Google bets on “responsible” AI for the next 25 years

Alain McKenna

May 12, 2023


Officially, Canada and the countries of the European Union are not among the 180 national markets in which Google’s Bard dialoguer arrives these days. The question arises: is Google concerned that the legislative frameworks being adopted in their territory will reduce its access to digital data? Nay, assures the CEO. from Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, who instead wants to become a world leader in these emerging technologies in the longer term.

“We will definitely launch our AI products in these countries. They are some of the most important parts of the world for us, but you have to consider a combination of factors,” Sundar Pichai first explained to a handful of journalists who came from different countries to visit his company’s campus in Mountain. View, Calif., to attend its Google I/O conference.

Artificial intelligence and its impact on society was firmly the theme of this edition of the annual conference primarily intended for creators of applications and services that use Google technology. The Californian techno giant presented versions of its AI adapted to its cloud services, its office suite, its Android mobile system, its search engine and its mobile applications, including Google Maps.

A supervised AI

However, most of these new features are currently kept on a portal accessible by invitation only, called Google Labs, which contrasts somewhat with Google’s desire to get ahead of OpenAI and its technology, called ChatGPT, in this market still nascent generative AI. These are AIs capable of understanding and producing dozens of human, computer and other languages ​​as naturally as possible.

OpenAI made its technology public very quickly, which caused an impressive shock wave in several spheres of society. Google does not necessarily want such an impact. Especially not on its own business model, at the heart of which are online research and advertising.

At Google, Bard officially responds to ChatGPT. It’s kind of the tip of this huge iceberg of algorithms called PaLM (for “Pathways Language Models”), which are not very visible to the public, but which are very data and energy intensive. Bard is able to replace a more traditional search engine and answer a variety of questions from Internet users. This can range from shopping recommendations for an electric bike to a summary of the biography of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Bard is currently only available in English, Korean and Japanese. “Obviously with a product like Bard, we have to translate it first,” says Sundar Pichai. We have also raised the bar when it comes to accountability for the quality of the information we produce. If we need to perform reinforcement learning for example for our AI in these countries, we need to make sure that we also comply with local standards and requirements. »

“These standards vary from country to country at this time, but we are committed to adhering to them as required. »

25 years old, minimum

Casing nothing, Google will celebrate its 25th anniversary next September. The company was founded in 1998 and listed on the stock exchange six years later, in 2004. At the time, several analysts and investors doubted the long-term viability of its model. Over the years, however, Google has helped create the Internet as we know it today, which relies heavily on an ad offering that funds apps and websites that can usually be clicked on for free.

This “click economy”, as these same analysts and investors later dubbed it, seems threatened more than ever these days by those generative AIs that, like Bard and ChatGPT, bypass the click model and advertising to provide information to their users.

In public, senior management at Alphabet, Google’s parent company, says it’s not worried about this potential shift in how people consume information on the internet. Still, Sundar Pichai spoke more than once during Google I/O about the “inflection point” his company is currently going through with the emergence of AI.

In mathematics, an inflection point is identifiable on a graph when the trajectory of a curve bends suddenly, generally upwards. In business parlance, this point embodies when an emerging technology could become the next big driver of growth for a company or industry.

Sundar Pichai believes that Google’s all-AI shift, as repeatedly illustrated during its Google I/O conference, positions the company well to take advantage of emerging technology. “Our mission has always been to organize information to make it useful to people,” he says. When we started looking at AI, we saw it as an even more efficient way to fulfill this mission. We believe the inflection point is now and, for me, if we approach it responsibly, we will make AI useful for everyone and will be for the next 25 years. »

This report was produced at the invitation of Google Canada.

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