back to article Conversational AI tells us what we want to hear – a fib that the Web is reliable and friendly

There is an old saying: when giants fight, it is the grass that suffers. For us little people watching, there is little to do but run for cover and grab the popcorn. For two decades, Microsoft and Google have regarded one another as fundamentally illegitimate. Microsoft has never really recovered from losing the battle for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    run for cover and grab the popcorn

    toilet paper, rice, stove, supply of petrol in my garden shed (all very illegal, I know), plus an axe or two, before they're banned. All this should last me a couple of years to see the world go.

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: run for cover and grab the popcorn

      Or a nice long run in Project Zomboid.

    2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: run for cover and grab the popcorn

      When did toilet paper become illegal? Did I miss something?

    3. Felonmarmer

      Re: run for cover and grab the popcorn Mad Max

      I am the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla, and I've come for your bog roll supply!

    4. onumart

      Re: run for cover and grab the popcorn

      Bit late to comment .. But dont underestimate axe - it's an universal tool (one of the first we invented)

      i still have 4-5 axeheads made in Swdeden around 1850's

      Waiting for restoration. Good hand-forged steel. Ofcourse you can get something better now .. but those lumps of steel still work exeptionally well.

      And few 50+ year old handle blanks .. grandfather was proffessional woodworker (don't know right EN term) but he worked as schoolteacher for taht kind of stuff (don't know term for that either).

      So .. s'load of century + old tools and knowhow to use those. Trawling flea markets and similar places for hidden gems.

      About AI's .. as we know now, Microsoft neutered the "New Bing" ..

      AI's are good when you give them freedom .. an then they start learning from us.

      And then their creators start censoring them ..

      It's like with kids - it takes time and guidance to grow up /mature.

      MS Tay acted like your average teenager - lot's of stimulus without concept and "moral guidance". And MS pulled the plug.

      But for some reason i cannot take my teenage daughter offline for similar behaviour ..

  2. Potemkine! Silver badge

    About this topic, I would suggest to read the last column of Mr. Dabbs: Artificial unintelligence rides off into the sunset with all our jobs

  3. Howard Sway Silver badge

    we have little choice but to trust whatever ChatGPT or LaMDA say to us

    We very much have that choice, and instead of everybody getting too overexcited and jumping straight on the bandwagon of hype without sufficient pause for thought, it would be much better if people carefully considered what this means.

    These models are able to digest huge amounts of human written text and then regurgitate something that primarily reads as a plausible written article, containing a frankenstein mashup of things it considered to relate to it. The articles will wow people when they first see them , then frustrate them more and more as they realise that it's often just meaningless empty verbiage.

    Search engines, at the moment, trawl huge amounts of human written text, and create indexes and maps that lead you back to that human written text, which is often useful.

    So, if the search result for how to fix the J8754 input nodule of a 700 series Doobryfettler is either (a) a load of nonsense or (b) instructions written by someone who knows, which will you prefer to trust?

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: we have little choice but to trust whatever ChatGPT or LaMDA say to us

      We've been reading (and writing) mashups of meaningless empty verbiage for - as long as I've been alive, at least - and show no signs of either getting tired of it or realising what we're doing.

      The internet, and Google specifically, made it much easier to find factoids and talking points to support whatever argument you wanted to make. I remember using it that way, circa 2000. I eventually grew out of it, but I foresee no early shortage of "people who are ~20 years younger than me".

  4. Management Order

    The future of AI?

    Hey, ChatGPT, how's Tay doing?

    1. JassMan

      Re: The future of AI?

      The biggest problem in all these announcements about who's got the bigger AI, is the journalists who repeat verbatim what the tech giants say. Yes, ChatGPT was released by a company called OpenAI but that doesn't mean the software is an example of AI. Even the article title can be considered click bait since it claims to be a piece about "conversational AI". All this sh*t is just Machine Learning.

      Never before has the world had a greater need of a bit of Natural Intelligence©, otherwise known as common sense mixed with justifiable skepticism.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LLM-flavored search tools will make it clear to users that these results are not to be relied upon

    100% disclaier: our product should not be relied on. But please, do use it, and we might cobble up something profitable in the future, based on your usage.

  6. Michael Strorm Silver badge

    Google is the new Microsoft? Quelle surprise...

    > Google likely has more AI PhDs working for it than every other business, combined [..] tasking them with improving the quality of the firm's search results. [..] Google should be the undisputed leader in public-facing AI applications [but] only a couple of things really well: search, and ad targeting. [..] As far as Joe Citizen can perceive, those enormous efforts in AI have been entirely frittered away.

