The future is here.
If there were doubts about the power of artificial intelligence, OpenAI’s new ChatGPT bot has likely put those to rest.
Using an interface much like Google search, the chatbot can create jokes and dramatic narratives, make arguments, and write code. The applications for such technology are wide-ranging, and it has the potential to disrupt a number of industries, including any involving writing contracts, code, academic papers, or more creative forms of content.
There are also potential implications for Alphabet‘s (GOOG -0.56%) (GOOGL -0.59%) search engine, the de facto information source of the web. Below, you’ll learn what ChatGPT means for Alphabet, but first, here’s a little more about the breakthrough technology.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT, which stands for “generative pre-trained transformer,” is a large language model (LLM) developed by OpenAI, a seven-year-old nonprofit AI research company known for developing earlier deep learning models like DALL-E and GPT-3.
What’s special about ChatGPT is that it’s the first AI chatbot of such caliber that has been released to the public. The technology attracted more than 1 million sign-ups in just the first five days after its release on Nov. 30, and both technologists and ordinary users called the technology transformative, comparing using it to their first time using an iPhone or a similarly remarkable new technology.
Box CEO Aaron Levie is among its fans.
There’s a certain feeling that happens when a new technology adjusts your thinking about computing. Google did it. Firefox did it. AWS did it. iPhone did it. OpenAI is doing it with ChatGPT.
— Aaron Levie (@levie) December 4, 2022
Is ChatGPT a Google killer?
ChatGPT has a number of things in common with Google Search. The interface is essentially the same, and it’s a useful tool for getting information, but there’s an important distinction between the two.
ChatGPT is not a web browser. It can’t scan the internet for articles about the topic you’re searching for, and it doesn’t work if you’re looking for specific information like, say, the hours of a restaurant near you. Both ChatGPT and Google can provide information on more general topics like history, science, or recipes, but where ChatGPT really excels is in its ability to share information in a conversational manner and talk about subjects in a nuanced manner. In addition to creative content like stories, ChatGPT can also give you arguments and opinions in a way that Google really can’t.
Because of this, you’d likely need to spend a lot more time and effort getting information on some topics using Google than you would with ChatGPT. Depending on the topic, ChatGPT is potentially a much better tool for research.
What this means for Alphabet stock
If you’re wondering why Google didn’t beat OpenAI to the punch, there are a number of possible reasons. First, Google has a great business model in search, which has barely changed as a consumer-facing product in 20 years, and it’s likely loath to disrupt it.
ChatGPT doesn’t lend to itself to advertising in any obvious way, at least not in the way that Google does, and it doesn’t perform the kind of monetizable, product-driven searches that work best for Google’s business.
Google has a chatbot that’s similar to ChatGPT, LaMDA, which some see as more intelligent than OpenAI’s latest release. However, Google has been reluctant to release it because its information isn’t always correct, and it also probably wants to avoid disrupting its core search business model.
Last week, Alphabet’s AI subsidiary Deepmind introduced a tool called Dramatron that writers can use to co-write scripts using machine-learning-based language modeling. It can also write advanced code.
It seems, then, that Alphabet does have many of the capabilities that ChatGPT uses, but as an industry incumbent, it’s reluctant to advance technology that could disrupt its business model.
Since ChatGPT can’t browse the web and, according to OpenAI, only provides accurate information through 2021, it doesn’t pose a direct challenge to Google now, but that could change quickly. Plugging it in to do web searches wouldn’t be so difficult, nor would making it a more viable competitor to Google.
It’s only a matter of time before OpenAI or a similar company directly challenges Google search with a chatbot. While Alphabet appears to have the technological prowess to compete on AI-driven search, the company may need to disrupt itself first or risk being left behind.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Jeremy Bowman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Alphabet. The Motley Fool recommends Box. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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