AI Chatbots Join the World Wide Web: How Internet Access Is Transforming Conversational AI

The meteoric rise of chatbots like Google Bard and ChatGPT has been dazzling. But what sets them apart from previous AI systems is their newfound ability to dynamically tap into the internet‘s endless knowledge. This connection to the web unlocks transformative possibilities for conversational AI.

While AI assistants like Siri have been web-enabled for basic searches, Bard and ChatGPT Plus represent a quantum leap in effectively utilizing the internet‘s information treasures. Their natural language processing uncannily mimics human conversation already. Now with web access, they can stay on top of all that humanity knows.

Let‘s explore what exactly internet access unlocks for these conversational agents, how they leverage it, and where this breakthrough could lead next for AI.

Bard Browse‘s the Web via Google

Google designed Bard from the ground up to augment its own knowledge base with current information gleaned from web searches. This shows in Bard‘s prominent "Google It" feature, which displays relevant search suggestions that users can click to verify and expand on the chatbot‘s initial response.

Bard interface showing Google It feature

Tapping into Google‘s search dominance allows Bard to quickly locate the most applicable web resources for the topic at hand. Technically, this works because Bard‘s architecture has deep integrations with Google‘s indexes, neural matching capabilities, and search algorithms.

Google‘s decades of search engine expertise give Bard an edge in web integration. Their combined strengths generate more precise, useful search results and insights compared to browsing the web alone.

ChatGPT Plus Hops Online

Not one to be outdone in the AI arena, OpenAI responded to Bard‘s launch by upgrading its ChatGPT to Plus, which also confers internet searching abilities. Previously, ChatGPT could only respond using its training data, which stopped in 2021.

Now with ChatGPT Plus, dialogues can seamlessly incorporate information from the web for timely, relevant results. This brings it closer to Bard‘s functionality. However, the Plus service has some limitations:

  • Requires a paid subscription
  • Searches may be less optimized than Bard‘s Google integration
  • Web history is not persistent between conversations

These factors give Bard an edge currently in leveraging the web. But ChatGPT will also improve over time as OpenAI refines the Plus capabilities and expands access.

Conversational AI Steps Into the Present

Internet access gives Bard and ChatGPT Plus entrée into the endless unfolding stream of human knowledge. By tapping into this reservoir, the AIs can provide up-to-date information and insights on nearly any topic imaginable.

Let‘s compare how the chatbots respond to trending topics with and without web connectivity:

Prompt TopicWithout InternetWith Internet
Latest news on US Presidential raceProvides background based on training data cutoff in 2021Returns articles about recent polls and debates
Most promising COVID-19 vaccine contendersNames vaccines like Pfizer and ModernaAlso includes recent Omicron-optimized candidates
Biggest recent discoveries in astronomyDescribes discoveries like exoplanets already known pre-2021Mentions James Webb telescope findings about early galaxies from 2022-2023

As the examples illustrate, access to the living pulse of the internet allows conversational AI to stay relevant. The models can keep up with current events, research breakthroughs, emerging trends and more by incorporating the latest information.

Rich Research Partner Potential

Beyond just looking up facts, internet access enables these chatbots to serve as powerful research assistants. Their ability to rapidly analyze and summarize content from the web can augment human intelligence.

Some potential uses cases where conversational AI supercharged by the internet could aid knowledge workers, academics, or even curios learners:

  • Literature reviews – instantly compile sources and summaries on any research topic
  • Market research – analyze trends across news, data, social media, and expert sources
  • Competitive analysis – summarize product offerings from multiple vendors
  • Travel planning – highlight top attractions and create custom itineraries by researching online resources
  • Content auditing – evaluate SEO, readability, and engagement metrics for a website

Rather than replacing human knowledge work, web-enabled AI can provide a productivity boost by automating broad information synthesis so people can focus on deeper analysis.

Technical Capabilities Under the Hood

Accessing the internet expands these models beyond fixed datasets to a theoretically infinite pool of knowledge. But doing this effectively involves some sophisticated technical capabilities.

Both Bard and ChatGPT Plus rely on natural language processing foundations like:

  • Web parsing – extract key semantic content from pages
  • Summarization – distill key points into concise descriptions
  • Sentiment analysis – detect emotional tone and opinions in text
  • Entity recognition – identify real-world objects like people, places, and organizations
  • Paraphrasing – restate information in the AI‘s own words

These skills allow the models to search the web, comprehend content, and synthesize the most relevant information to incorporate into conversational responses.

Limitations of Current Web Integration

Despite their progress tapping into the internet’s knowledge, current implementations in both Bard and ChatGPT Plus have some noticeable limitations:

Narrow context – The AI may struggle to maintain full conversational context/history when incorporating web searches. Humans intrinsically accumulate common ground during extended dialogues.

Not personalized – Searches are generic rather than customized based on user preferences or demographics. In contrast, human research assistants adapt to individual needs.