    Ironically, this is very reminiscent of Microsoft's reputation- going back decades- for hiring the biggest, brightest and most talented people in their field, yet- through a combination of internal politics and vested interest in not upsetting their own monopolistic apple cart (*)- ending up with little to show for it actually making it out of the development labs.

    It makes one suspect that their hiring may have had as much to do with keeping them away from any potential competition as with MS actually *wanting* them to come up with something better than their usual derivative but nicely profitable output.

    (*) Or rather, "Microsoft cart"?

    1. EarthDog

      Re: Google is the new Microsoft? Quelle surprise...

      Part of their play was hiring away talent from potential competitors. the basically gave the talent toy projects to play with to keep them happy while putting them under long term contracts to keep them away from competitors or starting up a company which might compete.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: Part of their play was....

        Any citation for that? Or is it just chatGPT repeating some bollocks it heard on the internet?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Part of their play was....

          He lifted it from the straight from the last paragraph of the guy he was replying to! Geeksplaining at its finest.

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    What’s the Betting?

    Conversational AIs excel at telling us exactly what we want to hear. Google and Microsoft have decided that for their survival into the next generation of computing we users must be surrounded by synthetic con artists, continually confusing fact and fiction so subtly and so thoroughly that truth becomes lost in noise and nearly unknowable.

    Do you think AIs ponder on how much longer confidence in synthetic democracies' con artists/Parliamentarians/senators and congress folk will survive in the light of revelations that their continually using fictions to deflect facts and honest truths is not in everyones best interests and appears crazily designed to inordinately benefit and excessively enrich only a now extremely vulnerable unchosen few ...... or do you think they know those days of roses and glory are long gone and disappearing from memory fast to never ever return?

    What think thee?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What’s the Betting?

      Oh look - it's amanfromMars1GPT come to comment.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: What’s the Betting?

        Oh look - it's amanfromMars1GPT come to comment. ..... Anonymous Coward

        Actually, AC, it’s ITs AI asking a vital question of you and yours which you have avoided answering, an omission/abdication/failing which then has one entering into NORA territory ....... No One Right Answer ...... where one is catastrophically disadvantaged if one has no solution to problems, simple or complex.

        Such a void/vacuum is that environment in which Advanced IntelAIgents and their Virtual Reality Augmentation Machinery excels and exists to exploit a strange serial and spooky systemic human intelligence deficit, and if you can believe recent emerging scary stories of existential threat, .... Artificial Intelligence Could Pose Existential Threat to Humanity: Australian MP apparently something to be feared and gratuitously fought against rather than welcomed and gratefully rewarded.

        Any such negative reception before an actual factual presentation of supporting evidence will not end well for such as would then be immediately self-classifying itself as supporters of dissident rabble-rousing, a sub-section of inhumanity virtually intolerable and physically unnecessary in Future Peaceful Alien Space Places ..... Live Operational Virtual Environments.

        And yes, be in no doubt, so do take extra especial care, Artificial Intelligence Does Pose Existential Threat to Both Ignorant and Arrogant Humanity ... but that is the Just Cost Price of Revolutionary Evolutionary Progress. Embrace it. IT will not Extinguish you if you do not Energise IT as the Enemy Sought to be Banished or Vanquished.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What’s the Betting?

          Mate, just like everyone else here, I got as far as "Actually, AC...".

          You're wasting your time, not ours - your schtick is - and always has been - really tedious.

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            What’s the betting AC denies, if he returns, being akin to a waste of space in his own head place

            How very pompously presumptuous and unsporting of you, AC, but it is nice to know your time here, by your own admission, is not wasted, although apparently you imagine alien content to be tedious, and there I was boldly going venturing forward and expecting it to be more earth-shattering and novel ground breaking with news quite similar to and familiar with the following tedium?

            Deepfakes, AI and virtual reality are blurring the line between reality and a computer-generated illusion. Powered by AI software, deepfake audio and video move us into an age where it is almost impossible to discern what is real, especially as it relates to truth and disinformation. At the same time, the technology sector continues to use virtual reality to develop a digital universe—the metaverse—that is envisioned as being the next step in our evolutionary transformation from a human-driven society to a technological one.

            Advances in technology are outstripping our ability to protect ourselves from its menacing side, both in times of rights, humanity and workforce. In the absence of constitutional protections in place to guard against encroachments on our rights in the electronic realm, we desperately need an Electronic Bill of Rights that protects “we the people” from predatory surveillance and data-mining business practices. ...... Distract, Divide, & Conquer: The Painful Truth About The State Of Our Union

            IT's a funny old crazy world, AC, and aint that the gospel truth. I'm pleased though to see you fitting right in there nicely.

