ChatGPT (opens in new tab) is the big thing in AI development these days, but it soon won’t be the only game in town. Google announced today that it’s launching its own AI chatbot very soon, an “experimental AI chat service” called Bard.
“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of knowledge of the world with the power, intelligence and creativity of our great language models,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in the announcement. (opens in new tab). “It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality answers. Bard can be an outlet for creativity and a launching pad for curiosity, helping you explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to a 9-year-old , or learn more about the best strikers in football right now and then do drills to develop your skills.”
Bard will be powered by a “lightweight” version of Google’s language model for dialog applications, also known as LaMDA. This will allow Bard to support more users and thus generate more comments, which will help ensure that the answers generated by Bard “meet a high level of quality, safety and groundedness (opens in new tab) to real-world information’.
As we’ve seen, this will be a real challenge for Bard’s developers, and not just because of the doomsday scenarios we’re used to seeing in sci-fi movies – although that’s obviously a concern (opens in new tab). A more pressing near-term problem is the tendency for AI software to go off the rails in some pretty awful ways: Last week, for example, 4chan users used an AI speech synthesis tool called Voice Lab to create audio clips celebrities making racist and homophobic statements (opens in new tab)and just today a popular AI Seinfeld bot was suspended from Twitch (opens in new tab) after making unexpected homophobic and transphobic jokes.
The underlying problem, in general, is very simple: AI is trained by humans, and we are not always the best teachers. But solving the problem is difficult because it’s not just the obvious cases of abuse that need to be addressed, like when Twitter crashed Microsoft’s Tay chatbot (opens in new tab) in less than a day. The same thing happened with Meta’s Blenderbot 3 chatbot (opens in new tab) just last year. Even advanced technology like ChatGPT is subject to the biases of its trainers (opens in new tab)which may have unexpected and undesired consequences.
Despite these difficulties, it’s no surprise that Google is jumping into the AI development game with both feet. Microsoft announced in January that it was making a “multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment (opens in new tab)to OpenAI, the company that develops ChatGPT and DALL-E, and reportedly wants to integrate ChatGPT technology into Bing’s search engine in order to provide more human answers to queries. If successful, it could help Bing stand out from Google search and potentially give it a significant advantage if Google isn’t able to respond with something similar.
Bard is now available to “trusted testers” and will be open to the public “in the coming weeks.”