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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview with Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni; Interview With Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 12, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you from New York.
ZAKARIA: Today on the program, 10 weeks of major protests, highways blocked, citizens shouting shame. This is the fierce opposition to what some are calling a coup d etat. Prime Minister Netanyahu's plans to curtail the power of Israel's judiciary. I will ask former prime minister Ehud Barak and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni about what is happening on the ground and in the Knesset.
Also, China's new foreign minister said this week that there would surely be conflict and confrontation with the U.S. if the American government continues to speed down the wrong path. I'll dig in deep on the moods in both Beijing and Washington with Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia who is about to be sworn in as Australia's new ambassador to the United States.
Also, should Silicon Valley's tech giants finally pay up for serving news content. They've already squared off with Australia over this and Canada is next up. But it all may be too little, too late in the age of AI. I will explain.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. Mexico could be entering a golden age. It's perfectly placed to benefit from the growing tensions between the United States and China. Parts of the country are already seeing a boom as companies diversify away from China and invest in Mexico. In fact, a good chunk of that investment is being made by Chinese companies that are finding a way to continue to sell goods to the United States.
The state of Nuevo Leon, where much of the country's advanced manufacturing is centered, has received almost $7 billion in investment since late 2021 and its governor expects Tesla's recently announced plan to build a giga factory there to yield $10 billion over time. Laredo, Texas, which deals almost exclusively with Mexican trade, last October, beat out Los Angeles as the United States' busiest port. But these promising economic wins are being stifled by bad politics.
For last three decades Mexico has had a run of presidents, who, while they've had their flaws, were serious about policy and tried to modernize the country, albeit with varying degrees of success. Alas, that luck has run out. Mexico's president since 2018. Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, is a populist demagogue who recalls the strongman tradition in Latin American history.
AMLO's COVID policies were a disaster. Mexico has had one of the highest COVID case fatality ratios in the world. His economic policies has been anti-growth. By one estimate, four million Mexicans have slipped into poverty since 2019. He has failed to take on the drug cartels and he has attacked Mexican political institutions many of which have acquired legitimacy and competence only recently.
His current effort might be the most dangerous. For most of the 20th century Mexico was a one-party state with fraudulent elections ensuring that the ruling party always won. That changed in 2000, when President Ernesto Zedillo's electoral reforms enabled the country's first free and fair election which the ruling party lost.
Out of the same spirit of democratization came the national election agency, the INE, which has developed a reputation for being independent and competent. Last month AMLO's party passed a bill to drastically weaken that agency. AMLO had initially pushed a plan that would have killed the INE altogether and replaced it with a new body but he couldn't clear the bar to pass a constitutional amendment so he has settled for legislation that hollows it out.
Its budget will be cut by nearly a third. Many local offices will be closed. 6,000 staff members will be laid off. Its powers will be curtailed taking some teeth out of the watchdog. He says he's doing it to improve the voting process and save tens of millions of dollars a year.
Now AMLO cannot legally run for a second term as president, he's taking these steps to ensure that the next elections result in a victory for his party which he plans to continue to dominate. The supreme court is expected to hear challenges to the president's gutting of the agency in the near future.
The election agency has not been perfect but it is a pillar of Mexico's fledgling democracy. Polls showed it's the most trusted institution in Mexico after the armed forces. AMLO's attacks on it have been part of his assault on several NGOs and independent government agencies. From those dealing with corruption to human rights.
In her excellent article, Shannon O'Neill writes that AMLO has raided the coffers of public funds for artists and academics, weaponized the judiciary, and routinely attack those who criticize him. AMLO's entire term in office has been out of a Peronist's textbook, claimed to speak for the poor, attack the elites and meanwhile run a shoddy incompetent government. When a journalist reported on the lavish life the president's son
lived in the United States, he released the journalist's alleged personal income information which the Mexican Bar Association said violated the constitution and the tax code.
AMLO campaigned on a promise to fight corruption but according to the NGO Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, his government awards three out of four contracts using a no-bid system that does not even ask for competing offers.
Mexico's biggest problem is not an economic one, but rather a political one. The state has lost its capacity to rein in the drug cartels, which run large parts of the country. AMLO campaigned on the slogan of "Hugs not Bullets" but in office he simply ceded the issue to military which is deeply riddled with corruption and drug money. In 2020 the United States apprehended a former Defense minister on charges of being in league with the cartels. The government of Mexico asked the U.S. to drop the charges and Washington agreed.
