Google’s employees continue to criticize the company’s AI efforts, calling Bard AI “cringe-worthy” and saying its answers could lead to “serious injury or death.”
Microsoft jumped to an early lead in the AI wars thanks to its investment in OpenAI. Google has been working on playing catch-up, but its efforts have not gone well. Bard AI flubbed a question during its debut, resulting in $1 billion being knocked off of Alphabet’s stock value. CEO Sundar Pichai even warned that “things will go wrong” with Bard.
It appears that’s exactly what’s happening, according to a new report by Bloomberg. Employees are slamming Bard AI, calling it “cringe-worthy” and “a pathological liar.” In fact, Bard’s answers to some questions, such as about scuba diving, that employees say listening to it “would likely result in serious injury or death.”
Google appears to be largely ignoring issues and concerns, consumed with its efforts to beat Microsoft. Chief among those concerns that are taking a backseat is the ethics of AI development.
“AI ethics has taken a back seat,” said Meredith Whittaker, president of the Signal Foundation and a former Google manager, told Bloomberg. “If ethics aren’t positioned to take precedence over profit and growth, they will not ultimately work.”
Unfortunately, Google’s ability to put ethics first has been crippled by the company’s own actions, firing its AI ethics co-leads, Dr. Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell. The company’s actions were met with widespread condemnation, both inside and outside the company. A number of engineers quit over the firings, researchers shunned its funding, and a prominent ethics conference suspended Google’s sponsorship.
Google’s habit of playing fast and loose with AI ethics appears to be continuing, with Bloomberg reporting that Google’s AI developers have been siloed, with the flow of information restricted. What’s more, the company has imposed community guidelines on internal communication channels. While the move was made under the guise of reducing toxicity, many employees believe it’s an effort to control the dialog regarding Bard.
“There is a great amount of frustration, a great amount of this sense of like, what are we even doing?” Mitchell said. “Even if there aren’t firm directives at Google to stop doing ethical work, the atmosphere is one where people who are doing the kind of work feel really unsupported and ultimately will probably do less good work because of it.”
In a previous article, WPN made the case that, regardless of its past success winning the search wars, Google has significant challenges ahead as it engages in the AI wars. The more information comes out, as we said then, the more it looks like the AI and AI-driven search market are Microsoft’s to lose.