Google employees criticize CEO for "dumpster fire" response to ChatGPT
When Google's ChatGPT competitor event was announced for last week, we wrote that it seemed like a rush job designed to reassure investors, and since then, that event happened and went worse than anyone could have imagined. Google's event did the opposite of what it wanted, with the stock down nearly 12 percent since the recent high just before the event. Even Google employees are starting to take notice, with CNBC's Jennifer Elias writing that, internally, employees are criticizing CEO Sundar Pichai for what they call a 'rushed, botched' announcement of Google's new chatbot.
CNBC says it was able to view several messages from Google's internal "Memegen" employee forum, and while these are normally lighthearted, the report says "the posts after the Bard announcement struck a more serious tone and even went directly after Pichai."
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Google announced the unveiling of a ChatGPT competitor last Wednesday but then made the bizarre decision to spoil that announcement with a blog post two days earlier. The reason, apparently, was that Microsoft had already sent out invites for the ChatGPT-powered 'New Bing' product launch for that Tuesday, preempting Google's announcement by a day, and Google wanted to preempt the preempters.
The two events were intertwined, but they could not have gone more differently. Microsoft announced the "New Bing" on Tuesday and launched a product. It has a lot of rate limits right now, but Bing + ChatGPT is out in the wild, where it will try to condense search results into a readable paragraph and answer questions. It's also integrated into the Microsoft Edge browser, where it can answer questions, help compose something, or summarize a page. It's a real product that people can try.
Google's Monday announcement of its "Bard" chatbot only gave an overview of Google's planned features, with details so vague that anyone could have written them (it's a chatbot inside Google chat that will answer questions!). Google's post included one example answer, and that answer proved to be wrong, earning it an embarrassing correction article in Reuters. The blog post has since been updated with a new example, but it highlighted AI's tendency to generate plausible-sounding but incorrect answers.
According to the CNBC report, one employee wrote that "Rushing Bard to market in a panic validated the market's fear about us." Another posted a picture of a dumpster fire with a Google logo on it, saying it was representative of "How everything's felt since last year." Another criticized how stock-focused the company seems to be lately, saying, "Firing 12k people rises the stock by 3%, one rushed AI presentation drops it by 8%."
The truly embarrassing thing for Google is that it invented the key technology that underpins ChatGPT. The "GPT" in ChatGPT stands for "Generative Pre-trained Transformer," with a "Transformer" being a neural network architecture that was invented and open-sourced by the Google Brain team in 2017. Back then, Google described Transformer as "particularly well suited for language understanding" but never created a product with the technology. ChatGPT's owner, OpenAI, turns AI research into products like ChatGPT and DALL-E that people can actually use, while Google keeps it locked away in a lab. The two events, one with a product launch and one without, only reinforced that narrative last week.