Former U.S. attorney general William Barr recently described AMLO as the cartel's chief enabler.
AMLO's attack on the election agency is essentially personal. He believes that he won the 2006 and 2012 elections but was denied his due, independent observers do not agree. In fact much of his presidency is an act of narcissism. He holds daily press conferences that can go on for hours. He attacks the state because its agencies limit his powers, and now he appears to be weakening election oversight.
They have their differences of course but AMLO has turned out to be the Mexican Donald Trump.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
The president of Israel's Supreme Court, two former directors of the Mossad, former heads of the Shin Bet Security Service, an ex-police commissioner, 37 Air Force pilots, a Nobel Prize winning economist. These are just some of the Israelis who have condemned that country's judicial reforms proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Those reforms would seriously weaken the independence of Israel's supreme court.
They would give the Knesset, the Israeli legislature, the power to overrule the high court's decisions by a simple majority. One vote. If passed in their current form, the reforms would also allow the government decisive control over the appointment of judges.
The plan's proponents admit it would weaken the judiciary, saying the supreme court and its unelected justices have too much power and are no longer accountable. Massive protests against the proposed measures have swept the country for 10 weeks in a row. Many political leaders say the reforms will destroy Israel's democracy. Many business leaders say it will destroy the economy. Joining me now are two former senior leaders of Israel. Ehud Barak was
the country's 10th prime minister and Tzipi Livni served Israel as its foreign minister and its vice prime minister.
Welcome to you both.
Tzipi Livni, can you explain to us why is this happening? What is the fundamental cause propelling these reforms or so-called reforms?
TZIPI LIVNI, FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL AND FORMER MINISTER OF JUSTICE: You can add to the list that you just mentioned the dozens of thousands of Israelis that are taking the streets demonstrating against it because these are not judicial reforms. It's about changes in the nature of Israel as a democracy.
Israel was born as the nation-state for the Jewish people with equal rights to all its citizens. And we have different authorities. The politician in the government and the parliament can legislate, of course, but the supreme court can and should supervise human rights, civil rights.
And since we don't have a constitution, we have some basic laws, and these are the base for the decisions of the supreme court.
What is happening now is that we are having a government that is based on three different factions. One is very religious, ultra-Orthodox. For them, they would like to ignore the idea of equality, not for women, LGTB. They don't want to serve in the army. So for them the supreme court that is part of these decisions is forcing the government to keep equal rights to all its citizens. That doesn't suit them.
You have another fraction, this -- the religious, national religious part. For them, they would like to have an accession, greater Israel, and to avoid -- and to prevent the supreme court from making judgment on the situation in the West Bank. They want to rule without any supervision. And on top of this, you have a prime minister that his trial is going on and it's his own political interest to weaken law enforcement.
So the reforms, what is called, is not just about the supreme court. It's like they got -- they won the election; they got the permission or the license to drive, and to promote their own ideology or vision. But what they are doing is they would like to do so without any road signs, without police on the way, to do whatever they want without any limitation. And this is something that will not happen, cannot happen. And this is why we are completely against it.
ZAKARIA: Ehud Barak, you have been very, very strong on this issue. You say that, if these laws get passed, you believe that Israel should engage in massive civil unrest, nonviolent protest, on the scale of, you know, the kind of American civil rights movement. Explain what do think -- what are the stakes here? EHUD BARAK, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: You know, it's --
basically, as Tzipi described it, it's an attack on the very soul and nature of our democracy, about independence of the supreme court and about the values of the declaration of independence, which is our kind of, so to speak, equivalent of a constitution.
So once a government, using the tools of democracy, in order to destroy it from within, and ends up acting in a blatantly illegitimate manner, it is not just the right of citizens; it's the, in my judgment, obligation of citizens to turn, unfortunately, towards civil disobedience, nonviolent, but nonviolent civil disobedience.
We might still be two weeks or three weeks from completion of this legislation, but once it is completed, you know, the supreme court will stand in the way. I hope that the gatekeepers, the head of the Secret Service, the head of the police, the chief of the IDF, they always stand. But if they want, or if the government will try to impose this package of laws, there will be no way for citizens to resist but through nonviolent civil disobedience.
ZAKARIA: What about the military? You're a decorated general. There are people in the militaries, very senior people, who are saying the military should refuse to take orders from what will, at that point, be, in their view, an illegitimate government because it is fundamentally not a government of a liberal democracy.
