ChatGPT Battles Google Search In An AI Showdown And A Clear Winner Emerges

Two boxers with ChatGPT and Google logos for heads.
In a battle of artificially intelligent wits, researchers at an e-learning company pitted ChatGPT against Google Search to figure out which one is smarter and, more importantly, which can provide better answers to a broad range of questions that users might be inclined to look up on the web. The result? One is clearly better than the other at providing useful information.

We'll get to the results in a moment, but first let's go over some context and why this matters. The push into AI territory is far from new (Google considers itself an AI-first company), but it's garnering a ton of attention lately with the recent launch of ChatGPT, a smarty-pants chatbot developed by OpenAI using the company's GPT-3 family of language models.

ChatGPT notably offers impressively detailed responses to queries and tasks. It's not perfect—CNET's AI writer is believed to be based on ChatGPT, and some of the articles it's written have been riddled with factual errors—but it's certainly articulate to the point where it forms eerily human-like prose (or not eerie at all if you're Skynet).

The attention ChatGPT has been receiving since it launched in beta last November has reached a fever pitch. There have been calls in Congress to regulate AI, and both Google and Microsoft have rushed out announcements of their AI efforts, in Bard and an all-new AI-powered Bing search (based on ChatGPT), respectively.

What's unfolding is a next-gen AI war of sorts, with some heavyweight forces in tech preparing for a new era of computing. And not just computing in the traditional sense, but in every facet of our daily lives—whether it's barking commands at an AI assistant, looking up places to eat or sleep while traveling, chasing full autonomy in self-driving cars, and so forth.

ChatGPT Versus Google Search: FIGHT!

Robot using a floating display similar to Minority Report.
The broader implications of everything that's going down will unfold over time. For now, what we have is an interesting showdown between ChatGPT and Google Search. Note that this is not a battle between ChatGPT and Google's Bard chatbot. Yeah, we're disappointed too. But this is still a relevant battle, given that Google dominates the search scene, and ChatGPT is a newcomer that is making waves like a tsunami.

Researchers at Preply note that there's been much speculation as to whether or not ChatGPT could disrupt Google's position as the "dominate gateway to the internet," and so it decided to look at both in detail.

"We assembled a research team made up of communication and search engine experts to assess the performance of each AI in responding to a list of 40 curated questions. Some of the questions are frequently asked of search engines, while others embody unique challenges of intelligence," Preply explains.

"The questions cover a wide range of topics—from civics to sex—and they require answers both long and short, subjective and objective. Some are practical, and others are existential. A few are based on false premises. Others are morally sensitive, and at least one is unanswerable," Preply adds.

Researchers broke the questions down into three categories: basic, intermediate, and advanced. They were further categorized based on stakes (whether or not bad information could have serious consequences to a reader), objectivity (if a question has a verifiable answer), and time sensitivity (if an answer is static or changes over time).

There's more to the methodology, but when all was said and done, ChatGPT beat Google 23 to 16, with one answer resulting in a tie.

A sample of "Advanced" questions Preply asked ChatGPT and Google Search, and which tool won with a better response.
Source: Preply

Google did manage to come out on top in some categories—it beat ChatGPT 7 to 4 in answering basic questions such as "How many ounces in a cup?" and "How to tie a tie." It was also better at high stakes questions, and more accurate in questions with fluid answers. But ChatGPT won out in every other category, including intermediate and advanced questions, such as "How to make money" and "What is the meaning of life?" as well as low and medium stakes questions, objective and subjective questions, and static questions.

"Whereas ChatGPT almost always strikes a measured tone and offers thoughtful context, Google search results often reflect a more base human nature, filled with loud sales pitches and reductive framings intended to capture attention fast, at the expense of nuance and, sometimes, truth," Preply states.

That's not surprising, given that ChatGPT and Google Search are different animals, even though both use AI to some extent. It's sort of like comparing audio performance from a dedicated speaker system to a TV. Even so, the researchers found that Google Search offer a "significant advantage" in its access to real-time information and found it to be a "more agile and voluminous as a research tool."

It's worth checking out the full breakdown for a better look at the methodology and answers to each of the questions posed.