The battle for search
What do ai chatbots mean for the lucrative business of searching the internet?
For more than 25 years, search engines have been the internet’s front door. AltaVista the first site to allow searches of the full text of the web, was swiftly dethroned by Google, which has dominated the field in most of the world ever since. Google’s search engine, still the heart of its business, has made its parent, Alphabet, one of the world’s most valuable companies,with revenues of $283bn in 2022 and a market capitalisation of $1.3trn. Google is not merely a household name; it is a verb.
But nothing lasts for ever, particularly in technology. Just ask ibm, which once ruled business computing, or Nokia, once the leader in mobile phones. Both were dethroned because they fumbled big technological transitions. Now tech ﬁrms are salivating over an innovation that might herald a similar shift—and a similar opportunity. Chatbots powered by artiﬁcial intelligence (AI) let users gather information via typed conversations. Leading the ﬁeld is ChatGPT, made by OpenAI, a startup. By the end of January, two months after its launch, ChatGPT was being used by more than 100m people, making it the “fastest-growing consumer application in history”, according to UBS, a bank.
AI is already used behind the scenes in many products, but ChatGPT has put it centre stage, by letting people chat with an AI directly. ChatGPT can write essays in various styles, explain complex concepts, summarise text and answer trivia questions. It can even (narrowly) pass legal and medical exams. And it can synthesise knowledge from the web: for example, listing holiday spots that match certain criteria, or suggesting menus or itineraries. If asked, it can explain its reasoning and provide detail. Many things that people use search engines for today, in short, can be done better with chatbots.
Hence the ﬂurry of announcements, as rival ﬁrms try to seize the initiative. On February 7th Microsoft, which has invested more than $11bn in OpenAI, revealed a new version of Bing, its search engine, which incorporates ChatGPT. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s boss, sees this as his chance to challenge Google. For its part, Google has announced Bard, its own chatbot, as a “companion” to its search engine. It has also taken a $300m stake in Anthropic, a startup founded by exOpenAI employees, which has built a chatbot called Claude. The share price of Baidu, known as the Google of China, jumped when it said it would release its chatbot, called Ernie, in March.
由于竞争对手也在抓住这个机会，微软匆忙地宣布进军chatbots领域。2023年2月7日，投资了OpenAI超过11bn美元的微软揭露下一代bing搜索引擎将会结合ChatGPT。微软的CEO， Satya Nadella，说这是一个挑战google的机会。由于这种竞争，google宣布Bard，它自己的chatbot，当然它也拥有300m美元的Anthropic公司的股份，这个公司是前openai员工创立的，该公司研发出了Claude。中国大陆的baidu，也宣布3月份发布chatbot，叫做Ernie。
But can chatbots be trusted, and what do they mean for search and its lucrative advertising business? Do they herald a Schumpeterian moment in which AI topples incumbent ﬁrms and elevates upstarts? The answers depend on three things: moral choices, monetisation and monopoly economics.
但是chatbot能够被信任吗？或者是说它对财大气粗的广告公司来说意味着什么？难道它是AI颠覆现有的公司以及现有的发际者（Schumpeterian；是一种创造性破坏理论）。 答案是3个1. 道德选择2.货币化以及3.经济垄断
ChatGPT often gets things wrong. It has been likened to a mansplainer: supremely conﬁdent in its answers, regardless of their accuracy. Unlike search engines, which mostly direct people to other pages and make no claims for their veracity, chatbots present their answers as gospel truth. Chatbots must also grapple with bias, prejudice and misinformation as they scan the internet. There are sure to be controversies as they produce incorrect or oﬀensive replies. (Google is thought to have held back the release of its chatbot over such concerns, but Microsoft has now forced its hand.) ChatGPT already gives answers that Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, would consider unacceptably woke.
ChatGPT经常出错。它类似一个男子说教者：对它的答案极其自信，不管它们的准确性如何。与主要将人们引导至其他页面并且不保证其真实性的搜索引擎不同，聊天机器人将其答案呈现为真理。聊天机器人在扫描互联网时还必须应对偏见、成见和错误信息。肯定会有争议，因为它们会产生不正确或冒犯性的回复。 （谷歌被认为是出于这些担忧而推迟了其聊天机器人的发布，但微软现在强行采取了行动。）ChatGPT 已经给出了佛罗里达州州长罗恩·德桑蒂斯 (Ron DeSantis) 认为难以接受的答案。
Chatbots must also tread carefully around some tricky topics. Ask ChatGPT for medical advice, and it prefaces its reply with a disclaimer that it “cannot diagnose speciﬁc medical conditions”; it also refuses to give advice on, say, how to build a bomb. But its guardrails have proved easy to circumvent (for example, by asking for a story about a bombmaker, with plenty of technical detail). As tech ﬁrms decide which topics are too sensitive, they will have to choose where to draw the line. All this will raise questions about censorship, objectivity and the nature of truth.
