Image credit : Search Engine Land
AI tech like ChatGPT and Bing AI is the talk of the town these days, but before they flourished and made their way into every system, big techs like Google were already toying with the idea, having done years of research and development. Google soon released Bard, a LaMDA-powered AI, to keep up with the trend and also to continue its multiple years of work in the field. But it seems like the story goes farther back to 2020 when Google had been playing around with the concept of conversational AIs, which was way before ChatGPT even originated.
According to a few credible sources, Google was contemplating making the chatbox, Bard AI, available to the public, but in a limited way. The creators of LaMDA, which was originally called Meena, were pressing the higher-up officials to integrate their creation into technology such as search and Google Assistant. However, the executives responded warily that “the chatbot did not meet the company policies on AI safety and fairness.”
To be fair, the tech giant had reason to be wary. Microsoft’s own advancement toward conversational AI, Tay.ai on Twitter in 2017 came to a perfunctory end after the chatbot displayed highly offensive and problematic tendencies. Meanwhile, at Google, ethical concerns over how the research was conducted inevitably led to conflicts between staff and management. “A number of notable dismissals have resulted including that of Dr. Timnit Gebru, a prominent Black voice on the subject, in 2020, and Blake Lemoine, who infamously dubbed LaMDA as “sentient,” last year.”
To add salt to the barely-healing wounds, Meena’s creators, Daniel De Freitas and Noam Shazeer, departed Google in 2021 and initiated their own AI company. Although the pair declined to comment on the story, a Google spokesperson told The Journal that “prototypes are a long ways off from a reliable product that’s safe for the public to use.”
It is safe to say that Google would have had an enviable head start against OpenAI and Microsoft if it had chosen to launch Meena years ago. However, the ship has long since sailed past and Google is left grappling in the dark. All they can do to salvage their past glory is to put all their hopes on Bard.