Google’s new AI-powered search tools are not coming for anyone’s job
On Wednesday, Google announced a handful of upgrades to its AI-powered search generation experience, an experiment called SGE. He is now able to answer questions about places you want to see as well as any products you are thinking of buying. I spent some time with the updated experience this week, and my overall takeaway is that I’m really looking forward to having the option to turn off SGE when it rolls out publicly.
Before I go on, I will note that anyone can participate in the SGE experiment, but you must join the waiting list for Google Search Labs at the start. Once you’re accepted as an early tester, you can toggle AI-powered search on or off at your leisure.
I was recently accepted into the Search Generative Experience (SGE) test, but didn’t take it for a spin until this week. Needless to say, I was not impressed.
“With this enhanced SGE experience, you’ll gain useful insights to guide you along the way, so you can spend less time planning and more time enjoying the plans you’ve made,” Vice President Google Product Management for Search, Rany Ng, claimed in a blog post.
Here’s my first search: “What’s the best time of year to go to Hawaii?”
Here’s SGE’s response: “No AI-powered overview available for this search.”
We weren’t exactly ahead of the curve. I deleted my search and tried again with a new question about the best things to do in Hawaii. SGE generated an answer this time, telling me to try snorkeling, whale watching, attending a luau, and visiting Waikiki Beach:
This prompted me to search for Waikiki Beach, but I had already forgotten that SGE was running, so as soon as I tried to start scrolling, a large block of text from the generated AI appeared on the page telling me about Waikiki Beach. Admittedly, some of the information was interesting and useful, including the fact that access to the beach is free and that “many of the best hotels in O’ahu overlook Waikiki Beach. ” My only problem is that my first instinct was to scroll down to another blog post or Wikipedia entry to check out the AI.
For me, this is not a natural way to use a search engine. I would have to retrain my brain to not start scouring the search results for the information I needed. But even if I were willing to do that, there’s no way the AI would consistently understand the exact context and perspective I was looking for, especially not in its current state.
Product searches were similarly confusing, as Google’s own sponsored results open the generated AI response at the top of the page and load immediately while the AI is at work. When I searched for “brown sectional sofa under $1,500,” I was already clicking on other results before the AI even had time to respond to me.
Once again, his answer was interesting, as there was a helpful description of each individual sofa, including details of the dimensions and design and any issues he might have encountered in the user reviews on the product page :
The more detailed your question, the more helpful the answer will be, but the products he selected for me were not really what I was looking for. The vast majority came from Wayfair and Amazon rather than actual furniture stores and trusted brands. I actually used the sponsored lists at the top of the page more than I did my custom AI response.
Of course, this technology is still in the experimental phase, and it will improve in time. But for now, it’s not going to replace old-school Googling for me, and I imagine that’s the case for most searchers for the foreseeable future.
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