(Video) Search Mastery: Bryan McCann Discusses AI and Search Engines

INFO Staff - January 9, 2024

The co-founder of You.com gives a presentation about the future of search

Red background with the words "Search Mastery" in yellow outline.

John Bryan McCann, co-founder and chief technology officer of a personalized search engine called You.com, discussed recent advances in natural language processing and search technology on Dec. 6 as part of the College of Information Studies’ Search Mastery speaker series. 

McCann discussed his company’s shift from a search engine to artificial intelligence assistant. Unlike other websites that use a complex algorithm to determine the relevance and quality of search results, You.com uses a system called “social voting” to rank websites, he said.

In the last year, along with transitioning to a search engine that incorporates AI, You.com became the world’s first consumer-facing LLM connected to the web with citations — ensuring AI chatbots are created with trust and accuracy. Ten times more consumers used the site and additional abilities were added, McCann said.             

The main three challenges associated with LLMs include the fact that they can’t be trained frequently enough to stay up-to-date or provide accurate citations, they can make up answers to some questions, and they can’t reliably reason about math, science and logic, according to McCann. 

“This was essentially a huge part of the year for us and a lot of the community trying to keep language models up-to-date even if they’re not their training sets have some cut off — trying to prevent them from hallucinating answers to questions,” McCann said. 

During the presentation, McCann also provided an overview of natural language processing, explained the evolution of You.com and some obstacles and solutions facing LLMs. He said pursuing bold ideas, collaborating with others and preserving were some of his takeaways while developing You.com 

“As long as you’re working with great people and you keep going, you can make more progress,” McCann said.

Watch the full presentation here