OpenAI’s Sam Altman on challenging Google with AI search

OpenAI’s Sam Altman answered questions about challenging Google’s search monopoly and revealed that he would completely change the paradigm of how people get information rather than what Google does. Copy what has been doing for the past twenty years. His observations were made in the context of a podcast interview with Lex Friedman.

Altman suggests that the best way to challenge Google is to completely overhaul its entire business category, including advertising.

1. Is OpenAI Challenging Google Search?

The debate began with Friedman asking if it was true that OpenAI was going to challenge Google.

Lex Friedman asked:

“So is OpenAI really going to take what Google started 20 years ago, which is how we get—”

Sam Altman responded that the whole idea of ​​building a better search engine limits what the future of information retrieval can be, calling the current concept of search boring.

Altman replied:

“I find it boring. I mean, if the question is can we make a better search engine than Google or whatever, then sure, we should go, people should use a better product, but I That seems to narrow down what it might be. Google shows you 10 blue links, well, 13 ads and then 10 blue links, and that’s a way to find information.

But what’s exciting to me is not that we can build a better copy of Google Search, but that maybe another way to help people find and process and synthesize information. There is a better way. Actually, I think ChatGPT is for some use cases, and hopefully we’ll make it that way for a lot of use cases.

2. The world doesn’t need another Google.

Altman expanded on his thoughts by saying that the idea of ​​creating another Google to challenge Google is not interesting. The more interesting path, he said, is to completely change not only the way people get information, but the way people are using the information.

Altman continued:

“But I don’t think it’s as interesting to say, ‘How do we do a better job of giving you 10 ranked web pages than what Google does?’

It might be really interesting to say, “How do we help you get the answer or the information you need? How do we help create it in some cases, synthesize it in others, or Point you to it in others?’

But a lot of people have tried to build a better search engine than Google and it’s a hard technical problem, it’s a hard branding problem, it’s a hard ecosystem problem. I don’t think the world needs another copy of Google.

3. AI search is not cracked.

The part where the conversation seems to go off the rails is when Friedman pushes the debate to integrate a chatbot with a search engine, which itself is already dead and boring. Bing built chat on top of the search experience a year ago and there are now at least six AI search engines that integrate a chatbot on top of a traditional search engine.

Friedman’s direction of the conversation threw cold water on what Altman was talking about.

Altman said that no one had “cracked the code yet,” implying that repeating what Bing did was not what Sam Altman had in mind. He called it “an example of a great thing”.

Friedman and Altman continued:

“And integrating a chat client, like ChatGPT, with a search engine—

Sam Altman
As you can imagine, we’re interested in how to do it well. This would be an example of something cool.

… the intersection of LLMs plus search, I don’t think anyone has cracked the code yet. I would love to do that. I think that would be cool.”

4. Advertisement-supported AI search is dystopian.

Altman used the word “dystopic” to characterize a world in which AI search was based on an advertising model. Dystopic means dystopian, which means an inhumane existence that lacks justice and mistrust.

He noted that ChatGPT as a subscription-based model can be considered more reliable than an advertising-based search engine. They came up with the idea of ​​an AI that recommends that a user try a certain product and questions whether the recommendation is influenced by advertising or what is best for the user.

This makes sense because there is a high level of trust involved with AI that doesn’t exist with traditional search. Many users don’t trust Google Search because, rightly or wrongly, it is considered to be infested with ads and spammy SEO.

Friedman turns the conversation to advertising:

“Lex Friedman
… What about the advertising aspect? Have you ever considered monetization-

Sam Altman
I hate advertising as an aesthetic choice. I think advertising needs to be on the internet for a number of reasons, but it’s a fleeting industry. The world is richer now.

I love that people pay for ChatGPT and know that the responses they are getting are not influenced by advertisers.

I’m sure there’s an ad unit that makes sense for LLMs, and I’m sure there’s a way to impartially participate in transactions that’s fine to do, but about his dystopic vision. It’s easy to think. In the future where you ask ChatGPT something and it says, “Oh, you should think about buying this product,” or, “You should think about taking your vacation here,” or whatever.

5. A search experience where the user is not the product.

Altman next commented that he didn’t like what kind of products consumers were when they used social media or search engines. This means that user interactions are sold to advertisers who then turn to target users based on their interests.

Altman continued:

“And I don’t know, we have a very simple business model and I love it, and I know I’m not the product. I know I’m getting paid and that’s how the business model works.

And I don’t like it when I use Twitter or Facebook or Google or some other great product but ad-supported great product, and I think it gets worse in a world with AI, Not better.

6. Altman is biased against advertising.

Sam Altman clearly stated that he was biased against search and expressed confidence that there is a path towards an AI-based information retrieval system that is profitable without serving ads. His statement that he was biased against advertising was made in the context of the interviewer bringing up the idea of ​​ditching advertising “entirely”, which Altman refused to confirm.

“Lex Friedman
…I can imagine that AI will be better at showing the best version of ads, not in a dystopic future, but where the ads are for things you actually need. But then does this system always result in ads playing the kind of things that are shown?

….I think it was a really bold move for Wikipedia not to advertise, but then it makes it very difficult as a business model. So you’re saying that the current thing with OpenAI is sustainable, from a business perspective?

Sam Altman
Well, we have to figure out how to grow, but it looks like we’re going to figure it out.

If the question is do I think we can have a very good business that meets our computing needs without advertising, …I think the answer is yes.

Lex Friedman
Well, that’s promising. I also don’t want to just throw out ads as a whole…

Sam Altman
I’m not saying that. I guess I’m saying I have a bias against them.

Is building OpenAI a challenge for Google?

Sam Altman did not directly say that OpenAI is posing a challenge to Google. This meant that a proper challenge to Google that uses AI does not yet exist, saying that no one has yet “cracked the code” on it.

What Altman offered was a general vision of AI search that didn’t commoditize and sell users to advertisers and thus was more reliable and useful. He said that a proper challenge for Google would be something that was completely different from what Google does.

Watch the podcast at the 01:17:27 minute mark:

Featured image by Shutterstock/photosince

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