BARAK: You well described it. It's already happened. It surfaced in one of the air force squadrons, one of the most important ones. But there are many of them, many in the intelligence, many in special forces, many other units, already out. I mean reservists, not active duty service, of course, but reservists who are volunteering for full- of-risk kind of roles. Their basic argument is the following.
We have a contract with a democratic Israel. We are ready to risk our lives, even if we do not agree with any policy of this government. We are ready to risk our lives once and again. We already buried many of our comrades under these circumstances. But we do not have a contract with a dictatorship. And once there is a de facto dictatorship in Israel, we do not have a contract with them. We will have to find the right way to resist.
So I have no doubt, if tomorrow morning or next week, a major war will be imposed upon us, they all will be there at the front line risking their lives once again, unlike many of the sons and daughters of the members of this government.
But in the meantime, between wars, they intend to fight against this tendency to turn Israel into a dictatorship.
ZAKARIA: Stay with us. When we come back, I will ask our two distinguished guests what, if anything, the outside world can do about all this. When we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAKARIA: And we are back with Israel's former prime minister Ehud Barak and the country's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.
Tzipi Livni, what is the likely economic impact of this? Because I do hear people saying, well, Israeli, the economy depends on the rule of law and things like that.
But I've also heard people skeptical, saying, look, you know, you've had governments that have played around with -- where there's been democratic backsliding, you know, whether it's in Poland or in Hungary, some say in India, but the economy has continued to power along. Do you think there's a real possibility that Israel's start-up nation luster gets diminished by all this?
LIVNI: Israel is a start-up nation. And I want to share some optimistic feelings, because what you see now is that people are fighting for Israel's democracy. They will not let Israel to turn into a combination of theocracy or autocracy, and that this is why you see all these people in the streets. People are fighting.
And this is the good news. Because a kind of a camp, people, liberal democrats within Israel, well, in a way were not activists until now. And what you see now is a creation of a new camp in Israel that is fighting for Israel's democracy. And this is good news. And I think I know that it took Netanyahu and his government by surprise. They look at the opposition and they say, OK, they are weak. You know, they're too weak. They are not going to fight for it. We can do whatever we want.
And they discovered that they can't. What they are trying to do is to take the Jewishness of the state, from a religious perspective, to cover the nature and the values of Israel in democracy, and people are objecting. So I think that, to speak about the future like this is a done deal, I'm not willing to do so. We are fighting now. There is hope. It took the government by surprise. And I hope that they will understand that they cannot move forward like this because the prices, not only the political prices that they are paying now but the prices for the state of Israel are unacceptable.
ZAKARIA: Barak, isn't this -- what Tzipi Livni was describing, isn't this tension going to get worse between the ultra-Orthodox element of Israeli politics and its liberal democracy? Because if you look at the demographic trends, the part of the population that is growing is the ultra-Orthodox, it is the Haredi. And they don't seem that committed to liberal democracy. Am I right? And if that's true, isn't that a worrying prospect going forward since they're the ones demographically growing?
BARAK: I think that, in a way, part of it is true. They are growing in numbers, but it's -- nothing is, kind of, predetermined. Many of them are coming to age, and especially now with the smartphones, with the openness of society, they find themselves having to -- trying to reach a better life, to participate in the labor force and to become more, kind of -- more, kind of, open-minded about democracy. So, leave aside for a moment the long-term tendencies, and we are
focused on fighting. If democracy will win, as myself and Tzipi believe and act for, there will be enough time to deal. The ultra- Orthodox, our Jews, they're our brothers, and there are many things to be done in regard to taking politics -- taking religion out of Israeli politics. But that's for the future. First of all, we have to make sure that this package of laws that turn Israel into a dictatorship, not Russia or Turkey, but something like Hungary or Poland, with much wealth, neighborhood kind of situation. And we have to stop it. And we will.
ZAKARIA: Tzipi Livni, you were a foreign minister. Does America have a special role to play here? Do American Jews have a special role to play? Talk about that.
LIVNI: Yes. Yes. You know, every Israeli citizen understands the importance of the relations between Israel and the U.S. And as you know, Israeli leader who comes to the U.S. starts his speeches by saying that we share the same values. And in order to do so and to keep these ties, and this is strategic relations for Israel, we need to keep these values. I mean, we need to keep these values for ourselves.
