AI search answers are the fast food of your information diet – convenient and tasty, but no substitute for good nutrition – ET HealthWorld


Washington: If you’ve used Google lately and been lucky (or unlucky) to find an answer to your query instead of a bunch of links, you’ve been subjected to something called AI Summaries. This is a major new feature that Google has been rolling out, a move widely expected since the company’s experiments with its LaMDA large language model in 2021, and since OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI chatbot rose to prominence in 2023.

This feature is another addition to the growing number of plugins and tools that are built into search engines like Google. Some of the notable examples include knowledge panels based on knowledge graphs, which are used to populate relevant information. objective information in an info box next to search results and featured snippets, which are ads extracted from a search result and provided before the link to that page.

But what is different about AI overviews is that they are not simply pulled from relevant sources, but are generated behind the scenes using Google’s generative AI technology. The company’s goal is to provide you with a personalized, on-demand response rather than a standard set of documents or even an answer box that matches your query.

This seems almost magical and potentially useful in many situations. After all, people use search engines primarily to find answers, not lists of documents. But there is more to the picture.

My colleague Emily Bender and I have written about what search engine users need, want, and have. We have shown that they not only want information but also the ability to discover, learn and question what they find.

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In other words, users have a wide range of situations and goals, and compressing them into a set of links or, worse, a single answer is problematic.

bad advice

These AI functions pull information from the Internet and other available sources and give a response based on how they are trained to associate words. A central argument against them is that they mostly eliminate user judgmentagency and opportunity to learn.

This may be fine for many searches. Want an overview of how inflation has affected grocery prices over the past five years or a summary of what the EU AI Law includes? AI overviews can be a good way to go through many documents and extract those specific answers.

But people’s search needs don’t end with factual information. They look for ideas, opinions and advice. Looking for tips on how to keep cheese from sliding off your pizza? Google will tell you that you should add a little glue to the sauce. Or are you wondering if running with scissors has any health benefits? Sure, Google will say, “it can also improve your pores and give you strength.”

While a reasonable user can understand that such outrageous answers are probably wrong, it is difficult to detect this in the case of objective questions.

For example, while researching the faith of US presidents, Google’s AI Overviews gave the incorrect answer that Barack Obama is a Muslim. This misinformation was widely circulated and debunked years ago, but Google regurgitated it without a good way for users to learn that it was misinformation.

What about a student who uses Google for his homework and asks which countries in Africa start with the letter K? While Kenya meets this criterion, Google’s AI Overviews incorrectly answered that there are no such countries.

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Google acknowledged problems with AI overviews and said it has fixed them. But the concern remains: can you really trust the answers you receive through this service?

How to avoid AI responses

There are alternatives. You can always go back to traditional Google search with its 10 blue links. Click “More” in the menu (All, News, Images, Maps, Videos and more) directly below the search field at the top of the Google search page and select “Web.”

Then you can do what you’ve probably done for decades: examine some of the top results, visit some of those sites, and decide for yourself. It takes a little work, but it gives you back the ability to examine multiple sites and evidence to support or refute something. More importantly, you leave open the possibilities for learning, discovery, and serendipity.

AI Overviews is like fast food delivered through a drive-through window: It’s fast, hot, and convenient, but it’s not the healthiest option. Reviewing traditional Google search results is like browsing a menu at a restaurant and placing an order that will take a while to arrive at your table. You can ask your server questions about those items and even request some changes to the restaurant’s offerings. It is prepared with more care, customization and control, but it also takes more time and can cost more.

However, these are not the only methods of finding information. There are alternatives to the Google search engine, including specialized search tools.

For academic needs, Google Scholar, Semantic Scholar, and CORE are useful places to search for research articles and citations. Looking for medical information? Try PubMed, ScienceDirect, and OpenMD. For legal needs, some services include Fastcase, Caselaw Access Project, and CourtListener.

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Concerned about privacy? Check out DuckDuckGo, Startpage and Swisscows. If you still want AI-generated answers, some alternatives to Google’s AI Overviews and rival Bing’s Copilot are You.com and Komo, which provide more transparency about the data they collect about you, provide greater privacy, and also offer ways to exclude yourself. have your data collected to train your AI models.

A balanced informative diet

You may not have the luxury of eating out at a nice restaurant or preparing every meal from scratch every time, but it’s important to avoid ending up going through a drive-thru for all of your food. After all, you are what you eat and, in the same way, you are what you seek.

It’s easy to fall in love sensational headlines and short news stories that lack context. But you don’t have to let that define you. You can expand the scope of your search. It’s okay to go to the drive-thru every once in a while and look for AI overviews, but it’s also important to find other, healthier ways to satisfy your needs: food and information.

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  • Updated On Jun 10, 2024 at 01:33 PM IST
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  • Posted on Jun 10, 2024 at 01:28 pm IST
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  • 5 min read
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