Search engines are disappointing (examples 1 through 3)

I haven’t liked search engines in a long time. Frankly, I’ve been a little surprised by how much garbage people put up with when searching for information. It seems like we all decided that Google is the pinnacle of discovery, despite ample evidence of its shortcomings, because we have a failure of imagination.

I keep finding examples in head-to-head matchups where search engines completely fail me, but chatGPT doesn’t. Here are some examples.

Example 1: Is Hello, Tomorrow renewed for a second season?

Search engines show links to ten different sites with headlines like “Hello, Tomorrow rumours and updates.”

chatGPT says “As of now, Apple TV+ has not officially announced a renewal for a second season of "Hello, Tomorrow!". However, there are various factors that suggest a potential renewal might be on the horizon. These include the unique and intriguing premise of the show, combining futuristic settings with sales themes, and the show's notable star, Billy Crudup, who has a strong relationship with Apple TV+ through his role in "The Morning Show." Apple TV+ has a history of giving new shows more chances to succeed, which could bode well for "Hello, Tomorrow!" Ultimately, the decision to renew the series will depend on cumulative viewership and how much people watch over a relatively short period of time​​​​​​.”

Winner: chatGPT.

Example 2: Was Winston Peters right about it taking 3 weeks instead of 40 days?

Search engines don’t answer the question, and instead serve up a bunch of general stories about Winston Peters. None of those stories give me my answer.

chatGPT said “Winston Peters, the leader of New Zealand First, expressed confidence that a new government in New Zealand could be formed more quickly than what was being predicted by pundits and commentators. He critiqued the media for implying that the time taken for government formation in New Zealand was overly long. Peters emphasised that compared to countries like Germany, where forming a government could take up to five months, the process in New Zealand was relatively quick​​​​.

Peters also highlighted a specific issue that contributed to the delay in government formation: the law change in 2020 that allowed people to enrol to vote on election day, a change that was supported by New Zealand First. This law extended the time required to confirm the final election results by an additional week, leading to a three-week delay between election night and the confirmation of the final results​​.

In contrast to Peters' assertion that the government could be formed quickly, the actual process of forming the government in New Zealand in 2023 took 40 days of negotiations following the October 14 election. This duration was necessary for the conservative National Party leader Christopher Luxon to sign a coalition deal with two other parties, including New Zealand First​​.

Therefore, while Peters was optimistic and critical of the perceived slow pace of government formation as portrayed by the media, the actual duration of forming the government did indeed take approximately 40 days, contradicting his assertion that it could be done in a much shorter time frame.”

Example 3: How can I cook chicken breast to be juicy?

Search engines give me a wall of recipes, YouTube videos, and “people asked this question” queries. Many of them are fine. Others are a pain to navigate because they’re full of ads or extraneous information. But either way, search engines feel like asking a librarian a direct answer and have them point to 25 different books on a shelf. chatGPT gets right to the point and says this:

“Cooking a juicy chicken breast involves a few key steps:

Brining or Marinating: Soak the chicken in a brine (saltwater solution) or a marinade of your choice. This helps to retain moisture and add flavor.

Room Temperature: Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking. This helps it cook more evenly.

Cooking Method: Use methods like baking, grilling, or pan-searing. For pan-searing, cook the chicken over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side, then lower the heat to cook through.

Don't Overcook: Use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C), but avoid overcooking as it can dry out the meat.

Rest the Chicken: After cooking, let the chicken rest for a few minutes before cutting. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, keeping it moist.

Proper Storage: If you're cooking chicken breast in advance, store it properly in the refrigerator to maintain its juiciness until serving.

Each of these steps helps to ensure that the chicken breast remains juicy and flavourful. Experiment with different seasonings and cooking methods to find your preferred taste and texture.”

Example 4: One day visiting Seattle, what should I do if handicapped

Search engines do the same thing as before. Ten different articles where I can cross my fingers and hope for the best. Most people will read a few of these articles and cobble together a plan based on what multiple sources say.

chatGPT gives me an actual answer:

“If you have one day to spend in Seattle and are looking for wheelchair-accessible activities, you have several excellent options. Here are some of the best attractions and activities you can enjoy:

Sky View Observatory: Begin your day with breathtaking views of the city from the Sky View Observatory. It provides an excellent introduction to Seattle's beauty​​.

Seattle Aquarium: Next, you can visit the Seattle Aquarium, where you can see a variety of marine life. The aquarium is accessible and offers a fascinating insight into aquatic animals and the surrounding waterways​​.

Harbor Cruise with Argosy Cruises: Enjoy a scenic cruise with Argosy Cruises. Their Salish Explorer ship is wheelchair accessible, providing fantastic views of the Seattle skyline and a unique perspective of the city​​.

The Seattle Great Wheel: Experience panoramic views of the city on The Seattle Great Wheel. Each pod is wheelchair accessible, providing a comfortable and scenic ride​​.

Space Needle: No visit to Seattle is complete without a trip to the iconic Space Needle. It's accessible, with elevators to the observation deck, and offers stunning views of the city from various levels​​.

Chihuly Garden and Glass: For art lovers, the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum showcases the spectacular glassworks of Dale Chihuly. The entire facility is wheelchair accessible, with all exhibits on one level​​.

Museum of Pop Culture: Explore the Museum of Pop Culture, featuring exhibits on various aspects of pop culture. The museum is spacious and fully accessible, with elevators to different floors​​.

Pacific Science Center: The Pacific Science Center is a family-friendly attraction with a wide range of exhibits, including an IMAX theater and a laser dome. The center is highly accessible, with facilities for people with disabilities​​.

Olympic Sculpture Park: For a more relaxed experience, visit the Olympic Sculpture Park. It offers smooth paths throughout, large sculptures, and excellent waterfront views​​.

Pike Place Market: A must-visit in Seattle, Pike Place Market is known for its vibrant atmosphere, with over 220 shops and restaurants. It's a great place to experience the local culture and buy souvenirs​​.

Woodland Park Zoo: If you enjoy animal encounters, the Woodland Park Zoo is an excellent choice. The zoo features paved paths and is mostly flat, making it easy to navigate in a wheelchair​​.

Overall, Seattle offers a range of accessible activities and attractions, making it a great destination for visitors with mobility challenges. Remember that while the city is known for its hilly terrain, it offers excellent accessible public transportation options, including light rail, buses, and taxis with wheelchair ramps​​​​​​​​.”

Sometimes, being shown a range of options is a good idea. If I asked for a good restaurant or book, I’d expect more than a single answer. But imagine asking for a good restaurant or book and being given ten different websites, each with its own top recommendations. That’s how we use search engines today.

The key is something in the middle: you want a range of options, but all in the form of an actual answer. For example, I just asked chatGPT for a good restaurant near me in Wellington and it gave me 12 great ideas. When I typed the same thing into Google, it offered three ideas (one of which won’t be open for three days) and then punted to a bunch of sites like Yelp. It wasn’t the worst answer, but it wasn’t very good. In hindsight, we’ll see how bad search engines really were in 2023. It’ll just take a while to fully appreciate it.