A new report reveals why Google resisted launching its AI chatbot

Mar 9, 2023, 8:56 AM UTC
2 mins read
A new report reveals why Google resisted launching its AI chatbot
(Image Credit: Google)

According to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal, Google built an AI chatbot called LaMDA two years ago, but it was never launched to the public. The chatbot, which was initially called Meena, was created by two ex-Google engineers, Daniel De Freitas and Noam Shazeer, with the goal of developing a conversational chatbot that could mimic human speech.

The chatbot was designed to generate puns about horses and cows, engage in philosophical arguments, and converse casually about TV shows. De Freitas and Shazeer believed that their creation could revolutionize the way people search online. However, their efforts to launch the chatbot hit a snag after Google executives said that it did not adhere to the company’s AI safety and fairness standards.

Despite CEO Sundar Pichai personally requesting that the engineers continue working on the chatbot, De Freitas and Shazeer decided to leave Google and start their own company, Character.Ai. The company has since released a chatbot that can roleplay as figures like Elon Musk or Nintendo‘s Mario.

Google has been known to be hesitant about releasing its AI tools in the past due to ethical concerns around mass surveillance. In 2018, Google ended its project to use its AI tech in military weapons in response to employee backlash. However, the company’s chatbot, Bard, is expected to be released soon, even as discussions around whether it can be responsibly launched continue.

After the chatbot generated a factual error during its first public demo last month, Google employees were quick to criticize the announcement as “rushed” and “botched.” The company’s chairman, John Hennessy, agreed that the chatbot wasn’t “really ready for a product yet.”

Despite these setbacks, Pichai has asked all Google employees to spend time testing the product to ensure that it is ready for launch. “The most important thing we can do right now is to focus on building a great product and developing it responsibly,” he wrote in a memo to Google employees in February.

The development of AI chatbots is a rapidly evolving field, and companies like Google are continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible. While there are certainly ethical concerns surrounding the use of AI, it is clear that chatbots have the potential to transform the way people search online and interact with technology. As companies like Google continue to innovate in this space, it will be important to balance the potential benefits of AI with its potential risks.

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