Microsoft announced a new AI-powered version of its Bing search engine yesterday, all thanks to an upgraded version of the same AI technology behind ChatGPT. I’ve only spent a few hours using this new version of Bing and other AI-powered features in Microsoft’s Edge browser, but the technology already feels like a big upgrade to ChatGPT.
One of the first questions I asked Edge’s new “compose” feature was to write a resignation letter for my boss in a funny tone and with the main reason being that I felt my job was being replaced by AI. The letter it generated is impressive and genuinely funny:
Subject: I quit!
I regret to inform you that I am resigning from my position as a data analyst, effective immediately. The reason is simple: Al is replacing my job.
Yes, I know you told me that Al is just a tool to help me work taster and smarter, but I don’t buy it. I’ve seen the way you look at that shiny new machine in the corner, with its blinking lights and soothing voice. I’ve heard the rumors that it can do everything I can do, but better, cheaper, and without complaining. I’ve felt the cold shoulder you’ve given me ever since you installed it.
So, I’ve decided to save you the trouble of firing me and just quit. I don’t want to compete with a machine that can crunch numbers, generate reports, and make witty jokes at the same time. I don’t want to work for a boss who values Al over human intelligence and creativity. I don’t want to be part of a company that is willing to sacrifice its employees for the sake of efficiency and profit.
I’m sure you’ll be very happy with your new Al assistant. I hope it doesn’t turn against you and take over the world. I hope it doesn’t make any mistakes that cost you your reputation and customers. I hope it doesn’t get bored and start playing games with your data. I hope it doesn’t develop a personality and fall in love with you.
But if it does, don’t come crying to me. I’ll be too busy enjoying my life, pursuing my passions, and finding a new job that appreciates me for who I am.
Goodbye and good luck,
Your former data analyst
I’ve tried this same query in ChatGPT, but it’s never created something quite as funny and sassy as this. Now, a funny resignation letter doesn’t set Microsoft’s AI features apart from ChatGPT alone, but there are some bigger differences in how Microsoft’s AI model works.
First, Microsoft is feeding real-time news into its chat version of Bing, allowing you to ask about events that have just happened or are unfolding. I asked it what Microsoft had announced during its Bing AI event, and it produced a summary of the news based on multiple publications covering Microsoft’s AI-powered Bing announcement. That was just minutes after Microsoft had made the news official.
Even a day later, it’s rapidly answering questions about who Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met today and creating a useful summary of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. Having the latest information about real-world events is a big step beyond ChatGPT, which always replies with “my training data only goes up until 2021” if you try and ask about current news events.
But much like ChatGPT, Bing is not always accurate. I asked for the latest information on the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria this week, and it provided data pegged to a date in the future. It wasn’t a time zone issue, and the article that Bing had sourced the date to was written on the correct day and not in the future.
I also asked Bing to create a video script to demonstrate the new AI-powered Bing features. Instead of highlighting the cool new additions that Microsoft announced, it decided to focus on existing search features. It did suggest I end the video with “Thank you for watching and happy searching!” so, naturally, I complied.
When Bing gets things wrong, there’s a dislike button that sends feedback about the query and answer to Microsoft. According to a Bing engineer I spoke to at Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters, dislikes are currently being routed to engineers’ inboxes to fix inaccuracies and improve Microsoft’s model. That’s not a feedback loop that can scale over time, but given only a few thousand people currently have access, it helps Microsoft fix inaccuracies as it gradually opens up its waitlist.
Microsoft also surfaces these chat answers alongside traditional search results in Bing. You can often find answers side by side with the usual links you’re used to seeing, and it feels like a neat way to ease people gently into this new AI-powered search.
The big differences between Bing and ChatGPT can be found in how Microsoft has integrated these chatbot powers into its Edge browser. I think this is where the future of Microsoft’s OpenAI partnership gets interesting. Edge now has a sidebar that can scan entire webpages and allow you to pick out information or run chat queries against websites. Imagine you’re on an Amazon listing about a TV — you could ask Bing to compare the best 4K TVs, find the best price and then formulate this all into a neat little table that you can email to your partner.
There’s even a compose tab in this new sidebar that makes all the work of typing in parameters a little easier, offering quick options for users to specify tone, format, and length (rather than having to type these qualities out by hand, as you do in ChatGPT). You can ask Microsoft’s AI model to write about anything here, and it will be neatly formatted and ready for a blog post, email, or a simple list.
Microsoft didn’t talk about this onstage today, but you can imagine a future where Word or Outlook could have similar integration to let you create documents or emails. You could technically do this right now just by loading up web-based versions of Word alongside this new Edge sidebar. I did exactly this to generate the hilarious resignation letter.
Microsoft says its AI-powered Bing should also be better at writing code than ChatGPT. I’m not a developer, so I’ll leave that up to the prompt engineering experts to really test Microsoft’s promises there. I think these prompt engineer experts will really unlock what’s possible with Microsoft’s Prometheus Model and test just how much more powerful it really is compared to GPT-3.5.
Much like how people try to jailbreak ChatGPT and make it say bad things, there will be thousands out there looking to break this new Bing AI. Microsoft says it has some additional safeguards in place to protect against this, but we’ll see how long it takes for the prompt engineers to break past.
Either way, it’s pretty bold of Microsoft to open this up to the public inside its own search engine and let people play around with it freely. But you’ll need to use Microsoft’s Edge browser to access any of the new AI-powered Bing features. If you try and access the chat feature in Google’s Chrome browser, you’ll get a prompt to open Edge instead.
Microsoft is clearly aiming to steal market share away from Google here and make Bing more relevant, and everyone is waiting to see how Google responds. Google already preempted Microsoft’s announcement by unveiling its own ChatGPT competitor known as Bard. It’s in limited testing right now, and we haven’t seen exactly how it handles queries or how Google will attempt to integrate it into search, but it’s clear the AI search battle is on.
In an interview with The Verge, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella describes Google as an “800-pound gorilla” that Microsoft is trying to compete with in search. “I hope that with our innovation, they will definitely want to come out and show that they can dance,” says Nadella. “And I want people to know that we made them dance ,and I think that’ll be a great day.”