And what I'm saying is don't give up Israel. Work with us. Fight with us. Keep Israel as it was established, as it -- when Israel was born, it was not only accepted but accepted by all the parties in Israel that Israel will be a democracy.
So let's keep it like that. And therefore the messages coming from our friends, either Jews or the American administrations, are very important. It's very influential.
ZAKARIA: Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak, thank you so much. These are very important times for your country, and we will be watching carefully.
BARAK: Thank you.
LIVNI: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, U.S.-China relations. They're at an all-time low. I will ask Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia, how to get out of this dangerous predicament.
ZAKARIA: It was a one-two punch from China's President Xi and his foreign minister aimed squarely at the United States.
On Monday, Xi accused western countries led by the United States of containing and suppressing China. He said those actions had severely challenged Beijing. And he called on the country to unite as one to fight back. It was a rare case of China's top leader calling out the United States directly. The next day, Xi's top diplomat warned that conflict and confrontation will be the result if Washington doesn't change its tactics. It is safe to say we are in a very dangerous moment in the U.S.-China relations.
Kevin Rudd is here to help us understand. He's a former prime minister of Australia who has led the Asia Society for two years but is about to become Australia's ambassador to the U.S. He is the author of a terrific book, "The Avoidable War." Kevin, welcome.
KEVIN RUDD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Good to be with you on the program, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: So, when you heard Xi Jinping say what he did and his foreign minister say what he did this is a big change for the Chinese. They did not refer to the United States by name, specifically accuse it in the way they did. What is going on?
RUDD: I must admit, as someone who looked at this for last 40 years, I was surprised. It is probably not since the '90s since I've seen a Chinese paramount leader attack the United States by name. They usually have an expression which says such and such a country or --
ZAKARIA: Certain nations.
RUDD: -- certain countries.
ZAKARIA: Yes. Yes.
RUDD: And that diplomacy was pushed to one side. And then, of course, the foreign minister went one step further by saying, if the United States continues its current posture in particular on Taiwan, inevitably this will result in conflict. I've never heard that from a Chinese foreign minister before.
So, I think two things are at play here. I think both Xi Jinping and his team are under considerable domestic economic pressure at present from a very slow economy. And this has been an opportunity for Xi Jinping to say, we know you're going through a hard time domestically, growth has been down, unemployment has been up, prices are a problem in certain areas, but the United States and its allies have been making life impossible for us by the pressure they've brought to bear on us domestically.
So, I think that is one of the rationales. But, you know, when a Chinese president says something as definitive as this it also has its own intrinsic foreign security policy significance. And I do believe it further accelerates China's preparedness militarily for a future action over Taiwan if and when Xi Jinping so chooses.
ZAKARIA: So, how did we get here? If one were to -- if Rip Van Winkle were to have gone to sleep when Obama was having that meeting in Sunnylands with Xi Jinping and they take their jackets off and they walk together. It seemed like, yes, a complicated relationship, some of the stuff they were talking about was China's economic espionage and U.S. support for Taiwan but manageable. And from there we're now at what seems like the beginning of a new Cold War. What happened?
RUDD: I think two or three things, Fareed. The first is the balance of power between these two countries has really changed again over the last 10 years. China was becoming more powerful but the acceleration of the gap, or should I say the narrowing of the gap between China and the U.S. and military capabilities but also in aggregate economic size has actually caused China to conclude it has an ability now to project its own interests and values in a way in which it didn't see as possible before.
The second big change, however, I think is Xi Jinping himself. In the dynamic of Xi's leadership is a changed driver in itself. Ideologically he's a Marxist-Leninists. He's a much more dedicated advocate of an assertive foreign security policy. And you see him pushing the trajectory and accelerating the velocity of China's shall we say moment in the global sun. And then, third, the United States has pushed back.
ZAKARIA: I wanted to ask you about that. Because the other big shift that took place since then was the election of Donald Trump. And a much, much tougher foreign policy, first economically and then -- what do you think happened? Watching it from the outside as it were as an Australian, what strikes you about why and how did America change?
RUDD: Well, if you look at late term Obama, there were already some changes. Remember President Obama was responsible for the pivot to Asia. Remember President Obama initiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership which if you like was a way of bringing the free economies of Asia together under American leadership dealing with emerging economic monolith which was China. But you're right, things did radically change under Donald Trump.
