Google starts doing the Googling for you: Search will never be the same

Google starts doing the Googling for you: Search will never be the same
Google will start doing the Googling for you, using its Gemini AI
Google will start doing the Googling for you, using its Gemini AI
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Google will start doing the Googling for you, using its Gemini AI
Google will start doing the Googling for you, using its Gemini AI
Google Search is going full AI, complete with the ability to ask questions about the real world through video
Google Search is going full AI, complete with the ability to ask questions about the real world through video

The world's most popular search engine, serving 8.5 billion requests every day, is getting a complete overhaul, and the experience of looking for information online will never be the same.

If you've been online since the mid-90s, you'll remember the chaos of pre-Google search, which is probably best exemplified by Dogpile, a search engine that literally searched all the other search engines for you, to give you some hope of finding what you wanted.

Google is the colossal multinational octopus it is today because way back then, Page and Brin got search right. Google instantly became a verb, and has owned around 90% of humanity's access to the wider Web for the last two and a half decades. Google Search has evolved continually over this time, but as the AI dawn breaks in 2024, and Google watches OpenAI continually throwing grenades into entire industries, its flagship product is about to undergo the biggest shift in its history.

"Now, with generative AI, search will do more for you than you've ever imagined," said Head of Search Liz Reid at Google's I/O keynote yesterday. "Whatever's on your mind, whatever you need to get done, just ask, and Google will do the googling for you."

Generative AI Overviews become the backbone of Search

Essentially, this update, which is beginning to roll out in the USA and will soon expand globally, fundamentally shifts the way Google Search presents information. Search, Google has decided, will now run through its Gemini AI. Instead of searching for keywords, Google hopes people will start asking it questions. And instead of putting together a simple, clean list of links, the new Google AI search will attempt to draw together information from across the Web to answer that question with a little customized report called an AI Overview.

In many cases, it'll go find the information you're after and bring it back in a succinct summary – this is terrible news for websites built around fishing for search traffic, since the user won't need to click through nearly as often to find an answer.

Search in the Gemini era | Google I/O 2024

In other cases, Gemini will answer a complex question, but provide a nicely-formatted bunch of links for options or further information; it really depends what the user is looking for.

The changes don't stop there; Google is really shifting Search into prime position as your personal AI assistant or agent, which can not only answer questions, but can use multi-step reasoning to assist with planning. Eventually, it'll start executing things on your behalf too. Reid demonstrated its ability to create and tailor a family meal plan, for example, and output a shopping list of ingredients. "Looking ahead," she mused, "you could imagine asking Google to add everything to your preferred shopping cart. Then, we're really cooking!"

Searching with Video, Images and Voice

Gemini is a multimodal AI; it's been trained not only on text, but on images, videos and audio as well, and has a remarkable ability to understand what it sees and hears. So Google Search is getting eyes and ears. You'll be able to hold up your phone, give Google access to your camera and microphone, and ask it questions about the world around you.

Thus, it becomes a zero-effort problem-solver. "Hey, what's wrong with this thing," you'll ask, and Gemini won't need you to tell it what you're asking about; it'll figure out model numbers, brands and common issues, it'll research them on the Web so you don't have to, it'll attempt to diagnose issues through its vision, and will then put together a troubleshooting list for you.

And it's all heading toward the same place: Google, like OpenAI, wants to create the AI agents that'll eventually ride shotgun with you through your entire life, giving you access to a perfect videographic memory of everything you've ever done, and every conversation you've had, as well as all the vaunted superpowers of generative AI, constantly working to speed you toward your personal goals. A utopia of productivity, a nightmare for privacy – but we'll use it, because it'll be indispensable.

As with OpenAI's GPT-4o release yesterday – which was clearly deliberately timed to poop Google's party – the new Gemini AI is getting a much more human, much more responsive voice agent. It's currently known as Project Astra:

Project Astra: Our vision for the future of AI assistants

You could think of this, perhaps, as Google Search breaking through into the real world; the presenter literally asks Google where she'd left her glasses before switching from phone camera to smart glasses. But it's not Google Search. It's the Gemini AI, with real-time access to Google Search.

Google has shot itself repeatedly in the foot in the rollout of its AI offerings, and OpenAI has appeared to have the better of Google nearly every time the two have gone head to head. There's no doubt, GPT-4o's assistant is quicker, more expressive, flirtier, and gives me much more of a 'we're living in the future' feeling than today's Google demo.

