From Google’s perspective, Bard looks like a rush to compete with ChatGPT, and some Googlers agree. New report from Bloomberg Interviews 18 current and former employees and walks away with a bunch of judgmental comments and worries about the AI ethics teams being “powerless and demoralized” so that Google could kick the Bard out the door.
According to the report, Google employees tested a pre-release of Bard and then were asked to provide feedback, which was largely ignored, so that Bard could launch faster. Internal discussions viewed by Bloomberg called Bard “worthy of a jiggle” and a “pathological liar”. When asked how to land the plane, he gave incorrect instructions that would have led to the crash. One staff member asked for diving instructions and received a response that he said would “probably result in serious injury or death”. One of the employees described Bard’s problems in a February post titled “Bard is worse than useless: please don’t launch.” Bard launched in March.
You could probably say the same about the AI competitor Google is chasing, OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Both can give biased or false information and hallucinate wrong answers. Google is far behind ChatGPT, and the company is in a panic over ChatGPT’s ability to answer questions that people might otherwise type into Google searches. The creator of ChatGPT, OpenAI, has been criticized for its lax approach to AI safety and ethics. Now Google is in a difficult situation. If a company’s only concern is listing on the stock market and catching up with ChatGPT, it probably won’t be able to do so if it slows down ethics considerations.
Meredith Whittaker, former Google manager and president of the Signal Foundation, told Bloomberg that “the ethics of AI have taken a back seat” at Google and says that “if ethics aren’t prioritized over profit and growth, they end up not working.” In recent years, several of Google’s AI ethics leaders have been fired or left the company, Bloomberg reports that today, AI ethics reviews at Google are “almost entirely voluntary.”
While you could do something at Google to try and slow down releases due to ethical issues, it probably won’t be good for your career. The report says: “One of the former employees said that he asked to work on fairness in machine learning, and he was regularly dissuaded – to the point that it affected their assessment of performance. Managers protested that this interfered with their “real work”. “