Table of contents.
In case it wasn’t made apparent in my previous blog post, I am currently travelling and have less free time to write articles or tinker with my blog.
Due to the nature of travel, however, I have a lot of awkwardly scattered moments where there isn’t much to do but wait. These dry moments don’t usually last long, and in rare cases where I do get to remain stationary for half an hour or longer, it is not always suitable or appropriate to bring a laptop along and be productive.
So lately, I’ve spent most of my spare moments staring at my mobile phone.
Between cat videos and pretty pictures on social media, I encountered plenty of news articles and videos discussing the advent of the age of AI chatbots, including:
- The meteoric rise of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which is estimated to have reached 100 million active users within two months of its launch. It took TikTok nine months to achieve the same milestone, and two and a half years for Instagram.
- How Google’s scrambled announcement of their very own ChatGPT rival named Bard went awry when it was discovered that Bard had produced a factually incorrect response in its promotional demo, causing Google’s parent company Alphabet to lose $100 billion in market value soon after. Yikes!
- Microsoft’s highly inspiring and much better prepared preview launch of the new (OpenAI-powered) Bing search engine and future Edge web browser.
Author’s note: Turns out, the new Bing is not actually as good as Microsoft hyped it up to be. Read my update on 15 Feb to learn more.
How do AI chatbots pertain to this blog?
Why I built this website.
I built scatteringclouds.com as an experiment to ascertain a few things for myself.
For one: I wanted to challenge myself and see if I can build and sustain a simple, little WordPress blog in a budget-friendly manner.
After a lot of trial and error (mainly errors) and some hefty upfront investments, my current blog setup costs less than $30 AUD / $20 USD per year to keep online. So I appear to have more or less succeeded in this regard.
For two: I had to make sure I am willing and capable of sitting down and cranking out content (i.e. articles) for my blog. After all, a blog is nothing without its content, and there isn’t much point in keeping an empty and inactive blog online.
Twenty blog posts later, I’d say I have more or less managed to hit this target too. I don’t really focus much on any single topic, and I’m not all that efficient at writing, but hey, at least I can create and write consistently!
For three: If I managed to achieve both the above, I will deem it possible for me to venture onwards as a blogger. I would start exploring ways to draw some traffic to my blog, and maybe gain some traction and generate an income on the side.
That would be the dream…
But this is where I run into a conundrum.
Celebrating my 20th blog post… With an AI-fuelled existential crisis?
Most of the articles I wrote are basically summaries of information found online, gathered through extensive searching on Google, Reddit, YouTube, etc.
First, I run into a problem that needs solving or a question that needs answering.
I then research the problem/question by going through each search result, test, modify, and verify that the solution(s) or answer(s) does indeed work as intended. If I find the outcome to be noteworthy, I would create something from my findings (e.g. a piece of working code) and/or write an article about it.
In the article, I would talk about what worked, what did not work, what are my sources, and some of my thoughts, insights, opinions, and grievances throughout.
Each of my blog articles can take up to a week or longer to complete, depending on the topic and whether I searched using the right keywords.
Unfortunately, most of what I’ve been doing can already be done by an AI chatbot in much less time and effort, rendering the existence of this blog moot.
AI chatbots can also create quick summaries of different online sources in mere seconds, with more information waiting at the next prompt.
With Microsoft and Google engaging each other in the new search engine arms race, and with the integration of AI in search engines like Microsoft’s new Bing and Google’s Bard, it is foreseeable that most online search traffic may soon end on the search page, instead of landing on individual website articles.
In other words, most publishers may experience a significant drop in search engine traffic in the near future, which can put a marked dent in their revenue.
Less website traffic equals fewer chances to sell stuff, reduced ad clicks, diminished kickbacks from referrals, and a decline in overall income. It’s just simple math.
And where does that leave us?
I have no freaking clue. How the hell is anyone supposed to know how much these advancements in artificial intelligence will affect everyone’s livelihood?
And to be honest, the future looks pretty bleak from my perspective.
Humanity seems to have taken a sudden, irreversible step towards some kind of technological dystopia, the type you’d only find in sci-fi movies and novels.
Chatbots have become so incredibly versatile, powerful, and convenient, that it’s impossible to imagine not putting such technology to good use.
And they’re only going to get better over time.
Once AI becomes fully integrated into our everyday lives, there’s never going back.
Not until something better crops up to replace them, much like the way AI chatbots are poised to take over and replace the traditional keyword-based search engine, causing Google to panic and make one of its biggest fumbles in recent memory.
Imagine spending so much of your time and resources on growing and maintaining your advertising revenue, that you forget your roots as a daring, innovative, and thought-leading technological upstart.
Google used to scoff at Microsoft’s dingy search engine.
Look who’s laughing now.
And much like Google, there may be a few things publishers and publishers-to-be like me can try and maybe get the last laugh.
Innovate and try something new.
There are some questions nobody has ever thought of asking, and there is merit to be the first to answer. Even better if you can produce a solution immediately.
Until ChatGPT came along, Google Search had been stagnant for a good 20 years.
Sure, keyword-based search has improved massively since its inception.
But searching for information can still be a very frustrating ordeal.
Especially with the multitude of websites out there abusing devious SEO tactics, constantly regurgitating each other’s content in an attempt to climb higher in search rankings, filling up Google’s search results with duplicative trash.
There are even claims that Google Search is dying.
