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Google Unveils AI Overviews in Search Results: A New Era of Web Browsing Begins

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Google Introduces AI Summaries for Search Results, Ready or Not

Imagine you're curious about Google's latest feature, the AI Summary, that's been the talk of the town. Should your search match the criteria for an AI Summary, you might find a machine-crafted synopsis of this article right at the forefront of your search outcomes. Google's Search now includes these AI Summaries, offering machine-generated responses drawn from the internet to satisfy user inquiries directly within search results. This means you can get the information you're after without the need to click through to a website or even know which sources the AI referenced to compile its summary.

Google recently introduced an early iteration of AI Overviews as part of its Search Generative Experience, initially accessible only to those who chose to participate. Yet, during its I/O developer conference this week, Google revealed that the rebranded AI Overviews feature is set for an expanded rollout. Now, all U.S. users who utilize Google for web searches or inquiries will encounter AI Overviews at the beginning of their search results, provided their query can be summarized.

What if your preference leans towards simply viewing web links? Regrettably, AI Summaries have become a permanent fixture on the default search results screen, leaving users without the option to hide or deactivate them. Although it's impossible to completely turn off AI Summaries for your Google account, you can opt to navigate to a search results page that exclusively displays web links. This requires selecting a distinct filtered mode for each search you perform. Once you arrive at the search results page, which initially presents the AI Summary, you need to locate and click on the More tab—this option should now be visible alongside other filtering choices like Images, Videos, Shopping—and then select Web. This action will direct you to a page that solely lists links to various websites.

At the end of responses pertaining to health inquiries, AI Overview includes a cautionary note stating: "This content is provided solely for educational reasons. For medical guidance or diagnosis, please seek out a qualified professional."

Name: Louryn Strampe

Gilbertson, Scott

Brenda Stolyar

Reece Rogers

When might your search prompt a summary created by artificial intelligence? According to Mallory De Leon, who speaks for Google, "AI Overviews are activated for intricate searches." She explains that AI Overviews will be included in your Google Search outcomes when the system assesses that generative AI could provide significant assistance. This is particularly the case when there's a need to swiftly grasp details from various documents. In the early stages of experimenting, the AI Overviews seemed to emerge unpredictably in response to inquiries, providing brief overviews for both straightforward and complex questions alike.

De Leon states that the AI Overview operates using a tailored Google’s Gemini model, enhanced with elements from the company's Search system, including the Knowledge Graph which contains over a billion general facts.

In certain AI Overview responses, the links to webpages are directly accessible. However, for different AI Overviews, one must select the "Show more" option to reveal the sources of the information.

A primary concern I have regarding the introduction of this feature is the ongoing risk of AI generating false information, also referred to as hallucinations. When engaging with Google's Gemini chatbot, there's a warning note that states: "Gemini might show incorrect information, even about individuals, so verify its answers." However, this cautionary note is absent from the AI Overview section, which typically just states, "Generative AI is in the experimental stage."

In response to inquiries about the absence of warnings regarding possible hallucinations in AI Overviews, De Leon highlighted Google's commitment to maintaining superior search quality. He noted that the company conducted adversarial red-teaming exercises to identify and address any vulnerabilities in the feature.

"The deployment of this generative AI technology is fundamentally integrated with the foundational quality and safety mechanisms of Search, incorporating essential safeguards to block the appearance of subpar or damaging content," she explains. "AI Summaries aim to emphasize data that is readily confirmable through the corroborative details we present."

Bearing this in mind, you may still feel inclined to follow the webpage links to verify the accuracy of the information yourself. However, it seems unlikely that numerous users, typically in search of immediate solutions, will dedicate additional time to review the source materials for Google's AI-produced response.

Liz Reid, who leads the Search department at Google, recently informed my coworker Lauren Goode that AI Overviews are set to expand to nations outside the United States by the close of 2024. This means that over a billion individuals might soon experience this innovative function. Given that my profession depends on readers clicking on links and dedicating time to read the content, it's natural that I'm concerned about this development—and I'm certainly not the only one feeling this way.

Apart from the apprehensions voiced by publishers, the broader effects that Google's AI Overviews may have on consumers are yet to be determined. Indeed, while OpenAI's ChatGPT and similar AI technologies have gained traction among Silicon Valley's tech communities, this new function is poised to introduce AI-generated content to billions of individuals who have never interacted with a chatbot previously. Although the intention behind AI Overviews is to streamline information gathering, there's a risk that it could result in less reliable outcomes.

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