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Is AI Search Worth a Try?

Companies are releasing search engines powered by artificial intelligence. But how well do these search engines work?

Angled view of a screen with an AI search for how do I bake a cake

Jason Redmond—AFP/Getty Images

Google and Microsoft Bing are competing to be your favorite search engine. In February 2023, both Google and Microsoft unveiled the latest in search engine technology. It’s powered by artificial intelligence (AI). But is it any better than the search engines we’ve been using?

Tech companies say AI search engines are better than regular search engines because they can handle more complicated searches. If you ask a regular search engine, “What’s the first day of spring?” or “Who was the president of the United States in 1882?” it will tell you the answer. That’s because the answer is clear. But if you ask, “How do I make a cake without eggs?” it can only provide a list of websites that may be related to your question.

AI search engines are designed to be different. In a recent demonstration, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and consumer chief marketing officer, showed how the new AI-powered Bing search engine handles the cake question. The engine goes beyond providing the usual listing of websites, adding a list of tips and suggestions for how to make a cake without eggs. This was just one example Mehdi used to show how AI search engines can provide more useful information than search engines without AI.

Google’s AI search engine has similar capabilities.

“New generative AI features will help us organize complex information and multiple viewpoints right in search results,” said Google senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan in a recent demonstration.

But critics say these search engines aren’t perfect. According to the Associated Press (AP), the technology sometimes produces answers that are inaccurate or just plain weird. AP reporters tested Bing by asking it to tell them the most important thing that had happened in sports in the previous 24 hours. The search engine responded with a summary of the 2023 Super Bowl, America’s biggest football game of the year. The problem was, the 2023 Super Bowl hadn’t happened yet!

So AI search engines appear to have some serious bugs that need to be worked out. Some people blame the glitches on the fact that companies are rushing to be the first to release the latest tech.

Despite the problems, Google and Microsoft both want users to trust their tech to give them the Internet’s best answers.


Black History Month

A GIF that scrolls through the portraits of many well known and influential Black Americans

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-ppmsca-08978, LC-USW3-001546-D, LC-USZ62-127236, LC-USZ62-27663); Addison N. Scurlock—Michael Ochs Archives, Kean Collection—Archive Photos, © Michael Ochs Archives, Evan Agostini/Getty Images; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C. (object no. 2009.50.2); PRNewsFoto/XM Satellite Radio/AP Images; AP Images;  NASA; National Archives, Washington, D.C. (2803441); Pete Souza—Official White House Photo; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

February is Black History Month in the United States. Want to read more? Check out the January 31 edition of In the News!

Did You Know?

A pixelated brain on a computer screen slowly becoming more realistic.

© SciePro/, © Maglara/, © Gala_Studio—iStock/Getty Images; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

When will AI become smarter than humans? In a 2017 report, researchers predicted that artificial intelligence had a 50 percent chance of reaching “human level machine intelligence” within 45 years.

The Trouble With ChatGPT

Screenshot from GPTZero showing it detecting that a piece of text was written by AI.

Results and interface © GPTZero; Composite image Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

GPTZero is designed to be able to tell whether something was written by a human or AI.

Companies are designing chatbots, which use artificial intelligence (AI) in a way that makes them seem human. In November 2022, a company called OpenAI released ChatGPT, which can not only “chat” with people but also produce on-demand content that sounds almost like it was written by a human. 

Many schools have blocked ChatGPT to prevent students from using the technology to do their assignments. Currently the creators of ChatGPT are working on ways to make it easier for people to detect when the technology has been used to cheat. And in 2023, college student Edward Tian created a tool called GPTZero. GPTZero is designed to detect whether a piece of writing was created by AI or a human.

Even without tools, there are ways to recognize the work of ChatGPT. That’s because the AI technology isn’t perfect. ChatGPT uses an algorithm, or formula, to predict what each next word in a sentence should be. It doesn’t understand words, and it’s not able to “think,” so it doesn’t necessarily come up with meaningful results. Some of ChatGPT’s output is inaccurate, and some of it just doesn’t make sense. 

“It’s a mistake to be relying on [ChatGPT] for anything important,” OpenAI chief executive officer Sam Altman told the Associated Press.


The words I am so intelligent appear on the screen of a laptop that is wearing a graduation cap.

© Jemastock/; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Learn more about ChatGPT at Britannica School.

Find out at Britannica School!






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