It feels like Google is currently playing catch-up when it comes to the ChatGPT-powered AI Microsoft introduced to Bing — but Google CEO Sundar Pichai says his company’s own Bard bot will soon become more capable.
In an interview with the NYTs Hard fork (opens in new tab) podcast (via The edge (opens in new tab)), Pichai said that Bard is currently like a “suppressed Civic” competing against “more powerful cars” — but also that Google has “more capable models” that will be deployed in the coming days.
“We knew we had to be careful when we took out Bard,” Pichai said. “Since this was our first time going out, we wanted to see what kind of questions we would get. We positioned it carefully, of course.”
According to Google’s CEO, a better PaLM (Pathways language model) versions of the Bard chatbot will roll out “over the course of next week”. That means Bard gets noticeably better at reasoning, coding, and other areas.
Slowly and steadily
Pichai’s general tone was a mixture of caution in terms of experimenting with what Bard could do, and excitement about where it might eventually end up. These “very, very powerful technologies” can be personalized for companies and people, Pichai said.
The Google executive also addressed data privacy concerns and concerns about the pace at which AI engines like Bard and ChatGPT are advancing. Some of the most prominent voices in technology have called for a six-month pause in artificial intelligence development.
Pichai welcomes this kind of discussion and wants governments to legislate: “AI is too important an area not to regulate,” he told the podcast. “It’s also too important an area not to regulate properly. So I’m glad these conversations are underway.”
The interview also touched on a number of other areas, including how AI could impact jobs (“we all may need to correct course in certain areas”) and the content posted on the web (“we will be committed to to get right with the publisher’s ecosystem”).
Analysis: lots of big questions
This latest podcast interview shows how many big questions there are right now about AI: how it will impact data privacy, the kinds of jobs it could make obsolete, the impact it will have on publishers like Google and Bing shops are, and so on.
To be fair to Pichai, he handled those questions very wisely, but that’s not necessarily a guarantee that some of the concerns we have about AI will go away. We are facing a giant shift in the way we live our lives and get our information from the internet.
Pichai admitted that the technology will be “incredibly beneficial” but also has “the potential to wreak havoc in a deep way.” It’s good to acknowledge that, but companies like Google are driven by profit and making money over any sense of moral obligation.
At least a conversation takes place. “This is going to take a lot of debate,” Pichai said. “Nobody knows all the answers. No company can do it right. Am I concerned? Yes. Am I optimistic and excited about all the possibilities of this technology? Incredible.”