The Gist

  • Generative AI: Always on Google's mind: Google CEO Sundar Pichai has asked employees to help pressure test the company's AI chatbot, Bard, by committing two to four hours of their time to improve the product.
  • Who cares ChatGPT scooped us? Despite the intense competition in the AI search engine industry, Pichai has emphasized the importance of responsible progress and building a great product, developing it responsibly. He also highlighted the need to proceed cautiously and that being first does not always mean being the best.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai needs help. And in an internal memo leaked Wednesday, he asked Googlers to provide it by committing two to four hours of their time to “pressure test Bard and make the product better.”

Pichai publicly unveiled Bard, Google’s AI chatbot, an apparent rival to ChatGPT technology, on Feb. 6 in a post to the company’s blog. But he noted that it would only be available to “trusted testers” ahead of wider public launch “in the coming weeks.”

On Wednesday, news outlets viewed a leaked company memo, in which Pichai told Googlers he was “excited” to open up Bard “for an internal dogfood to help us get it ready for launch.”

Dogfooding is a term used to describe the act of using (or consuming) your own product or service — and Pichai said he currently has “thousands of external and internal testers testing Bard's responses for quality, safety and groundedness in real-world information.”

The AI Search Bot Battle: Google Says It's 'Uncomfortably Exciting'

On the heels of major movement in the AI search engine battle, the world’s most popular search engine Google finds itself in a foot race with Microsoft’s new AI-enhanced Bing, all while keeping one eye on recent developments within China’s main search engine, Baidu.

But despite the pressure, in the memo Pichai continues to emphasize “responsible” progress, writing that “the most important thing we can do right now is to focus on building a great product and developing it responsibly.”

“I know this moment is uncomfortably exciting, and that's to be expected: the underlying technology is evolving rapidly with so much potential,” Pichai’s memo said. “This will be a long journey – for everyone, across the field. The most important thing we can do right now is to focus on building a great product and developing it responsibly.”

Related Article: Google's Bard Generative AI Still in Experimental Phase; Launch Imminent

Learning Opportunities

Wild Few Months for AI: How We Got Here

Ok, so, pay close attention because this may get confusing. Here are the major AI developments since November:

  • On Nov. 30, OpenAI introduced the world to its natural language processing (NLP) model ChatGPT, the AI chatbot that answers questions, admits mistakes and composes articles. Within five days the program had more than 1 million users
  • On Jan. 23, Microsoft announced it would become OpenAI’s exclusive cloud provider as part of a multi-year, multi-billion extended partnership in which Microsoft promised increased public access to advanced AI models including GPT-3.5, Codex, DALL-E 2 — and eventually ChatGPT, which could position Microsoft to challenge Google as the search engine of choice.
  • On Feb. 6, Google unveiled its rival to ChatGPT, when Pichai introduced Bard, its AI-powered search chatbot technology. Google shared a demo of Bard from its official Twitter account that same day.
  • On Feb. 7, as one of the many to see Google’s demo a day earlier, astrophysicist Grant Tremblay spotted an error in Bard’s assertion that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) took the “very first pictures” of an exoplanet outside our solar system. He tweeted, “Not to be a ~well, actually~ jerk, and I'm sure Bard will be impressive, but for the record: JWST did not take "the very first image of a planet outside our solar system.” This was all confirmed by NASA.
  • Also on Feb. 7, Microsoft publicly announced its new AI-powered Bing search engine. And — not to be out done, that same day — Baidu, China’s search giant, tweeted that ERNIE Bot, its own answer to ChatGPT was “making significant progress.”
  • Then, on Feb. 8, during a live-streamed announcement event that many assumed would include a limited public release of Bard, Google execs noted that Bard was still in an "experimental phase"— and a wider public launch of Bard will likely occur “in the coming weeks.”
  • By market close on Feb. 8, Alphabet’s stock fell by 9%, losing $100 billion in market value.
  • On Feb. 10, CNBC reported that Googlers had taken to the internal meme generator Memegen, to criticize CEO Sundar Pichai, for his handling of the Bard announcement, calling it “rushed,” “botched” and “un-Googley,” according to messages and memes viewed by the news outlet. 

Related Article: Check Out CMSWire's New Column on AI

Google Puts Focus on Responsibility Ahead of Being First

During Alphabet’s 2022 Q4 earnings call on Feb. 2, Pichai made it clear AI advancements would be pursued “boldly, but with a deep sense of responsibility.”

Bard is powered by Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) and last year, the company faced scrutiny after one Googler who had signed up to test LaMDA, was fired after insisting the tech was sentient following a claim LaMDA had stated, “I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.”

So, perhaps proceeding cautiously is Pichai’s priority. As his memo reminded Googlers, being first doesn’t always mean being best.

“Some of our most successful products were not first to market,” Pichai wrote. “They gained momentum because they solved important user needs and were built on deep technical insights. Over time, we earned user trust and more people began to rely on them.”

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