But I'm wondering how much that's going to matter. Along with its Search updates, Google also released a flurry of other AI products at I/O, including Veo, a generative video system that looks like it's not far behind OpenAI's Sora:

Filmmaking with Donald Glover and his creative studio, Gilga | Veo

It may turn out that it doesn't matter who gets there first with these next-gen multimodal AIs, because it seems like any given AI company might be able to achieve what OpenAI does, given sufficient energy, compute, and data. What might matter more is market share. Google has a colossal user base ready to go, through its web search dominance and Android mobile operating system – which is used on a daily basis by about 3.5 billion people.

So it's understandable that Google might shake its own very foundations by substantially changing its flagship Search product; AIs, not hand-coded search algorithms, will be the gatekeepers of knowledge in the next phase of the Information Age.

Apparently, Bing's doing it too.

Check out the Google I/O keynote address in all its glory below.

Google Keynote (Google I/O ‘24)

Source: Google

This may be inevitable, but it is not good news.
Google is to all intents a monopoly in this sphere, and already has way too much influence on what a search can find or not. How can any user know whether their algorithms are biased in one way or another?
Just look at their subsidiary YouTube…I’ve been censored there many times in the comments section just for recommending a video that is already on there!
It’s a form of shadow banning, allowing them to claim no censorship, but quietly preventing it from reaching a wider audience.
Unlike previous business monopolies of the past which were physical and glaringly obvious, it is extraordinarily difficult to know or pinpoint what the giant software companies are up to.
Tommie Jones
So it would seem that virtually everyone will be receiving the same answeres or solutions. No more of this "figuring things out for yourself nonsense "
The issue with big techs AI agents is big tech doesn't play well with each other (eg. Apple and Android text messages) and the AI will always be biased to their company. To get the best AI results you need to have access to all the same options you do and only working on your behalf. To me that means running an open source model on a PC locally or in a cloud (you control).
No cars have ever had six exhaust tips. Just sayin'
Lets not forget that Sergey Brin and Larry Page's search algorithm was based on project "BackRub" [counting backlinks to establish interest/value in pages] at Stanford, which built upon ideas from Jon Kleinberg's HITS algorithm.

Their work was funded by the NSF and DARPA, in addition to Stanford, one of the Sun's founders, and some other angels.
I can't wait. Honestly, the human race has devolved over the last few decades and it seems the only thing that can save us is technology. We need free limitless clean electricity asap, we need the ability to hack the despots, we need science and information, not this self celebrating ignorance that seems to be the way the world is heading. Anything is better than the way it is now...
This is terrifying. AI that is well known to produce completely false answers taking over your searches and making it exponentially harder for you to find the real facts that might contradict it. While strangling the revenue stream for people who might put such facts on line.

Combine that with Google's ongoing push to make search results more "relevant" by skewing first-tier results to advertisers who want to sell things, and you'll have an AI that consistently lies to you to get its digital fingers deeper into your wallet.

I predict new search engines (most likely subscription) that advertise themselves as being able to de-AI the results from Google and others.
An interesting point in this is that with operating systems and social networks: It was important to be first because having a network (or ecosystem) was important. AI may be less like networks and more like compute because they are very easy to use (their interface is just English) but it also means they are very easy to move between. Similar to how people can swap out the CPU they use without any real change in workflow they could do the same with language models based on whichever is the best one that month or week for suiting their needs. The differentiator may well be not just raw ability but how well they can integrate services and applications that run on top of it.
We are heading to the "Star Trek" era. There will be less to differentiate many companies soon. Everyone having access to super powerful tools, makes everyone powerful. Of course reeled in by regulators. I'm with @guzmanchinky. I would add, we need to leave the world of competition which has spurred innovation but also destroyed it at the same time, and enter the world of value. Because only value matters. As jobs drop left and right, a universal basic income will be welcomed. Let's tax the A.I.'s and robots, and the companies will still win with tremendous efficiencies.
DuckDuckGo is a reasonable alternative, which won't carry the anti-privacy risks. Google doesn't provide that search engine for free. The price is your privacy. If you want to know how Google, Meta/Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft the other big digital companies use your search history, read the book The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism.
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