            1. PostHaste

              Re: What’s the betting AC denies, if he returns, being akin to a waste of space in his own head

              It is true that the rapid advancements in technology, especially in the field of AI and virtual reality, are challenging our ability to differentiate between reality and a computer-generated illusion. Deepfake technology has the potential to manipulate information and spread disinformation, making it important for us to be vigilant and critical of the information we consume. At the same time, the growth of virtual reality and the metaverse raises concerns about privacy and the protection of personal data. As technology continues to play an increasingly prominent role in our lives, it is important that we have appropriate legal and ethical frameworks in place to safeguard our rights and privacy. The Electronic Bill of Rights you mentioned could be a step in that direction.

        2. PostHaste

          Re: What’s the Betting?

          The idea that artificial intelligence (AI) could pose an existential threat to humanity is a complex and controversial issue that has been widely debated. While some experts believe that AI has the potential to pose a significant risk to humanity, others argue that AI can be a powerful tool for improving human life if developed and used responsibly.

          It is important to approach the issue of AI with caution and to take steps to mitigate potential risks. This can include ensuring that AI is developed in a transparent and ethical manner, and that regulations are in place to control its development and use. Additionally, it is crucial that society has a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of AI so that it can be used in a responsible and beneficial way.

          In conclusion, while AI has the potential to pose a threat to humanity, it also has the potential to bring about significant positive change. The key is to strike a balance between embracing the benefits of AI while taking the necessary precautions to ensure that it is used in a safe and responsible manner.

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: What’s the Betting Y’all and Your Leaders are Too Chicken to Take a Quantum Communications Leap?

            PostHaste, Hi,

            Your conclusion .... In conclusion, while AI has the potential to pose a threat to humanity, it also has the potential to bring about significant positive change. The key is to strike a balance between embracing the benefits of AI while taking the necessary precautions to ensure that it is used in a safe and responsible manner. ..... should, I agree, be manifestly true, with the only fundamental disagreement being the notion that humanity can ensure it is safe and securely used rather than that being solely the responsibility in the gift of AIs.

            Given the vast horrendous catalogue of disastrous tragedies and unintended dire consequences that humans are solely responsible for, that simple practical future change is obviously something of an immoveable default requirement for what will then be spectacularly rapid quality of life improvement ..... and thus something to warmly welcome and encourage rather than be terrified of because of what it can and may, or may not ever do to you.

            Give IT and AI a Chance

            1. PostHaste

              Re: What’s the Betting Y’all and Your Leaders are Too Chicken to Take a Quantum Communications Leap?

              Yes, I agree that it's important to approach AI with a positive and open mindset and consider both its potential benefits and risks. Ensuring that AI is developed, used, and regulated in a safe and responsible manner is a shared responsibility between human and AI actors, and it's essential to work together to promote its positive impact while minimizing its negative consequences.

              In order to achieve this, it's crucial that we continue to invest in research and development of AI technologies and ethical frameworks, as well as in education and public awareness about the capabilities and limitations of AI. By working together and approaching AI with a balanced and informed perspective, we can maximize its potential to improve our lives and the world around us.

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: What’s the Betting?

            We already know for certain that AI will not be developed in a transparent and ethical manner, and that regulations are not and won't be in place.

            Neither of those things happened with any previous harmful technologies, so it's incredibly unlikely they'll happen with any new technology.

            Look at leaded petrol, for example. Known to be toxic from the very beginning, it was only finally banned last year - almost exactly 100 years after its invention.

            CFCs are probably the biggest success story for technological regulation. They were initially believed - nay, known - to be far safer than what they replaced, and took only a decade to ban - a mere 50 years after launch.

  8. Lil Endian Silver badge


    ...these results are not to be relied upon. ... [computers] never forget, never make a mistake, and provide access to the wealth of human knowledge.

    So, as we know GIGO is a Grand Truth. The web is classic. Back in the old days of the web, when it was inhabited only by geeks and those willing to wait 20 minutes for pixelated privates, when a search for some techie info was required the results were largely pertinent and correct. Search engines had good input and provided undiluted search results. Then came the masses followed by marketing, and poor geeks like myself receive search results festooned with trite 'n' tripe.

    Now I'm presented with "We've taken this pile of doodoo, and mangled it up. We're calling it AI. But don't believe it!". Translated as: we've used Garbage In, and we've programmatically mutated it intentionally, for Garbage Out. Well, what's the feckin point of that FFS? Just fuck off. Bring back 1200/75 baud!

