Artificial intelligence

Google executives warn of reputational risk with ChatGBT-like tool

Google Principal Researcher Jeff Dean speaks at an event in China in 2017.

Source: Chris Wong | Google

Google employees see all the buzz around ChatGPTthe artificial intelligence chatbot that went public in late November and quickly became a Twitter sensation.

Some of them are wondering where Google stands in the race to create sophisticated chatbots that can answer user queries. After all, Google’s core business is web search, and the company has long billed itself as an AI pioneer. Google’s conversation technology is called LaMDA, which stands for Language Model for Dialogue Applications.

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At a recent town hall meeting, employees raised concerns about the company’s competitive advantage in AI, given the sudden popularity of ChatGPT, which was launched by startup OpenAI. based in San Francisco and supported by Microsoft.

“Is this a missed opportunity for Google, given that we’ve had Lamda for a while?” read one of the top rated questions that came up in last week’s meeting.

CEO of Alphabet Sundar Pichai and Jeff Dean, the longtime head of Google’s AI division, responded to the question by saying the company has similar capabilities but the cost if something goes wrong would be higher because people have to trust the answers. they get from Google.

Billions of people around the world use Google’s search engine, while ChatGPT just passed the one million user mark in early December.

“It really fills a need that people seem to have, but it’s also important to realize that these models have certain kinds of issues,” Dean said.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Morgan Stanley published a report on the subject on Monday, examining whether ChatGPT is a threat to Google. Brian Nowak, senior banking analyst at Alphabet, wrote that the bear case for Google is that language models could take market share “and disrupt Google’s position as an entry point for people on the internet.” .

However, Nowak said the company is still confident in Google’s position as the company continues to improve search, while creating behavioral change is a huge hurdle for any new and competitive technology. Additionally, Google is “building similar natural language models such as LaMDA” and “we are looking for other products to come over time,” he wrote.

Sundar Pichai speaks onstage during day one of Vox Media’s Code 2022 conference in Beverly Hills, CA.

Jerod Harris | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Pichai said at the meeting that the company has “a lot” planned in space for 2023, and that “that’s an area where we have to be bold and responsible, so we have to balance that.”

In a tweet over the weekend, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman acknowledged that ChatGPT has limitations and that users need to be careful about how much they rely on the answers they get.

“It is a mistake to rely on it for anything important right now,” Altman wrote. “It’s a taste of progress, we have a lot of work to do on robustness and veracity.”

Google, which has a market cap of over $1.2 trillion, doesn’t have that luxury. Its technology has remained largely in-house so far, Dean told employees, pointing out that the company has a lot more “reputational risk” and is moving “more conservatively than a small startup.”

“We’re absolutely looking to get these things into real products and into things that highlight the language model more rather than under the covers, which is where we’ve used them so far,” Dean said. “But, it’s super important that we get it right.”

He went on to say “you can imagine that for research-type applications factuality issues are really important and for other applications bias, toxicity and safety issues are also paramount.”

Dean said the technology isn’t where it needs to be for large-scale deployment, and current publicly available models have issues.

AI “can invent things,” Dean said. “If they’re not really sure about something, they’ll just tell you that elephants are the animals that lay the biggest eggs or whatever,” he laughed.

Regarding Google’s internal chat tools that have been made available to employees, Dean said that during the pandemic “people were kind of chatting with the system for a while and having these engaging conversations” at the time of the lunch.

Pichai said 2023 will mark an “inflection point” in how AI is used for conversations and search.

“We can scale dramatically and ship new things,” he said.

Taking Google “for granted”

Employees had other concerns about Google Search.

The company leaves its slowest period of growth since 2013, apart from a period during the pandemic. Search revenue grew only 4% year over year, a slower rate of growth than the company’s overall ad business.

During the meeting, Pichai read aloud the following question: “With headlines like ‘Google search is dying’, it’s not what it used to be, how much do you care- is it, Sundar? And what is the understanding of the common thread behind these concerns and what can we do about them?”

“I think that’s a good question – I’ve read all the articles,” Pichai said. “The progress has been great, but it’s also true that people take everything we do for granted and you’re constantly looking to the future.”

Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president who leads Google’s Knowledge and Information organization, also responded. In July, Raghavan said publicly that Tiktok and Instagram have begun to eat away at Google’s share of the search market as younger consumers increasingly turn to search on visual platforms.

“It’s undeniable, we need to step up and respond and model those queries,” Raghavan told employees. “User expectations keep changing – they’re asking us for new things,” he said. “It is up to us to step up and meet the needs.”

Industry estimates still show that Google has at least 90% of the search market, and the company remains under the scrutiny of regulators. Executives have been more inclined lately to speak publicly about Google’s competition in a market where it’s been accused to operate a monopoly.

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