聊天机器人还必须谨慎对待一些棘手的话题。向 ChatGPT 寻求医疗建议，它在回复前声明“无法诊断特定的医疗状况”；它还拒绝就如何制造炸弹等问题提供建议。但它的护栏已被证明很容易规避（例如，通过询问有关炸弹制造者的故事，其中包含大量技术细节）。当科技公司决定哪些话题过于敏感时，他们将不得不选择在哪里划清界限。所有这些都会引发有关审查制度、客观性和真相本质的问题。
Can tech ﬁrms make money from this? OpenAI is launching a premium version of ChatGPT, which costs $20 a month for speedy access even at peak times. Google and Microsoft, which already sell ads on their search engines, will show ads alongside chatbot responses—ask for travel advice, say, and related ads will pop up. But that business model may not be sustainable. Running a chatbot requires more processing power than serving up search results, and therefore costs more, reducing margins.
科技公司能从中赚钱吗？ OpenAI 正在推出高级版的 ChatGPT，每月收费 20 美元，即使在高峰时段也能快速访问。已经在其搜索引擎上销售广告的谷歌和微软将在聊天机器人回复旁边显示广告——例如，询问旅行建议，相关广告就会弹出。但这种商业模式可能不可持续。运行聊天机器人比提供搜索结果需要更多的处理能力，因此成本更高，从而降低了利润。
Other models will surely emerge: charging advertisers more for the ability to inﬂuence the answers that chatbots provide, perhaps, or to have links to their websites embedded in responses. Ask ChatGPT to recommend a car, and it will reply that there are lots of good brands, and it depends on your needs. Future chatbots may be more willing to make a recommendation. But will people use them if their objectivity has been compromised by advertisers? Will they be able to tell? Behold, another can of worms. Then there is a question of competition. It is good news that Google is being kept on its toes by upstarts like OpenAI. But it is unclear whether chatbots are a competitor to search engines, or a complement. Deploying chatbots initially as addons to search, or as standalone conversation partners, makes sense given their occasional inaccuracies. But as their capabilities improve, chatbots could become an interface to all kinds of services, such as making hotel or restaurant reservations, particularly if oﬀered as voice assistants, like Alexa or Siri. If chatbots’ main value is as a layer on top of other digital services, though, that will favour incumbents which provide such services already.
其他模式肯定会出现：向广告商收取更多费用，因为他们能够影响聊天机器人提供的答案，或者在响应中嵌入指向他们网站的链接。让ChatGPT推荐一辆车，它会回答说有很多好牌子，看你的需要。未来的聊天机器人可能更愿意提出建议。但是，如果广告商损害了他们的客观性，人们会使用它们吗？他们能说出来吗？看，另一罐蠕虫。然后是竞争问题。好消息是，像 OpenAI 这样的新贵让谷歌保持警惕。但尚不清楚聊天机器人是搜索引擎的竞争对手还是补充。最初将聊天机器人部署为搜索插件，或作为独立的对话伙伴，考虑到它们偶尔会出现错误，这是有道理的。但随着它们能力的提高，聊天机器人可以成为各种服务的接口，例如酒店或餐厅预订，特别是如果作为语音助手提供，如 Alexa 或 Siri。不过，如果聊天机器人的主要价值是作为其他数字服务之上的一层，那将有利于已经提供此类服务的现有企业。
Googling the future Yet the fact that today’s upstarts, such as Anthropic and OpenAI, are attracting so much attention (and investment) from Google and Microsoft suggests that smaller ﬁrms have a shot at competing in this new ﬁeld. They will come under great pressure to sell. But what if an upstart chatbot ﬁrm develops superior technology and a new business model, and emerges as a new giant? That, after all, is what Google once did. Chatbots raise hard questions, but they also offer an opportunity to make online information more useful and easier to access. As in the 1990s, when search engines ﬁrst appeared, a hugely valuable prize—to become the front door to the internet—may once again be up for grabs.
用谷歌搜索未来 然而，今天的新兴企业，如 Anthropic 和 OpenAI，吸引了谷歌和微软如此多的关注（和投资）这一事实表明，较小的公司有机会在这个新领域竞争。他们将面临巨大的出售压力。但是，如果新贵的聊天机器人公司开发出卓越的技术和新的商业模式，并成为新的巨头呢？毕竟，那是谷歌曾经做过的事情。聊天机器人提出了棘手的问题，但它们也提供了使在线信息更有用和更易于访问的机会。与 1990 年代搜索引擎首次出现时一样，一个非常有价值的奖品——成为互联网的大门——可能会再次被争夺。