Google Bard’s Public Mistake Worries Investors
Google’s chatbot Bard, a conversational service for search, on Wednesday shared inaccurate information in a promotional video suggesting that Alphabet, the company’s parent, is losing ground to rival Microsoft.
Bard’s error was discovered just prior to Google’s presentation.
As of 10 a.m. pacific, Alphabet’s stock price had dropped 5.36% to $94.04. On Tuesday the stock peaked at around $107.64.
“It showcases that while we are lightyears more advanced than the days of ‘Ask Jeeves’ question and answer response, we are nowhere near fully trusting an answer received from any form of digital assistant,” said Matthew Mierzejewski, SVP, search capability leadMerkle.
Mierzejewski said the larger long-term threat to Google’s model lies in the potential for users to want responses for informational- and research-based queries to be presented without advertisements intermixed the results.
“Take, for example, a query for ‘how to form a living will’ on both Google and ChatGPT. Will users start to wonder if they really need an ad from LegalZoom as an answer to this question. ChatGPT provides a bulleted list of actions and steps directly, with no need for ads. That evolution could be quite disruptive, but ultimately users will decide.”
Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai posted a blog on Monday explaining how the company will launch a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) service and shortly after the company posted a short GIF about Bard on Twitter, promising it would help simplify complex topics. It instead delivered an inaccurate answer.
“While Google has been a leader in AI innovation over the last several years, they seemed to have fallen asleep on implementing this technology into their search product,” Gil Luria, senior software analyst at D.A. Davidson, told Reuters. “Google has been scrambling over the last few weeks to catch up on Search and that caused the announcement (February 13, 2023) (Tuesday) to be rushed and the embarrassing mess up of posting a wrong answer during their demo.”
Bard’s question in the announcement, “What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can I tell my 9-year-old about?” prompted a response with several answers, including one suggesting the JWST was used to take the very first pictures of a planet outside the Earth’s solar system or exoplanets.
Reuters points out that the first pictures of exoplanets were taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 2004, as confirmed by NASA.
A Google spokesperson told Reuters the mistake highlights the importance of “rigorous testing,” and that’s why the company will use a Trusted Tester program and combine that with internal testing.
Reportedly Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page will become more involved with this project to accelerate efforts.
The error was spotted hours before Google hosted its launch event from Paris, where senior executive Prabhakar Raghavan promised users would interact with information in “entirely new ways.”
The Financial Times reported that the blunder “erased approximately $50bn of market value not because of an astronomical blind spot but because we, mere meatsacks, were collectively unable to understand its answer.”