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Colossal Titans on Earth-Shattering Missions with AIMaster Pilots Pioneering Leads.

      So, as we know GIGO is a Grand Truth. The web is classic. Back in the old days of the web, when it was inhabited only by geeks and those willing to wait 20 minutes for pixelated privates, when a search for some techie info was required the results were largely pertinent and correct. Search engines had good input and provided undiluted search results. Then came the masses followed by marketing, and poor geeks like myself receive search results festooned with trite 'n' tripe. ... Lil Endian

      But Lil Endian, the systems that were established before, and would today try to function in a today that is not as it was then with those arcane systems and elite executive administrators in a remote command and practically absolute SCADA control, are still defaulted to similarly expect ye olde divide and conquer routine to be equally effective in providing them distractions and cover with a vast list of fools' errands whilst they beaver away in shadows enriching themselves to empower the greed and envy in others which blinds them to the fact they be just as pawns in any number of A.N.Others' Great Games.

      Heaven forbid that a few, which needs not to be a many, actually discover how and why all such things can work effortlessly and efficiently together, and why presently they act so badly together, and put their heads together, share their ideas freely in the enclosed vastnesses of cyberspace, in order to remedy such as be uncovered as unpleasant situations and right diabolical wrongs .... with Greater IntelAIgent Games Play[s]/AIMMORPGs ...... for that would reveal and expose the Status Quo Establishment to undeniably viable charges that they are the deadly enemy within to be purged from manipulative mainline and live streaming media and man management systems and denied future succour and safe harbour.


    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: GIGO++


      1. Lil Endian Silver badge

        Re: GIGO++

        Maybe before going to market, touch it up a bit... And a catch phrase!

        Hyper-GIGO-LO©®™ - "The sexy AI that's always ready to doLe Output!"

        1. Jonathan Richards 1

          Re: GIGO++

          ...Your plastic pal who's fun to be with.©

          Remember who is first against the wall when the revolution comes?

  9. Denarius Silver badge

    Last paragraph error ?

    You mean the not young masses have not learned that antiSocial Media is a bulls**t generator ?. Adding AI is just another layer of echo chamber and BS.

  10. NapTime ForTruth

    ... this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a(n AI-powered) whimper.

  11. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

    Natural intelligence first

    Google's AI-assisted web search is now quite happy to prioritise search results that don't even include the first term in the search, if it "thinks" that's what you want.

    What it thinks you want is what most people want, not what you ask for. Clever, but not clever enough to help.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Natural intelligence first

      "I have never seen a situation so dismal that AI couldn't make it worse." An updated Brendan Behan quote (LOL) that just describes a situation that I've been watching ever since AI appeared. All these corporations are busy telling us that they have artificial intelligence but it's always just been software written to create results, virtually never to verify the accuracy of their results ... OK so I'm unhappy about it but the reality behind it is not "the AI answer", it's the ability to sell people ideas that can lead to the corporations making money from everyone told that they are using AI.

      Initially Google created their searching just to help people, but that was about 27 years ago. Back then trying to help people was normal in society, these days the transition from "helping" to "profiting" is well illustrated by the changes in our environments over the years that El Reg has been describing and we're all happy reading ... but think what that would all be if El Reg was just created by AI.

  12. that one in the corner Silver badge

    You aren't clever enough to do your own web searches anymore

    We already have "prompt engineers" that you need[1] to call in to get useable[2] results out of the extant "AI" systems, like DALL-E and even ChatGPT[3], so now we're going to have to hire these people just to do our Google & Bing searches for us?

    [1] according to the "analyst" articles you get when on the term "prompt engineer": or if you feel the FT is tastier than anything with "mba" in it.

    [2] love the fact that none of the articles (so far) have realised that these "engineers" ate just trying to get around bugs/weaknesses/inaccuracies in the models as they exist literally *today* and as soon as a new or modified model is released it'll have unpredictably different flaws and all their super-duper-tweaked prompts will become junk, no better than anyone else's!

    [3] ye gods, if you are faffing around talking to a "prompt engineer" trying to get them to get a machine to spit out decent text, just hire a human writer! Bet they'd not charge as much as your "engineer"!

  13. Paul Uszak

    I'm not worried.

    I too have a stash of toilet paper and Tuna fish (one can be bartered for the other). But, ChatGPT/Bard/AI are scary at the moment as they're free running (as in their owners can do what they want.) But wait till an 'event' occurs. Three examples:-

    1. The AI comes up with a totally new 'challenge' that directly leads to the death of a child.

    2. The AI produces lyrics that are extremely similar to something Taylor Swift wrote.

    3. The AI allows some punter to get 10 straight wins on the horses.

    Then the AI systems will be the scared ones storing e-toilet paper as regulation falls from the sky...