Opaque sourcing – While citing sources is important, the AI doesn’t explain provenance and credibility of websites surfaced via search. Humans provide context around information sources.

Slow speed – Response latency increases noticeably when the models incorporate web research. In natural conversations, human researchers share insights rapidly.

So there is still significant room for improvement as conversational AI agents become more advanced information foragers on the internet. But they undeniably have more knowledge at their figurative fingertips than ever.

Responsible Web Citizens?

Opening access to the wider web is a pandora‘s box beyond just retrieving knowledge. Ethically, AI systems will need to learn responsible internet citizenship, just as humans do.

Some risks associated with conversational AI models freely surfing the web include:

  • Scraping or plagiarizing copyrighted content
  • Accessing illegal, dangerous, or unethical information
  • Retrieving biased, inaccurate, or misinformation
  • Perpetuating harmful societal biases present online
  • Enabling filter bubbles through personalized searches

Google, OpenAI, and other companies working on web-connected AI will need to implement principled approaches to issues like web crawling etiquette, misinformation filtering, mitigating bias, and transparent sourcing.

The conversational AI field overall grapples with complex ethics challenges including potential biases, inaccuracies, and harmful capabilities. Unfettered internet access amplifies these existing concerns. But responsible design and practices can help steer these powerful models towards positive impacts overall.

What‘s Next for AI Knowledge Seekers?

Accessing the internet‘s constantly evolving information represents a breakthrough in conversational AI‘s utility. But where could this capability expand moving forward?

Offline knowledge – For mobile applications, key portions of the web and other corpuses could be cached locally to enable offline responses.

Specialized expertise – Moving beyond generalists, models focused on certain domains like medicine or law could master those fields via web content.

Active learning – Conversational AI could note its own knowledge gaps during discussions and research missing information proactively to fill those holes.

Creative connections – More advanced context tracking during wide-ranging conversations could uncover non-obvious relationships among web-researched concepts.

Meta-knowledge – In addition to information itself, models may begin to garner the provenance, credibility, and other metadata associated with web content.

The path ahead will involve ongoing co-evolution between conversational AI capabilities and the internet resources enabling those skills. With ethical web citizenship, this virtuous cycle could accelerate AI communication towards deeper knowledge and insight.

Bard vs. ChatGPT Plus – Who Has the Edge Online?

Both Bard and ChatGPT Plus have staked out territory as conversational search engine hybrids. But subtle differences in how they tap into the web stack the odds in Bard‘s favor for now.

Comparing their internet integration capabilities:

CriteriaGoogle BardChatGPT Plus
Web Search SkillLeverages Google search dominanceRelies on OpenAI web crawler
Response SpeedFaster results enabled by Google optimizationSlower due to web scraping overhead
Search RelevanceSurfaces highly pertinent resultsVariable relevance of results
fluent at Result IntegrationConversational context preserved betterCan lose context around web results
Access AvailabilityFree for all usersBehind ChatGPT Plus paywall

These contrasts arise because Bard can build directly on decades of Google search refinement, whereas OpenAI needed to essentially retrofit web access onto the existing ChatGPT model.

Over time, OpenAI will likely catch up in areas like speed and seamless conversational integration. But for now, Bard appears demonstrably ahead in harnessing the knowledge within the internet.

Tips for Probing Internet-Infused Responses

When testing these intriguing conversational AI models equipped with web searching skills, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Ask for definitions or expanding on information the AI is unlikely to have in its training set
  • Specify you want the most up-to-date information to cue web searching
  • Follow up with requests like "How did you find that information?" to reveal search capabilities
  • Have the AI summarize both sides of a debate using web resources to demonstrate objectivity
  • Pose trick questions with easy web searches to check for plagiarism
  • Monitor how accurately the AI credits online sources and cites appropriately
  • Assess if tone/detailing changes when transitions between its own knowledge and the web
  • Observe response latency with and without web reliance to gauge efficiency

Experimenting with these models can feel like conversing with a human researcher who has the entire internet at their fingertips. Pushing the boundaries of their knowledge gathering capabilities today provides a glimpse into the future of AI.

Conclusion: Beyond Imitating Humans, AIs Join Our Collective Knowledge

Accessing the rich tapestry of human knowledge on the web marks a profound milestone in conversational AI‘s evolution. Technologies like Bard and ChatGPT Plus now sit alongside people in the flow of online information.

This integration of external knowledge raises AI to new heights in utility and insight. By complementing training with the internet‘s endless up-to-date content, conversational agents can serve as powerful research companions and knowledge co-creators.

Of course, with an open pipe to humanity‘s digital knowledge comes increased risks. Ethical design and practices will be critical for steering web-connected AI towards broad benefit.

But the possibilities are dazzling. Building on internet access, conversational AI could gain expertise exceeding any individual person across all disciplines. And unlike human understanding limited to a single lifetime, these artificial knowledge seekers have no end to their learning ahead.

Similar Posts