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ChatGPT, the high-profile AI chatbot from OpenAI, is such a serious threat to Google’s core business that the company’s co-founders are reengaged with the search giant, The New York Times reported Friday.

Startup OpenAI debuted ChatGPT in November, and within a few days more than a million people had begun prompting it with an enormous range of questions and requests. The artificial intelligence system has been trained on vast quantities of text on the internet and can answer questions, compose essays, write computer programs and generate all kinds of information.

ChatGPT can sound authoritative, but it isn’t always right, and you can’t tell where it’s drawing its answers from. It’s impressive enough to be a viral hit on the internet, though, and it’s useful enough that Google reportedly declared a “code red” response to ChatGPT.

Now, at the behest of Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google parent company Alphabet, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are looking into the issue, the Times reported. They’d largely stepped out of day-to-day operating roles in 2019.

Google has a rival AI technology called PaLM, but it hasn’t made that AI system available for public use. And it’s an AI pioneer, inventing the “transformer” technology that’s at the heart of large language models like PaLM and OpenAI’s ChatGPT foundation, GPT-3. In a blog post this week the company summarized several areas where Google is using AI for everything from suggesting email replies to placing ads.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster sees ChatGPT, GPT-3 and large language models as a competitive threat.

“One possible future is that these LLMs could be built into the backend of many of the tech services we use,” Munster said in a Friday report. “This is the outcome that could hurt Google in the long-term.”

Ultimately, though, Google should be able to withstand the threat, he predicted. With four services that each have more than a billion users, and $60 billion in annual operating income from search, Google has “more than enough money to fund investments that will yield a ChatGPT competitor.”

Editors’ note: CNET is using an AI engine to create some personal finance explainers that are edited and fact-checked by our editors. For more, see┬áthis post.

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