If ChatGPT Can Disrupt Google In 2023, What About Your Company?
“How did you go bankrupt?” asked Bill, a character in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun also Rises. “Two ways,” answered Mike, “Gradually, then suddenly.”
The very same story describes how major industry disruption usually happens—gradually, and then suddenly. For board members and other industry leaders, being on the right side of such disruption typically requires looking years ahead. That’s the “gradually” part.
But with the release of ChatGPT in November, 2022, OpenAI “suddenly” and shockingly threatened to overthrow Google’s hitherto total dominance of internet search. In the process, it also became a $29 billion dollar organization, seemingly overnight. Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest stakeholder, will reportedly receive the lion’s share of OpenAI’s profits for years to come.
But that’s not even the biggest implication of ChatGPT. In February, 2023, OpenAI and Microsoft announced that an even more robust AI than ChatGPT was embedded into Microsoft’s floundering search engine, Bing. And just like that—Microsoft now poses a credible threat to Google’s previously uncontestable dominance of search.
Board members and corporate execs don’t need AI to decode the lessons to be learned from this. The lessons should be loud and clear: If even the mighty Google can be potentially overthrown by AI disruption, you should be concerned about what this may mean for your company.
Here’s why Google is worried about ChatGPT
Chat GPT is a type of “generative AI” known as a large language model. Its defining feature is an ability to accurately answer questions asked in plain English. To give you an example, I used it while recently planning my family’s winter vacation.
I was thinking about Europe, so I asked ChatGPT what places I should consider visiting. It not only offered me eight different cities to consider, it also explained the pros and cons of each one of them. I noticed that Innsbruck was one of the cities it recommended, so I asked ChatGPT to tell me more about Innsbruck. It told me that Innsbruck has excellent skiing, Christmas markets, and coffee houses, and is easy to get to. It also warned me that some tourists prefer a more remote, “alpine village” over Innsbruck, and that it is very expensive.
My search was over in seconds. I got the answers I wanted, more or less instantly, in a way that felt very connected and friendly, and without scrolling and clicking through result after result on Google.
It isn’t very hard to see how this represents a threat to Google. A New York Times article called this a “code red” moment for Google. The biggest implication of ChatGPT on Google’s business, according to the author, is “unsuitability for delivering digital ads.” (Google’s ad business represents 80% of its revenue).
Shrugging off this worry, Google execs initially claimed that there was simply too much “reputational risk” for them to field a ChatGPT rival themselves. But on February 7th, the very same day that Microsoft announced integration into Bing of an AI technology even more powerful than ChatGPT (from OpenAI), Google flip-flopped, revealing Bard, its own generative AI solution, which would go into semi-public beta testing immediately.
Internet search is but one industry disrupted by AI
While internet search is the most obvious industry sector set to fall victim to AI disruption, it is far from the only one. The fields of knowledge work and creative work employ billions of workers and comprise trillions of dollars. AI models are growing exponentially, and as they become bigger and better, more and more professions and industry sectors will be deeply affected.
Professions that will be disrupted by generative AI include marketing, copywriting, illustration and design, sales, customer support, software coding, video editing, film-making, 3D modeling, architecture, engineering, gaming, music production, legal contracts, and even scientific research. Software applications will soon emerge that will make it easy and intuitive for anyone to use generative AI for those fields and more.
Other industries ripe for disruption by generative AI may not immediately seem obvious. It may be used in the finance sector to make recommendations and manage risk. It can help the healthcare sector with diagnoses and predictive medicine. The advertising industry can use generative AI not only for creative work, but also in customer targeting. Biopharma can use generative AI to search medical literature, finding novel ways of using existing medicines off-label, and discovering new compounds to treat disease.
Without hyperbole, this may be a technology inflection point like the world has never seen before.
AI disruption should be business leaders’ number one priority
Remember what I said originally—changes like these happen gradually—and then suddenly? Well, the gradual part is very nearly in the rear view mirror. I am not talking about things that will come in a decade. Tectonic as these changes are, you should expect to see massive disruption in 2023, 2024, and 2025. This is happening now.
Regardless of industry, board members and corporate executives should care about AI disruption more than just about anything else, because once we fully arrive at “suddenly,” it will be too late to begin.
That’s the implication of Chat GPT and other forms of artificial intelligence technology. AI will gradually, suddenly, and then completely disrupt business (and life) as we know it.
If you care about how AI is determining the winners and losers in business, and how you can leverage AI for the benefit of your organization, I encourage you to stay tuned. I write (almost) exclusively about how senior executives, board members, and other business leaders can use AI effectively. You can read past articles and be notified of new ones by clicking the “follow” button here.