Google execs tell employees in a tense meeting with all hands that Bard AI isn’t just about search


Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google Inc., speaks at the Google I/O Developers Conference in Mountain View, California, US, on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Google executives continue to deal with the fallout from last month’s clumsy announcement of Bard, the company’s artificial intelligence engine, but their efforts to clean up the mess are creating even more confusion among staff.

In an all-hands meeting on Thursday, executives answered questions from Dory, the company’s internal forum, with most of the top-rated issues pertaining to priorities surrounding Bard, according to audio obtained by CNBC. It is the first company-wide meeting since then Google employees criticized the leadership, especially CEO Sundar Pichai, for how it handled the announcement of Bard, Google’s ChatGPT competitor.

Wall Street has penalized Google parent Alphabet for Bard’s rollout, driving its stock lower amid concerns that the company’s core search engine is at risk of being replaced as consumers eventually turn to AI-powered answers that allow for more conversational and creative answers to make. Employees called Google’s first public presentation “rushed,” “failed,” and “un-Google-like.”

Jack Krawczyk, the product lead for Bard, made his all-hands debut Thursday, answering Dory’s next question, which was watched by CNBC.

“Bard and ChatGPT are big language models, not knowledge models. They’re great at generating human-sounding text, they’re not great at making sure their text is fact-based. Why do we think the big first application Search must be, who is at heart about finding true information?

Krawczyk responded by immediately saying, “I just want to be very clear: Bard is not a seeker.”

“It’s an experiment that is a collaborative AI service that we talked about,” Krawczyk said. “The magic we find in using the product is actually being this creative companion to help you be the spark for imagination, explore your curiosity, etc.”

But Krawczyk was quick to respond by saying, “We can’t prevent users from trying to use it as search.”

He said Google is still targeting people who want to use it for search, indicating that the company has built a new feature for internal use called “Search It.”

“We’re going to try to get better at generating the associated queries, and also at passing on our trust to users,” Krawczyk said. He added that users will see a tab that says “view other drafts,” which would steer people away from search-like results.

“But because you want to do more search-centric journeys, we already have a product for that — it’s called search,” he said.

The attempt to unlink Bard from search seemed to mark a turning point in the initial strategy, based on what employees told CNBC and internal memes circulating over the past few weeks. Leading up to the Bard announcement, Google executives repeatedly said the technology the company was developing internally would be integrated with search.

Several Google employees, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak on the matter, told CNBC executives’ inconsistent responses have led to more confusion.

Elizabeth Reid, vice president of engineering for search, echoed Krawczyk’s comments on Thursday, focusing on the company’s extensive use of large language models (LLMs).

“Like Jack said, Bard is really separate from search,” Reid said. “We have a pretty long history of bringing LLMs into search,” she said, citing models named Bert and Mom.

But as the company experiments with LLMs, it wants to “keep the core of what search is,” Reid said.

In Google’s announcement last month, search was mentioned several times.

“We’re working to bring these latest AI advancements into our products, starting with Search,” the company said in a blog post.

That same week, Google search boss Prabhakar Raghavan unveiled some new examples of using Bard in search at an event in Paris. And after the announcement, company executives urged all employees to help by spending a few hours testing Bard and rewriting wrong answers, citing a “major responsibility to get it right.”

CNBC also previously reported that the company was testing several Bard-integrated home search page designs.

Another top-rated question on Thursday asked Pichai for various use cases for Bard, as Google employees were asked to help search and “rewrite queries with factual information.”

“It’s important to recognize that it’s experimental,” Pichai said in his response. “It’s super important to also recognize the limitations of these products.” He has addressed those limits in the past.

Pichai said that with Bard you “uncover the ability for users to talk to LLMs,” which will improve over time. “And obviously we’re product engineering on top of that,” he said.

“Products like this get better as more people use them,” Pichai said. “It’s a positive spiral.”

‘It’s a tough time’

Following Google’s launch of Bard in February, Alphabet’s share price fell nearly 9%, suggesting investors were hoping for more in the face of growing competition from Microsoft, a major investor in ChatGPT maker OpenAI.

Employees know well how the introduction has been received.

“The first public demo was demoralizing, sent our stock into a nosedive and provoked massive media attention,” read an employee commentary by Dory read aloud. Then came the question, “What really happened?” and the request to “please share your candid thoughts on what went wrong with the launch of the Bard.”

Pichai referred the answer to Krawczyk, who danced around the subject without offering a direct answer.

“Questions like these can be fair and we want to reiterate that Bard has not launched,” Krawczyk said. “We’ve recognized the world that this is something we’re experimenting with — we’re testing it. But there’s a lot of excitement in the industry right now.”

Krawczyk also referred to an event held at from Microsoft headquarters that week, showing the company how OpenAI’s technology can power Bing’s search results and other products.

“You see, ChatGPT’s stories coincide with an event we have that was actually focused on search,” Krawczyk said. “There may be challenges around external perception, but as you heard today, we’re continuing to focus on Bard’s testing.”

Krawczyk added that Google is excited to get the technology “in users’ hands to capture their creativity.”

Pichai agreed, saying, “It’s an intense time.”

“The point of the blog post was that once we decided we were going to external trusted testers, things could leak and it was important that we post it,” Pichai said. “We haven’t launched the product yet. And when we do launch it, we will of course make it clear that it’s an experimental product.”

Pichai said the company hopes to provide more details after Google IO, its annual developer conference. Google has not yet announced any dates for the event.

Another top-rated employee comment from Dory said, “Launching AI seems like a knee-jerk response with no strategy.”

Pichai began his response by noting that Google spends more money on AI research and development than any other company.

“I don’t agree with the premise of this question,” he said with a laugh. “We have been working intensively on AI for a long time. You’re right in that we need to stay focused on users and make sure we’re building things that have an impact.” He said, “user input is going to be an important part of the process, so it’s important to get it right. ”

Jeff Dean, head of artificial intelligence at Google LLC, speaks at a Google AI event in San Francisco, California, US, on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Jeff Dean, Google’s AI chief, was called out by Pichai at the all-hands meeting to answer a question about the company’s loss of top talent. Specifically, the question was why Google lost so many key people listed on a paper about prominent architecture used for AI.

“I think it’s important to realize that this is a super competitive field,” said Dean. “People with these kinds of skills are in high demand.”

Dean said Google has “two of the best AI research teams in the world” and “people working side-by-side to advance the state of AI.”

Despite the competition in the marketplace, “we have the opportunity here to get things in the papers, but we can also work on products that touch millions of users every day,” Dean said.

Pichai added, “Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking to a number of people who want to join Google who are literally some of the best ML researchers and engineers in the world.”

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

WATCH: Google could have a second-mover advantage with its chatbot technology

Google could have a second-mover advantage with its chatbot technology, says Big Technology's Alex Kantrowitz

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here