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Google and OpenAI are battling for AI supremacy

Google and OpenAI are battling for AI supremacy

This week, the tech giants announced different visions for the future of generative AI.

Illustration by The Atlantic

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This week has felt like the early days of the generative-AI boom, filled with dazzling events concerning the future of the technology.

On Monday, OpenAI held a last-minute “Spring Update” event in which the company announced its newest AI model, GPT-4o, in an impressive live demo. Running on the iPhone’s ChatGPT app, the model appeared able to understand live camera footage, help solve a math problem, and translate a live conversation between English and Italian speakers. Every previous smartphone assistant, including Apple’s Siri, now appears obsolete—and the smartphone itself might be reimagined as the device most “perfectly positioned to run generative-AI programs,” as I wrote on Monday.

Not to be outdone, Google followed suit yesterday during its annual developer conference, which focused almost exclusively on generative AI. Alongside various technological advances, the company laid out its vision for search in the AI era: “Google will do the Googling for you,” Liz Reid, the company’s head of search, declared. In other words, chatbots will take the work out of finding information online. Lurking beneath the announcements was an acknowledgment that AI is better suited at synthesizing existing information and formatting it into an accessible format than providing clear, definitive answers. “​​That’s not omniscience; it’s the ability to tap into Google’s preexisting index of the web,” I noted yesterday.

OpenAI’s and Google’s announcements are a duel over not just which product is best, but which kind of generative AI will be most useful to people. The ChatGPT app promises to do everything, all in one place; AI-powered Google search promises to be more of an open-ended guide. Whether users will embrace either vision of a remade web remains to be seen.

— Matteo Wong, associate editor


What to Read Next

  • The live translation exhibited in OpenAI’s demo gestures toward a world in which people no longer feel compelled to learn foreign languages. Louise Matsakis explored this potential AI-induced death of bilingualism in March, writing, “We may find that we’ve allowed deep human connections to be replaced by communication that’s technically proficient but ultimately hollow.”
  • Another, perhaps even more alarming future for the world’s languages: Generative AI, which is most proficient in the handful of languages with plentiful training data, may push thousands of other tongues into extinction. “If generative AI indeed becomes the portal through which the internet is accessed,” I wrote in March, “then billions of people may in fact be worse off than they are today.”

P.S.

The buzz over AI image generators and deepfakes was preceded, decades ago, by similar excitement and hand-wringing over Adobe’s Photoshop, then “the primary battlefield for debates around fake imagery,” my colleague Caroline Mimbs Nyce wrote last week. In the age of AI, Photoshop is struggling to adjust to being just one player in a crowded field.

— Matteo


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