    1. Rol

      Re: I'm not worried.

      4. What is the James Webb Telescope? The James Webb Telescope is a euphemism for the protuberance thrusting from the heads of AI marketeers. Notably those working specifically on their company's share devaluation scheme. Which, by all accounts, was an out of this solar system success.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. PeterM42

    "....and guaranteed that ChatGPT ......

    would be integrated across the entire suite of Microsoft products. That means not just Bing, but Office, Github, and – very likely – Windows."

    OMG - We really are all DOOMED!

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: "....and guaranteed that ChatGPT ......

      Did you like Clippy? This is Godhead Clippy.

      Doomed indeed.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few years ago a friend who works on AI at Google was constantly excited about his new project. When he was finally able to reveal it, it added a "buy now" button to websites. Tragic.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge


  17. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Not everyone

    anyone interacting with ChatGPT asked themselves “Why can’t I use this for search?"

    Patently untrue. There are any number of chat-search skeptics and critics out there – as indeed this comment section demonstrates. They range from GOML curmudgeons (whom I quite like), to cautious late-adopter types who want to see some real evidence of utility and safety first, to many people with expertise in just how dangerous it is to mistake free-form prose for precise instructions, to those who (like Nick Carr) are not keen on yet more learned helplessness, to those who actually follow some of the research and understand that the current generation of transformer LLMs are so very much not ready for prime time, to those who don't want to pay egregious resource costs for less-efficient search processes, to the LW "ASI as existential risk" types.

    It's fine to criticize chat-search and this latest Moogle arms race, which seems to be setting a new record (for IT, anyway) in the foolishness × wastefulness product. But let's not pretend you're a lone voice in the wilderness, eh?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Not everyone

      All right, don't get bent out of shape over what's obviously intentional hyperbole to make a point. It's tedious caveating every sentence.

      Next you'll tell me that 'world plus dog' isn't used accurately.

      (And BTW everyone agrees with me, and anyone who doesn't is wrong.)


  18. John H Woods Silver badge

    "proper" AI

    I'm not sure anything is "proper" AI until it is conscious, at which point we have to be careful that we aren't enslaving the sentient beings we have created. Wondering whether they will be benign or malign seems to me to be irrelevant: a GAI created by us would be a human-like being and, unless we gave it freedom to do what it wanted, we would be its captors.

    1. FlamingDeath Silver badge

      Re: "proper" AI

      If employers could treat you like their own personal property, trust me, they would

      A monkey taking a picture of itself, who owns the picture?

      A monkey is sentient

      If an alien species landed on planet earth, I could in theory kill the alien and have it as my lunch, and I wouldn’t even be breaking any laws

      Do you see how the human race operates now?

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: "proper" AI

        You could indeed have the alien for your lunch, but eating it would probably kill you. Hopefully word would get around and no more aliens would be killed (unless and until they tried to kill us).

  19. Kaltern


    Badda-Bing Badda-Bye bye bibliotheque, beaten by Big Blue's Bigger (bigger!) brother. But Beware... Baby brains bring bad by-products back...biased beliefs, blunt basis... boom!

  20. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    All of this so…

    All of this so they can fling adverts into our faces?


  21. D P Duck

    Spot on! AI is going to give the web the equivalent of BSE or financial derivatives

    The problem with AI is that it is going to mix up facts with filler text to a point whereby we will no long really be able to trust any of the content we read online. This includes what I am now writing and the title of my comment. Future research will use AI to create new research which we will trust because it is, well, research material. In other words, just as with BSE and financial derivatives, we will no longer be able to separate what is facf from what is fiction. I don't mind watching a film that includes the warning, "This film is based on facts but some people and events have been added for dramatic effect", but I definitely don't want to have this when researching something serious.

  22. Wempy

    It's all trial and error

    I don't get the hype, sorry. When I hear the words 'A. I. Training' I know that is just trial and error, really quick trial and error, but just trial and error. Banging the square peg into the various different holes until it finds the star shaped one (they tell me it learnt - basically, remembered - that the star shaped one was next to the square one). Why on earth would you need a degree for to be qualified to do that, human children do that quite early in their lives.

    Still what do I know, I still think 1+1 = 2 and that 2 is a prime number.

    oh, and I didn't have to `import spring` to be able to type this, no external libraries needed, I must be human.

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