This AI-Driven Search Engine Should Make Google Nervous

Kevin Roose makes case in 'NYT' for Perplexity, whose artificial intelligence both excites, scares him
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2024 1:26 PM CST
He Sparred With a Bot, Now Gives Kudos to Another One
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/dusanpetkovic)

Google has long been the search engine powerhouse that people turn to when they want information on everything from flyby asteroids to the cost of Super Bowl tickets. Challengers have arisen, but the Alphabet-owned company always seems to beat them back—though one newish upstart has tech columnist Kevin Roose noting that Google now "seems less invincible." That platform is Perplexity, a year-old search engine built from the ground up and powered by artificial intelligence—a tool that Roose was surprised to find is "very good" in its functionality, he writes in an op-ed for the New York Times. Roose put Perplexity, founded by former AI researchers at OpenAI and Meta, through its paces, using both the free and paid ($20-a-month Perplexity Pro) versions for a few weeks on both his phone and computer.

Although he concedes Perplexity "isn't perfect," Roose notes that the AI-driven search engine, which aesthetically resembles Google, was able to spit out neatly written, citation-filled summaries of hundreds of Roose's queries, on topics that ranged from the political to the domestic (e.g., how long beef stew safely keeps in the fridge). Users can also narrow the source field, and Perplexity isn't scared to admit when it's coming up short with answers.

"Most AI chat products I've used lack this kind of humility—their responses sound confident even when they're spouting nonsense," Roose writes. Despite his thumbs-up review, however, Roose admits being fearful of seeing his journalism job supplanted by bots: "I'll have to weigh the convenience of using Perplexity against the worry that, by using it, I'm contributing to my own doom." Read his piece in full here, which includes his other issues with Perplexity. (You may recall Roose's creepy chat with Bing's AI bot last year.)

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