A May 12 article published on Futurism expounded on the tech giant's new AI-powered search interface called Search Generative Experience (SGE). The interface included a feature called AI Snapshot, which the piece described as "an enormous top-of-the-page summarization feature" made using the AI's large language model (LLM).
The piece cited David Pierce of the Verge, who explained how the AI Snapshot feature works. According to him, the snapshot feature appears above the standard search results. And then, the AI-generated summary consisting of a few paragraphs appears – alongside links to websites where the chatbot allegedly obtained the information.
"At first glance, the change might seem relatively benign. Often, all folks surfing the web want is a quick-hit summary or snippet of something anyway. But it's not unfair to say that Google … is somewhat synonymous with … the internet. The internet is a marketplace, and Google is its kingmaker," the Futurism piece noted.
"Google's new search interface – which is built on a model that's already been trained by way of boatloads upon boatloads of unpaid-for human output – will seemingly be swallowing even more human-made content and spitting it back out to information-seekers. [All] the while, [it will also be] taking valuable clicks away from the publishers that are actually doing the work of reporting, curating and holding powerful interests like Google to account."
The Futurism piece ultimately asked this question: "If Google's AI is going to mulch up original work and provide a distilled version of it to users at scale, without ever connecting them to the original work, how will publishers continue to monetize their work?"
Not surprisingly, users have sounded the alarm over the repercussions that could come the moment Google implements SGE.
"Google has unveiled its vision for how it will incorporate AI into search," tweeted James Vincent, also from the Verge. "The quick answer: It's going to gobble up the open web and then summarize, rewrite [or] regurgitate it – pick the adjective that reflects your level of disquiet – in a shiny Google [user interface]."
Publishers are extremely wary of these changes, as Futurism pointed out. (Related: Google's rush to win AI race has led to ETHICAL LAPSES.)
Alex Donaldson, owner of the gaming news outlet RPG Site, warned in a tweet: "If this actually works and is implemented in a firm way, this is literally the end of the business model for vast swathes of digital media."
Melbourne-based soccer journalist Stephen Ganavas, meanwhile, wrote: "The problem for Google is that its AI is powered by all the publishers that will stop making content if they make this change. They have already started going down this path with featured snippets, but this will be 100 [times] worse."
A spokesperson for the search engine giant said in an emailed statement that it is introducing SGE as "an experiment … to help us iterate and improve while incorporating feedback."
"As we experiment with new LLM-powered capabilities in [Google] Search, we'll continue to prioritize approaches that will allow us to send valuable traffic to a wide range of creators and support a healthy and open web," the spokesperson told Futurism. "We don't have plans to share on this, but we’ll continue to work with the broader ecosystem."
The technology news site concluded: "The Silicon Valley giant has long claimed that its goal is to maximize access to information. SGE, though, seemingly seeks to do something quite different. If the company doesn't figure out a way to compensate publishers for the labor it'll be gleaning from the journalists, the effects on the public's actual access to information could be catastrophic."
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