Well, teaching got weird Tuesday night. I ended up having to react to Google announcing during its conference session that day that they were migrating their Search product toward being an experience built of Genrative Artificial Intelligence. While it may seem like that might be a sufficiently innocuous thing to do with Generative Artificial Intelligence it should be considered that problems can be found below the surface.

In this particular case, Google has made the awesome business decision to take its Generative AI product known as Gemini and make it the front end to search. It is a bold bet. For as inaccurate as Gemini winds up being, this could definitely damage democrarcy. Generative Artificial Intelligence has accuracy problems and definitely will lie to its users. Now we’re going to entrust search to a digital construct that is about as accurate as a drunken know-it-all friend that has a blood alcohol content measure of 1.99.

As I wound up going through exercises with my students, they wound up seeing ways that Gemini is so very wrong. As noted by Taxpayer Advocate Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, utilizing any sort of Generative Artificial Intelligence system for tax advice generally results in not just wrong answers but very wrong answers that can lead to massive penalties. I showed them a massive one and how to actually get to correct information about what tax law actually says that is actually readable.

They were initially confused when I asked them if they knew how to find the sites of one or more news outlets. If this AI front-end to search is just going to summarize everything and not give you links to what you’re actually seeing then are you actually getting the news? Are you getting something that is just confirming your biases instead? Are you getting something that will lie to you and tell you that nothing is going on even when there actually is something going on? People generally just click on the first link or two that they get from Google. If they get no links and instead just get some made up crap from a program that is known to lie they are quite likely going to take it as gospel truth.

I initially wanted to title this “Google Search Deemed Harmful” but that style title is old and busted. Frankly I don’t know what to do with things now. Google is simply becoming an increasing danger to having any sort of a functional society. It counterparts among the GAFAM and FAANG groups are not helping with that either.

I’m not necessarily saying we took a wrong turn moving away from the time of the BBS. I am saying that shifting back to that might not be such a bad idea for having somewhat untainted information systems. As the Internet continues to be polluted with AI-generated crap we might end up in an endgame such as those postulated by Michael Z. Williamson and Mike Pondsmith where the Internet becomes a totally unusable mess that can’t be fixed.