The reasons for it, I think, driven essentially in the first instance by the view of the Trump administration on trade that this was a net loser for the United States. That jobs had been sacrificed and they galvanized a series of reservations already alive in the American debate which caused the launching of the trade war of 2018-19.
And then of course the turbo charging influence of COVID and the Wuhan origins and where that took the relationship. So that then you had the formal proclamation of a new doctrine of strategic competition by the then national security advisor H.R. McMaster. So, this was a rapid transition during Trump but the beginnings of it in late Obama.
ZAKARIA: So next on GPS, questions swirl about whether China might supply arms to Russia for its war in Ukraine. If that happened, it would change the course of the war and perhaps of world order. I will ask Kevin Rudd whether he thinks it will happen when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And we are back here on GPS talking about relations between Beijing and Washington with Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia, soon to become Canberra's ambassador to Washington.
So, Kevin, help us understand China's calculation with regard to Ukraine. Does it help China to have Russia in this war? I mean, it feels like it is a -- it is a -- the war is not going particularly well for Russia but how does China view this war?
RUDD: You know, often looking from the outside, we think what is in this for China? China is at risk of shredding its international reputation by being too close to Putin's invasion of Ukraine, not insufficiently independent, et cetera.
If you look at this relationship, however, through the Beijing lens or through the Xi Jinping lens, it is really important to see this, from his strategic view having Russia on side with China for the long-term is a fundamental importance. For most of their 400 year history as you know as a student of this, it has been a heavily armed border no longer have to do -- there's no longer 18 Soviet divisions on the other side of the border.
China can focus all of its military activity and resources and planning to the maritime theater, its principal future adversary to the United States. I think the other thing in Xi Jinping's calculus is the Russians from time to time will provide rolling strategic distractions for the United States and other theaters. Syria, some time ago, and now, of course, in Ukraine.
Again causing the United States to be focusing in multiple directions at once. China has one direction to focus on.
ZAKARIA: And wouldn't you add -- I mean, it also gives China-Russia as a kind of junior partner, some would say a vassal states, that is -- we forget one of the world's largest producers of energy, oil, coal, natural gas and China needs that desperately.
RUDD: Absolutely. It provides secure access, reliable access and --
ZAKARIA: Cheap prices.
RUDD: -- discounted prices. Free steak knives thrown in in order to have access to Russia's oil, gas but also agriculture commodities where they are available and applicable. So, you put that mix together from Xi's perspective, I don't want to do anything, he would say in his own mind, to jeopardize that. Furthermore, the last thing that he could ever see from his own interest point of view would be to sit back and see Putin fail fundamentally, let alone Putin collapse in Russia itself.
ZAKARIA: So, will China supply arms to Russia?
RUDD: This is the $6,000 question. I've read carefully what the United States' administration have said now through multiple officials, secretary of state, secretary of treasury, et cetera, about -- and the director of the CIA, about real intelligence on these matters. If you read carefully the text, decisions have not yet been taken.
What is my gut? In terms of where China is at present, unless they were to concluding internally that there was a danger of Putin actually losing and actually coming under massive pressure in terms of his own position back home, I do not see that it is in China's interest now to cross that line either directly through providing military material directly to the Russians, or cleverly through third parties as it has often been suggested.
ZAKARIA: You know, you -- at the end of your book, which is really terrific, you talk about the need for managed strategic competition between the United States and China. It seems we're far from that right now. We seem to be going into a world where China is going to quadruple its nuclear arsenal, where this actually be in a new nuclear age which could be quite unstable with very little, by the way, of arms control talks and treaties. What would you advise Washington to do to bring things back on track?
RUDD: If we were have, I think, Chancellor Scholz here or President Macron, or we were have President Yoon in Korea or Prime Minister Kishida in Japan, I think the general view would be to the superpowers, both of these superpowers, finding a mechanism to restabilize the relationship. New strategic guardrails to reduce the risk of crisis, conflict and war by accident.
And if they're looking for a precedent, and you're a student of international relations history, remember after the near-death experience of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets and the United States for the subsequent 30 years never ever got close to the abyss again. They developed a series of common protocols including the Helsinki Accords in 1975.
So, I think there is a view across many countries that taking this temperature down is in the world's interest, it's in allies' interests, and it's also in the interest of China's closest friends and partners as well.
ZAKARIA: Is it in order to try to help move things along those lines that you've decided to take this new job? You are say former prime minister, you have a terrific job, you have traveled the world, is that why you're doing this?
