Google executives warn that the company’s reputation could suffer if it moves too quickly on its smart chat technology

Senior Google Fellow Jeff Dean speaks at a 2017 event in China.

Source: Chris Wong | The Google

The Google Employees see all the hype around ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that was released to the public at the end of November and quickly became a buzz on Twitter.

Some of them are wondering where Google is in the race to create sophisticated chatbots that can answer users’ queries. After all, Google’s main business is web search, and the company has long billed itself as a leader in artificial intelligence. Google’s conversational technology is called LaMDA, which stands for Language Model for Dialog Applications.

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In a recent everyone’s meeting, employees raised concerns about the company’s competitive advantage in AI, given the sudden popularity of ChatGPT, launched by OpenAI, a San Francisco-based startup it backs. Microsoft.

“Is this a missed opportunity for Google, considering we’ve had lambdas for a while?” Read one of the top rated questions asked in last week’s meeting.

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

Billions of people around the world use the Google search engine, while ChatGPT surpassed 1 million users in early December.

“This really throws out the need that people seem to have but it’s also important to realize that these models have a certain kind of problem,” Dean said.

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

Morgan Stanley published a report on the subject on Monday, looking at whether ChatGPT is a threat to Google. The downside for Google is that language paradigms could take market share and “disrupt Google’s position as the entry point for people on the Internet,” wrote Brian Novak, senior bank analyst at Alphabet.

However, Novak said the company remains confident in Google’s position because 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 as LaMDA” and “we’re looking at more products coming in over time,” he wrote.

Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the first day of Vox Media’s 2022 Code conference in Beverly Hills, California.

Jerrod Harris | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Pichai said at the meeting that the company has “a lot” of planning in the space for 2023, and that “this is an area where we need 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 users should be careful about how much they rely on the answers they get.

“It would be a mistake to depend on her for anything important at the moment,” Altmann wrote. “It’s a preview of progress; we have a lot of work to do on robustness and honesty.”

Google, which has a market capitalization of more than $1.2 trillion, doesn’t have that luxury. Its technology has remained largely in-house so far, Dean told staff, emphasizing that the company has far more “reputational risks” and moves “more conservatively than a small startup.”

“We’re very much looking forward to getting these things out into real products and into things that more prominently feature the language model rather than under the covers, which is where we’ve used it so far,” Dean said. “But, it is very important that we get this right.”

“You can imagine for research-like applications, real-world issues are really important and for other applications, issues of bias, toxicity and safety are also of paramount importance,” he continued.

Dean said the technology is not where it needs to be for a large-scale rollout and that current publicly available models have issues.

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

Regarding the internal Google chat tools that were available to employees, Dean said that during a pandemic “people will kind of talk to the system for a while and have these engaging conversations” at lunchtime.

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

“We can grow exponentially as well as ship new things,” he said.

Taking Google “for granted”

The employees had other concerns about Google Search.

The company is emerging from its slowest period of growth since 2013, with the exception of one period during the pandemic. Search-related revenue increased just 4% from the prior year, which is a slower rate of growth than the company’s total ad activity.

At the meeting, Pichai read the following question out loud: “With headlines like ‘Google search is dying’, it’s never been the same, how worried are you, Sundar? What is understanding the common denominator behind these concerns and what can we do about them?”

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

Also reported is Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president who runs the Knowledge and Information Foundation at Google. In July, Raghavan said publicly that TikTok and Instagram had begun to eat up Google’s share of the search market as young consumers increasingly turned to search on visual platforms.

“There is no denying we have to step up and answer and represent these inquiries,” Raghavan told the staff. “User expectations are constantly evolving – they’re asking us for new things,” he said. “We have to step up and meet the needs.”

Industry estimates still show Google owns at least 90% of the search market, and the company remains under scrutiny from regulators. Executives have become more willing recently to speak out about competing with Google in a market that has been accused of operating a monopoly.

Watch: Alphabet is in a very good position at the moment

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