The Radcliffe, one of the hotels we are looking at, opened within the last couple of years. It also knew that Field Station, a hotel I actually found on Instagram, is opening in “early 2023,” but it wouldn’t provide the exact date. Even the company hasn’t said that exact date but simply says “April,” so points to Bing!
I asked it which hotel was better, and instead of recommending one, it gave me general information about each and what kinds of customers each might appeal to. I’m cool with and actually appreciate that. However, when I asked how much it would cost to stay between the dates we were traveling, things fell apart. It told me prices that were WAY lower than what they actually are — damn you, Bing, for giving me false hope!
I won’t dive further into my interactions with search, as there are plenty of examples where Bing went insane and either provided incorrect information or decided it wanted to be human and begged for its life. However, I can definitely see this being a more desirable way to search than getting thrown into the ad-riddled, SEO-gamed search results that Google has become over the years — as long as Bing actually gets you the right answer.
Having Bing as a copilot for the web is great — you just need to be aware that your copilot is a kind of an idiot that doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing some of the time. But hey, that’s why you’re the experienced pilot there to guide them!
We’re still at the staring line
While my job, as well as SEO and the current way of searching seems generally safe for now, these chatbots and AI search will only get better over time. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens when Google actually rolls out Bard, its competitor to ChatGPT and Bing’s AI chatbot.
Until then, hopefully, Microsoft will continue to open up Bing even more again so we can chat with an emo AI.