Tom Riddell: Google's AI Overviews and other whoppers

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Published: 05-29-2024 4:26 PM

Modified: 05-29-2024 6:21 PM


It’s Memorial Day, and I’m catching up with the news. Reading Saturday’s Gazette, an AP headline attracts my attention. I’m intrigued and bemused: “Cats on moon? Google’s AI tool is producing whoppers.”

Google’s recently retooled search engine has a new feature — AI Overviews. Ask a question or submit a search phrase, and you might get an AI-generated summary at the top of the results. The article highlighted two examples: It might surprise you to discover there are cats on the moon and that Barack Obama is the only Muslim president of the United States.

My immediate thought is, well, the basis for these bizarre conclusions is that AI Overviews considers all the written data that’s out there(!). In these instances, “it” has no filter for what’s fact and what’s fiction; it just looks at it all and develops its synopsis of the data. It does not distinguish between fiction and nonfiction!

I suppose that some of us on occasion have trouble with the difference in developing our own understandings of the vast amount of things there are to know about. But most of us try to determine what’s an accurate, factual, maybe even scientific explanation for how things work, happened, or are understood by experts.

And we understand that fiction can be enlightening, but that it’s made up. Or I like to think that most people do.

But then my thoughts turn in another direction. Developing an articulated view of the world based on considering fact and fiction, plus giving extra weight to made-up versions of phenomena sounds exactly like Donald J. Trump’s approach to his world, and its attraction to apparently large numbers of people and even a political party. The election was stolen. Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Artificial intelligence indeed; AI Trump.

Tom Riddell

Northampton