RUDD: No, it is the climate in Washington. I just love the sunshine. No, my prime minister, who has been a friend and colleague for years in Australian politics asked me, and so did the foreign minister. But I think their interest like mine and their anxiety like mine is this is starting to become dangerous.
And Australia is one of America's oldest treaty allies. We've been in the trenches with the United States in I think all of America's major wars in the 20th century and into the 21st century, even some of the crazy ones. And so working closely with the administration and the guidance of the government in Canberra is about dealing with the granularity of deterrence, dealing with the granularity of mechanisms to reduce the risk of crisis, conflict and war by accident as well as the roles and responsibility of allies. So, of course as an ambassador I'm promoting the Australia national interest in business and security and defense and all that. And I'll be doing that happily as well. But I think we're living in dangerous times, my friend. Really dangerous times and I think it is times for all hands to the pump.
ZAKARIA: Well, I'm delighted to have you on, Kevin. I'm also delighted because my guess is that this being your exit interview, from now on you'll be speaking in diplomatic banalities and I will not get something this interesting out of you. Thank you.
Next on GPS, the power of AI is certain to supercharge big tech to the detriment of at least one other vital industry, ours. I'll explain when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. Ever since the dawn of the internet, there has been a struggle between technology companies and media companies. While big tech's platforms provide users with easy access to journalism, news organizations complain that despite getting more traffic, they received very little by way of revenue from those clicks. It is a war that the news industry has mostly lost resulting in the free fall of thousands of newspapers, magazine and Web sites over the last three decades.
Well, the struggle is revving up again. Canada's Senate is considering a bill that would make big tech sites like Facebook and Google finally pay publishers for displaying news content online. In response, Google removed links to news articles from its search engine for up to four percent of the country's population. The company has framed this move as a way to temporarily test the impact of the so-called Online News Act. But Ottawa sees things differently and has now summoned the tech giant's executives to testify before parliament.
Several countries including the United States have similar laws under consideration right now. And Australia actually passed one in 2021. But a game-changer is on the horizon. Generative AI may soon disrupt how we consume and search for content on the internet and new laws may not solve for the next set of challenges.
A few months ago I told you about OpenAI's new chatbot ChatGPT. It can hold conversations and convincingly mimic human writing. It had and frankly still has some major flaws when it comes to accuracy. But AI has the power to bring superpowers to search engines, vastly improving their ability to respond to questions from you and me.
This is why Microsoft has been keen to incorporate this technology into its previously marginal search engine Bing. This version of Bing response to user queries by delivering conversational answers to questions drawing its responses from synthesizing and paraphrasing other online media.
It may list footnotes at the end of its response but its answers are often so self-contained and complete that there is very little incentive for users to continue on to the source of the information. If you get a well synthesized answer to your question, why would you bother to click on the footnotes at the end of the answer to see the two or three sources on which that synthesis is based?
As "The Economist" recently pointed out, new AI chatbots can even reach behind pay walls. In today's search engine landscape, "A user trying to find the New York Times's recipe for macaroni and cheese will be stopped by a demand for payment and subscription. But ask Bing's AI and it serves up a paraphrased version of the whole recipe, complete with a licking-lips emoji."
ChatGPT enabled Bing isn't available to the public yet and Microsoft has some serious work cut out for itself before an official launch can happen. The program still struggles with accuracy and it has been known to act, well, a bit unhinged. But make no mistake, AI chatbots are coming. Google announced plans to enhance its search feature with its own AI powered chatbot called Bard. And China's tech company Baidu says it will release Ernie Bot after further internal testing.
Publishers could be left scrambling. For years, journalists including here at CNN have labored over search engine optimization in order to draw eyeballs to their content and therefore to their advertisers. Other news organizations have opted to bring in users by controlling their editorial standards, by writing click bait to appeal to the algorithm, bending in every which way with the hopes of enticing someone away from the endless scrolling.
No one can agree on just how much money the tech industry has already siphoned from journalism in the past two decades but chatbots will likely be devastating to its click driven economy. New laws could help. In just over a year, Australia has gotten Google and Facebook to pay media companies their more than $140 million for using their news content. "The Guardian" alone has added 50 journalists to its newsroom down under.
It is always good to remember that AI chatbots don't actually know anything. They learn it from existing knowledge created by human beings. In this case, journalists. If those human beings didn't exist, the chatbots would have nothing to say.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.