Using ChatGPT as a better search engine

Searching with ChatGPTRay Poynter, 10 January 2024

Over the last year, I have started using ChatGPT 4 to increase my productivity and efficiency, and I am keen to share some of what I have learned. In this post, I highlight why and how I use ChatGPT4 as a better way of searching for information. In future posts, I will highlight other ways I use ChatGPT to improve my productivity.

ChatGPT is now linked to the search engine Bing, which means that you can type in a question and ChatGPT can search the internet and compose a result, rather than using ChatGPT’s previous learning.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. The last major Global Climate Change Conference was COP 28, held in Dubai in early December 2023. This means that knowledge of COP 28 is not yet in ChatGPT’s training database. However, because of the integration with Bing we can use ChatGPT4 to find things out.

Please summarise for me the main outcomes from the COP 28 Climate Change Conference

ChatGPT gave me a message that it was searching with Bing, and then it took two or three minutes to come up with a reply, which is quite a bit slower than when it simply uses its prior learning.

Here is the reply from ChatGPT

I did a quick search and here’s what I found.

The COP28 Climate Change Conference in Dubai resulted in several significant outcomes:

  1. **Transition Away from Fossil Fuels**: Almost every country agreed to transition away from fossil fuels, marking a historic agreement in the realm of international climate negotiations. This commitment was included in the first global stocktake, which is a critical part of accelerating action to meet the Paris Agreement goals. However, there was some frustration due to the absence of a clear call for a fossil-fuel phase-out this decade and concerns about loopholes that might allow the continued use of coal, oil, and gas7†source】【8†source】.
  1. **Global Stocktake**: The global stocktake was a central outcome of COP28. It highlighted that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 43% by 2030 (compared to 2019 levels) to limit global warming to 1.5°C. It also identified the current off-track status of Parties regarding their Paris Agreement goals. Actions were encouraged towards tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements by 2030, along with efforts to phase down unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies10†source】.
  1. **Loss and Damage Fund**: A historic agreement was reached on the operationalization of the loss and damage fund. This fund aims to support the most vulnerable countries facing climate-related disasters. The fund received pledges of $792 million from governments11†source】.
  1. **Climate Finance**: Climate finance was a major focus, with significant discussions on reforming the multilateral financial architecture and establishing new and innovative sources of finance. The Green Climate Fund received a boost, and new commitments were made to various funds, including the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund. However, the financial pledges are still far short of the trillions needed to support developing countries with their clean energy transitions, national climate plans, and adaptation efforts10†source】.
  1. **Renewable Energy Targets**: One of the main measures in the final agreement was the aim to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030. This target was endorsed by 116 parties at COP28, excluding some major countries like China, India, and Russia11†source】.
  1. **Other Developments**: Several countries pledged to the Buildings Breakthrough and the Global Cooling Pledge. Additionally, numerous reports were launched, including on methane and global cooling, and various solutions were showcased at the UNEP Pavilion8†source】.

Overall, COP28 marked significant progress in terms of commitments to transitioning away from fossil fuels and focusing on renewable energy, but it also highlighted the challenges and complexities of reaching a global consensus on climate action.”

As you can see, ChatGPT found information that matched my questions, summarized it, and put in links to the search it conducted and the source material it used.

I then asked it to produce a shorter summary. Prompt “Summarise this in 100 words

ChatGPT replied with

COP28 in Dubai marked a significant step in climate action, with nearly every country agreeing to transition away from fossil fuels for the first time in 28 years of climate negotiations. A central outcome was the global stocktake, which emphasized the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The conference saw the operationalization of the loss and damage fund, receiving pledges of $792 million. However, there were concerns about insufficient climate finance and loopholes allowing continued fossil fuel use. The final agreement included a target to triple renewable energy capacity by 20307†source】【8†source】【10†source】【11†source】.”

Again, ChatGPT gives links to the sources. These links to the sources for the information help protect me from the problem of hallucinations. But, it is important to click on the links to check they are what you expect them to be.

Searching with Google
I also typed in the same query in Google, i.e. “Please summarise for me the main outcomes from the COP 28 Climate Change Conference”

Google listed a set of articles, which I would then have to read in order to create my summary. The first few links were sponsored links, and the next few links replicated several of the links used by ChatGPT; for example, both ChatGPT and Google highlighted the same post from CarbonBrief.

Why use ChatGPT as a better search engine?
I started using ChatGPT for my queries as a method of forcing myself to get more proficient with ChatGPT. However, I quickly found that if I was looking for a quick summary of something or the answer to a question, it made more sense to ask the direct question rather than to search for sources and then read the sources to get an answer.

When do I still use Google?
When I am looking for links and sources rather than answers to a specific question, Google tends to be better for me.

And you?
Are you using ChatGPT as a better search engine? If so, what are your experiences and tips? Or have you tried ChatGPT and rejected it? If so, it would be great to hear why.

ChatGPT BasicsWhat to learn more?

Want to learn more about how to use ChatGPT4 to improve your productivity and efficiency?

Check out my new online course, 28 February.