Google’s Sundar Pichai: A CEO Under Siege

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai is under siege, with critics inside and outside of Google calling for his departure....
Google’s Sundar Pichai: A CEO Under Siege
Written by Matt Milano
  • Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai is under siege, with critics inside and outside of Google calling for his departure.

    Sundar Pichai replaced Larry Page as Alphabet and Google CEO in late 2019, with the founders expressing their confidence in the executive. Pichai helped guide the company through the tumultuous days of the pandemic and has been leading its efforts to embrace ground-breaking technology.

    Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, Google has appeared rudderless at times, drifting from one thing to another while rivals—both old and new—upstage it. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the realm of AI.

    Despite having a years-long head start, thanks to its AI-focused DeepMind division, Google was ultimately upstaged by OpenAI. ChatGPT—not a Google-developed AI—introduced the world to generative AI and Microsoft, OpenAI’s biggest backer, was quick to capitalize on the tech and use it as the basis for its Copilot.

    To make matters worse, Google’s efforts to catch up to OpenAI have been disastrous, with the company stumbling from one issue to another. Concerns over ethics, in relation to the company’s AI development efforts, were exacerbated by the firing of its AI ethics co-leads, Dr. Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, leading many to believe AI ethics is taking a backseat within the company.

    See Also: Google Employees Say Bard AI Is ‘Cringe-Worthy,’ Could Lead to ‘Injury or Death’

    In addition to the company’s AI failings, Pichai has faced intense criticism for overseeing Alphabet/Google’s first-ever mass layoffs, something many Googlers thought would never happen. Pichai’s $226 million payday amid the layoffs had many Googlers likening him to Shrek villain Lord Farquaad.

    Read More: Googlers Liken CEO to Shrek Villain Over Pay Raise Amid Layoffs

    Reports of what’s going on inside Google paint the picture of a company that has lost its way and is spiraling. One employee told Big Technology’s Alex Kantrowitz that morale was the lowest they had ever seen.

    “Organizationally at this place, it’s impossible to navigate and understand who’s in rooms and who owns things,” one member of Google’s Trust and Safety team told Kantrowitz. “Maybe that’s by design so that nobody can ever get in trouble for failure.”

    For some, enough is enough. Helios Capital founder, Samir Arora, is saying Pichai should resign or be fired, according to

    “My guess is he (Sundar Pichai) will be fired or resign- as he should,” said Arora. “After being in the lead on AI he has completely failed on this and let others take over.”

    Similarly, Stratechery newsletter author Ben Thompson called out Google’s need for “transformation,” saying it “must mean removing those who let the former run amok, up to and including CEO Sundar Pichai.”

    Interestingly, Google co-founder Sergey Brin issued his own apology for the latest Gemini snafu, in which the AI gave incredibly inaccurate answers, such as depicting Nazis as people of color. Brin had already found it necessary to return to Google to help the company develop an answer to ChatGPT, but he evidently found it necessary to issue an apology for Gemini’s failure…despite Pichai already issuing one.

    Is it possible Brin’s apology is the first indication that Google’s co-founders are losing their faith in the executive they picked?

    Can Pichai right the ship and save his job? Only time will tell. In the meantime, the CEO is clearly under siege and likely has a limited amount of time to regain the trust he has lost.

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