And indeed, Google may have developed the best keyword-based search engine technology in the world, but in reality, a lot of their search results are still full of nothing but keyword-optimized and ad-riddled fluff.
Without the push from Microsoft and OpenAI, Google would’ve continued to sit on their proprietary search algorithms and AI language models, fancying themselves the top dog when it comes to both search and artificial intelligence, but never fully integrating these two technologies together.
At least, not at the pace Microsoft and OpenAI are moving. Because it would disrupt the business model of Google’s biggest money-maker: search advertising.
Now Google is forced to play ball with Microsoft’s new chatbot-powered Bing.
And judging by their lackluster announcement for Bard, Google is unprepared for any competition on a level playing field, let alone a race from behind.
For the rest of us, especially the many websites that rely on search engine traffic, AI chatbots will eventually force us to change, no matter if we like it or not.
And our choices are clear:
We can either opt to innovate and try out new things like Microsoft, or remain passive and be forced to switch up our old ways like Google. Fortunately, trying out new things is just another Tuesday for a simple blog like mine.
Can’t beat them? Join them!
You can continue to slog things out on your website the old-fashioned way, or embrace AI as a productivity tool to help speed things up exponentially.
If everyone else is adopting the use of AI chatbots, we might as well try it ourselves and see where it takes us. I myself have entertained the thought of using AI to help with the endless list of search results spat out by Google’s search page.
But I really abhor the fact that all AI-based tools can really do at the moment is high-tech plagiarism at an unprecedented scale.
Current AI tools expect you to take whatever they produce at face value. Their creators have never considered it a necessity to give credit to artists they have stolen from, or provide a list of sources to reinforce their output.
And if you have ever read any of my previous blog posts, you’d know that I have made it my mission to give credit where it is due. And I do invest an inordinate amount of time and effort to provide links back to original sources.
Fortunately, Microsoft seems to have taken this problem very seriously. Their new Bing chatbot will actually include links to sources in its response.
As for Google?
They got caught with their pants down, and are still trying to figure out how to safely integrate Bard into Google Search without affecting their ad revenue.
Google had been resting on their laurels for far too long, and their search engine dominance in the past two decades has finally come back to bite them.
When you have reached the peak, there is nowhere left to go but down.
Google has slowed innovation and stopped taking risks because they have everything to lose but nothing to gain. Not to mention how much it would affect their reputation if Bard produced a wrong or inaccurate answer in public.
Oh, wait. That has already happened.
Funny how nobody seems to have fact-checked Bard’s promotional demo before it went live. Especially when Google employees were told they were moving “more conservatively than a small startup” due to potential “reputational risk”.
Now Google appears to have abandoned all pretext as they realize how far along Microsoft has gotten with the new Bing. And their sloppy and obviously rushed presentation to announce Bard turned out to be a massive flop.
Microsoft has much less to lose with the new Bing. All they have to do is gain some ground in Google’s search engine market and find a way to break even.
This is a rather curious race where both competitors will have some catching up to do with each other. Google may still stand to come out ahead in this AI-driven search engine arms race, but they are unlikely to emerge unscathed.
And that is a rather unsettling thought for anyone who finds themselves in a similar, AI-driven predicament.
Between AI chatbots and widespread SEO abuse, I start to question the value of investing so much time, energy, and effort into my blog posts.
Perhaps it is high time I look into enlisting the help of AI to speed up my process.
It would be nice to have someone else sift through the seemingly endless list of generic search results, looking for that elusive nugget of useful information.
So yes, I am finally planning to jump on the chatbot bandwagon. And I am hedging my bets on the new Bing, since Microsoft seems to have taken all the right steps thus far. Being able to look at the chatbot’s sources makes Bing perfect for my use case.
Though I wouldn’t say no to other options while waiting for Bing to be available.
Because who knows? Google might get impatient and start offering Bard to the masses in a hurry. It’s been a riot watching Google wet themselves over *Bing* of all things, but I believe Google has every chance to bounce back with a vengeance.
This right here, folks, is history in the making. I look forward to seeing how it would all play out, and pray I am not the one to get left behind.
Update 15 Feb 2023:
A recent news article from CNBC reported that Microsoft’s new Bing had also made several factual errors in its demo.
The CNBC article quoted the work of an independent search researcher Dmitri Brereton, who noted that the Bing AI can’t be trusted either:
Microsoft knowingly released a broken product for short-term hype.
Bing AI got some answers completely wrong during their demo. But no one noticed. Instead, everyone jumped on the Bing hype train.
Google’s Bard got an answer wrong during an ad, which everyone noticed. Now the narrative is “Google is rushing to catch up to Bing and making mistakes!”.
That would be a fine narrative if Bing didn’t make even worse mistakes during its own demo.Dmitri Brereton, Feb 2023
I recommend following the above links to learn more.
Not only did Bing get some numbers completely wrong in its demo, some of its other numbers were completely made up.
As it turns out, Bing was actually just as bad as Bard, if not worse. And Google is fairly justified in holding back their AI technology from our grabby hands.
Good ol’ Bard and Bing. The Twiddle-dum and Twiddle-dumber of the AI age.
And so starteth the AI race, with two of its biggest contestants tripping over both themselves AND each other in a foolish sprint to get ahead.
It looks like the current generation of AI chatbots still leaves a lot to be desired. But I really can’t say for sure until I get the chance to do a few test drives.