ChatGPT is big. Certainly the underlying technology promised will just be a matter of time to become reality. Are we there yet? Some experts are already heralding the dawn of true artificial intelligence (AI). Others are more cautious. But one way or another, we can be sure that very soon, online search engines such as Google and Bing or Baidu and WeChat will be able to interface efficiently through verbal human language, rather than hitherto typing. This is way beyond the current standard chatbots, which have only limited communication range and are restricted to specific domains. Thanks to the media hype, ChatGPT, developed by San Francisco-based start-up OpenAI, has become the fastest growing app of all time. ChatGPT took only two months to acquire 100 million active users. TikTok, the previous record holder, needed nine months to reach the same level. Because of the breakthrough technology, industry insiders live in excitement and fear. Alphabet, the corporate parent of Google, reportedly issued a “red alert” to employees because Bing, up till now an also-ran search engine, is owned by Microsoft, which is one of the key investors in OpenAI. Can China develop a ChatGPT rival given that content is such a hot potato? In China, there is a “gold rush” by every technology company worth the salt – from Alibaba’s Taobao to Tencent – to embrace the ChatGPT technology. Baidu is reportedly racing to launch a ChatGPT-enabled version of its search engine next month, called the “Ernie bot”. Predictably, the investment craze has ignited the stock market, driving up the prices of companies such as Baidu and Zhihu, the Chinese equivalent of Quora. State-owned securities media have warned traders to avoid the hype. Though ChatGPT is not legally available in China, companies such as Alibaba, owner of the Post, have had to remove bootleg versions of the app from the platforms. It still has serious flaws, though. While it delivers information at great speed, it is often inaccurate and self-contradictory. It works by scanning the universe of texts for plausible answers, but cannot inherently distinguish truth from falsehood or facts from fake news. Beijing police have warned people to be on alert against falsehoods. But the technology will improve. We may not yet have arrived at sentient AI, but online searches have become much more fun.