Conversational Search Engines, Profit, and Social Responsibility

Mar 29, 2023

Luis J. Salazar

ChatGPT is catalyzing the rise of Vertical Conversational Search Engines, and we face an asymmetrical battle around the ethics of profiting from enabling misinformation. We are familiar with this struggle as we witness how social networks profit from misuse that seeds division and causes mental health harm.

With ChatGPT’s new capacity to browse the web and its plugin store, we’re witnessing a paradigm shift in the search engine landscape.

OpenAI Innovation Pace and the new era of AI apps and vertical search

OpenAI’s innovation pace with ChatGPT is leaving Google Bard’s embarrassing debut and even the new BingChat, an excellent implementation of conversational search, in the dust from an ecosystem enabler point of view.

The power and flexibility of OpenAI’s ChatGPT Browsing capabilities enabled our team at to build a highly effective vertical search engine for an educational institution in just one week! The tailored results and user-centric design have left the users thrilled and excited for the future of personalized education.

This shift reminds me of the 90s when Yahoo! ignited a wave of vertical aggregators that transformed how we discovered content online or the launch of Apple’s App Store, which unleashed the creative power of hundreds of thousands of innovators.

We’re on the brink of a similar explosion of AI plugins and vertical search engines driven by OpenAI.

The potential for custom search solutions is immense, from healthcare to finance, education to entertainment – the possibilities are endless. As developers and businesses leverage OpenAI’s power, we’ll undoubtedly see more niche and personalized AI engines catering to specific industries, communities, and interests.

This level of customization will make the pillars of communication: information, education, and entertainment more accessible and relevant to each user, enhancing their online experience. It also opens the door for AI-driven misinformation and bias perpetuation.

An asymmetrical battle and the Negative Side of the AI Revolution

We might face an asymmetrical battle as history teaches us that in the tech race, the relentless pursuit of profits at all costs created damaging social media networks with devastating effects on society, and we chose to ignore that.

While the rise of ChatGPT and AI-driven vertical search engines promises to revolutionize the way we search and interact with the internet, it’s crucial to consider the potential pitfalls of this transformative technology.

My worry is not related only to the bad actors that could create AI-powered misinformation engines but to the solidly established mechanisms that enabled publicly traded social media moguls to cause immense harm to society by fostering misinformation, affecting the mental health of our youth, and weaponizing lies.

Feeding the Beast: The Role of Investors and Brands

Just as investors and large brands continue to support those damaging social media entities with their marketing budgets and investments, there’s a risk of the same happening to fuel unethical applications of AI.

The financial backing from investors and brands may inadvertently contribute to the proliferation of AI-driven misinformation, biased search results, or, even worse, the creation of malicious AI systems that can exacerbate existing social and political divides.

We should prioritize ethical considerations and long-term societal impact over short-term financial gains. We talk about the development of frameworks for Ethical AI development. What about an Ethical framework for investment in AI or for brands to support with their advertising budget some AI-powered technologies?

By collaborating and actively engaging in discussions about AI ethics and the broader implications of AI-driven apps, we can work together to ensure that AI technology is a force for good, enhancing communication, information, and education while minimizing the risks of misinformation, bias, and harm to society.

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