According to Reuters, in January of 2023 ChatGPT became the fastest growing application in history with over 100 million users in just two months. The fervor surrounding AI applications like ChatGPT is worrisome for some – not because of its uncanny humanlike responses to questions, but rather the public’s understanding of exactly how the technology works and the results it is giving. This lack of understanding could have some very negative effects in the quality, innovation, and competitiveness of almost every space on the web.
The truth is that AI itself is not to be feared but rather embraced for what it is – including its limitations. AI has been part of the internet since practically the very beginning and, while this article is comparing using ChatGPT and Google for gleaning information from the internet, it is important that the reader understand that both of these applications rely on AI. Again the difference is the perceived value of outcome by the searcher.
So let’s take a look at some of the limitations of choosing ChatGPT for web search instead of Google and the effects that widespread adoption of this can have on the internet itself.
The Results You Get From ChatGPT are from One Source Only
If you understand how ChatGPT and similar AI applications work, you may be screaming into your computer or phone screen right now about how ChatGPT uses ALL its available sources to come up with one “perfect” answer. But that’s the problem: you get only one answer and it comes from only one source – ChatGPT.
While this may be of little concern if you are searching for something a bit mundane like a fun recipe for dinner that night or just a quick tidbit of information to satisfy a moment’s curiosity, but for more critical information, where education, business, legal, or medical decisions come into play, there are inherent dangers on relying on the technology.
While it may be enticing to have a near human-like conversation with a computer program as you search for the information you need, it is that program vetting the information, including determining its factuality and the reliability of the source or sources it gleaned it from. While you could ask ChatGPT for those sources, you are then going to spend a lot of time looking them up to vet them yourself.
Why Google has been the mainstay of web search for so long is that you, the searcher, gets to vet the sources of the information on the fly. Yes, Google does use complex algorithms (basically AI) to sort through billions of web pages and rank the ones most relevant and authoritative for you, but you can still dig down deep in search to find what you are looking for and make any needed distinctions on your own regarding the reliability of the information.
If you are writing a report for work, researching a legal matter for business, or looking for medical information, seeing the sources of the information and vetting that information for yourself can be critically important. Google’s sophisticated algorithms are designed to match your search query up with relevant web pages that have proven to be authoritative by other searchers satisfaction with the result, the quality of the actual web page (Will it format on the searcher’s screen okay? Does it load quickly? Does it contain malicious code? etc.).
Anyone who has spent any time on the web knows that it is filled with misinformation, outdated information, content of all quality levels, and, of course, malicious websites. If what you are looking up is important, make sure you know exactly where the answers you’re getting are coming from.
Using ChatGPT for Search Could Destroy the Incentive for Informative Blogs and Innovative Ideas
We were just mentioning all the bad aspects of the internet above, but let’s be clear – the internet is also filled with incredibly helpful and meaningful information put there by thoughtful, intelligent people who either do it out of sheer kindness or have been incentivized to share. Either way, you are the beneficiary of all that goodness every time you Google.
But let’s talk a little about the people who have been incentivized to share information on the internet. For the sake of this article, let’s consider that information a high-quality informative blog post. In most every case, the incentive to write and post that blog post comes from you clicking on a search link and ending up on that blog.
The owner of the website may have ads or affiliate links in the blog. In this case, he or she receives monetary compensation if you, the visitor, click on an ad or link. Even if you don’t click on an ad, the website owner still benefits since a website that gets higher traffic commands a higher ad rate.
Businesses of all sizes, from small mom and pop stores to giant multinational corporations, post blogs simply in order to attract you as a potential customer by showing you their knowledge and expertise in their given field. By posting that helpful blog, they made you aware of their business, earned your trust by giving you valuable information, and even if you don’t become a customer, benefitted from your web visit as Google gives informative web pages (determined by user’s time and behavior on the given page) more authority and potentially moves them up in search ranking.
Because ChatGPT skips the important step of taking you directly to a web page for the information you are seeking, it basically removes the incentive for new information to be posted by website owners. For smaller businesses and organizations, even a small drop in web traffic to blogs might make the prospect of writing more not worth it. Every time this happens new, up-to-date, meaningful content (the life blood of the internet) is lost.
Obviously, the entire internet is not going to implode overnight if even a lot of people start going to ChatGPT for answers to everything instead of Google. But the purpose of this article is to at least inform you, the excited ChatGPT user, to use a bit of caution and restraint in how you use this new technology and temper your expectations a little of what it can do.
So When Should You Use ChatGPT?
ChatGPT can be a great way to quickly flesh out a piece of writing before researching and copy editing. It can be especially useful if gleaning the structure of certain types of more technical writing like contracts and grant proposals, but use it only as an “early draft” and do your due diligence on any information ChatGPT provides. This is about getting a feel for the structure and language of the piece of writing you are working on.
This applies to blogs as well, however, keep in mind that using AI to produce content is against Google’s webmaster guidelines. If a blog is determined to have been written by AI, Google could down rank it pretty severely, or even downrank the entire website if there are other examples found. To learn more about using ChatGPT for blogging, please read our blog, “The Pitfalls Of Turning To Ai For Website Content”.
ChatGPT is also excellent for just playing, so don’t hesitate to use it to just have fun. It is remarkable technology and a hint of what the future holds, but we would be remiss to at least not advise anyone to temper their expectations on the reliability of the answers being provided to them. To sum up, we still have a long way to go before computers will replace humans, but if we don’t approach technology with a degree of caution and intelligence, that day will come a lot sooner!
If you have questions about ChatGPT or other AI-based inquiries, reach out to us via the web form below. Blink;Tech is here to be your tech partner!