The Microsoft Vision: Agent-Intermediated Computing

February 9, 2023

Not one single input from smart software. — Editor

[Mise en scène] Googzilla is towering over advertisers, hissing and brandishing its long talons. Then the creature turns its head. It tiny ear slits twitch. He hears a sound like “boink” or “thunk.” Distracted, the 25 year-old terror looks from the cowering advertisers and fixes his maroon-hued eyes on a almost insignificant figure. That entity is Satya Nadella, who has just ruing Sundar’s and Prabhakar’s high school reunion. The fear of answering the question “Hey, how did you guys miss this ChatGPT – Microsoft thing” is terrifying. Googzilla emits a plaintive “welp.” The advertisers back away and start walking toward Redmond. [Fade to black]

The shoe has dropped. Boink or thunk, depending on your perceptual equipment. “Microsoft’s AI-Powered Bing Will Challenge Google Search” reports “Microsoft may finally have figured out how to get you to use Bing.” The article adds a quote directly from the champion of high school reunions in India:

“All computer interaction is going to be mediated with an agent helping,” Chief Executive Satya Nadella said at a launch event at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. “We’re going to have this notion of a co-pilot that’s going to be there across every application.”

I won’t point out that “all” is a logical impossibility when it comes to humanoids and computer systems. But I will let that slide… because ChatGPT.

Kudos to Microsoft for pulling off the marketing play of the year. I know it is only early February 2023, but it may take something truly special to tap into the brush fires ignited by ChatGPT. Will Bing be better? Maybe? Will the ChatGPT thing frighten the allegedly monopolistic Google? I think it has.

There are several examples that illustrate the disarray of the Google radar system. First, the search beacon missed the incoming ChatGPT balloon. Hello, Prabhakar. Isn’t and maybe wasn’t that your job?

Then there was the startling Code Red. Yeah, that’s professional. OpenAI has been around six or seven years. Now it is Code Red. Situational awareness seems to be lacking where Googzilla hunts. This is a flaw in an apex predator, is it not?

The dollop of whipped cream on this torched cupcake was asking the former head chefs of data hoovering and search engine optimization as an spur to buying advertising to return to the wizard lair. Yep, Sundar asked Sergey and Larry to help out with the Code Red thing. Okay, but let’s recall the origin of the Google money machine. Wasn’t it Yahoo-Overture-GoTo? Yeah, I think it was and there was a legal hassle and a billion dollar sentiment to make the GOOG gleam like a sprightly young Googzilla.

The actions that cement the frenzy in the House of Google is the steady flow of “it’s coming,” “yes, it’s a demo,” and “okay, we bought an outfit that Sam Bankman Fried found interesting.” The problem is that “to be” does not close the gap with the ChatGPT riding its hyper-drive electronic motorcycle on Google’s private motorways.

Several observations:

  1. Will the OpenAI and ChatGPT thing help Microsoft address the security of its existing software and services? When?
  2. Will Microsoft milk the marketing buzz and return to business as usual: Killing printers, interfaces that baffle, and features that disrupt one’s activity on a Windows enabled system?
  3. Will Microsoft have an answer to those who would claim that smart software violates fair use of intellectual property?
  4. Will Microsoft be able to handle bias and outputs which lead to interesting but harmful outcomes like a student getting expelled after mommy and daddy paid $135,000 for tuition?

But for now. The payoff for Microsoft is the thrill of watching Googzilla squirm. And the “all” word? That’s just an illustration of the imprecision of Microsoftie speech.

Stephen E Arnold, February 9, 2023


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