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Google asked for help from its founders Brin and Page due to the threat from ChatGPT.

Published: 2023-01-20

The exploding popularity of AI bots has pulled Google out of hibernation. Even the founders of the company, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who retired three years ago, are returning to work. And there are already twenty competing artificial intelligence (AI) projects in development.

Last month, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin returned to the company and held several meetings with executives. The reason for their return is the emergence of a real competitor for Google's $149 billion search business. That competitor is OpenAI's ChatGPT AI-based chatbot, released two months ago, so advanced that it became the first notable threat to Google in decades. The bot impressed users with how it simply explains complex issues, creates high-quality text and program code, and generates ideas from scratch. Even more terrifying to Google executives was the realization that ChatGPT could offer a new way to search for information on the Internet and leave the world's most influential information company out of business.

Page and Brin, who haven't spent much time at Google since they left their positions at the company in 2019, are now getting into Google's AI product strategy. They approved the plans and suggested ideas for adding more features from AI bots to the Google search engine. The re-engagement of Google's founders at the invitation of current CEO Sundar Pichai underscored the urgency of the issue.

The new ChatGPT technology so shocked the leadership of Google that Sundar Pichai announced a “red code”, turning over existing plans and launching the development of his own artificial intelligence. According to The New York Times, Google is set to introduce more than 20 new products and showcase an AI chatbot version of its search engine this year.

Google executives hope to restore their company's status as an AI pioneer. The company has been actively working on AI and is already testing a chatbot that could compete with ChatGPT called LaMDA, or Language Model for Dialogue Applications.

“We continue to test our AI internally to ensure it is useful and safe, and look forward to sharing our experience with the outside world soon,” Google spokeswoman Lily Lin said in a statement. She added that AI will benefit individuals, businesses and communities, and that Google is considering the technology's broader societal implications.

Ever since Page and Brin retired from day-to-day responsibilities, they have maintained a hands-off policy at Google. They gave Pichai carte blanche to run Google and its parent company Alphabet, while they themselves dabbled in other projects like flying car startups and disaster relief. Their visits to the company's Silicon Valley offices over the past few years have largely been to check on so-called successful projects. Back in 2008, developers showed Page an AI system for Gmail email. But then Larry showed no interest, remarking: “Why then does this AI of yours not write letters for you?”

But then the attitude towards AI at Google began to change. For example, back in 2014, Google acquired DeepMind, a leading artificial intelligence company with a research lab in London. True, this acquisition apparently did not benefit either Google or DeepMind, because no noticeable breakthroughs in the field of AI were made.

Google's Advanced Technology Review Board met less than two weeks after ChatGPT's debut to discuss the outlook. A plan was approved for the release of products that will be presented at a Google conference in May, including Image Generation Studio AI tool for creating and editing images, AI Test Kitchen 3 - an experimental application for testing product prototypes, and others. There are also technologies to help other businesses create their own AI. In May, Google plans to announce a tool that makes it easier to create apps for Android smartphones called Colab + Android Studio, which will generate, complete and fix code on its own. Another code generation and completion tool called PaLM-Coder 2 is also in development.

Google, OpenAI and other companies are developing their artificial intelligence systems based on the so-called “big language model”, which uses all available information from the Internet, so false statements, demonstration of racist, sexist and other biased views are possible. All these are serious reasons for the extremely cautious launch of new technologies. Celebrating the success of competitors, Google has introduced an accelerated review process called the Green Lane Initiative, incentivizing employees who are trying to ensure technology is fair and ethical to approve upcoming AI more quickly.

According to Google's analysis, its technology lags behind OpenAI's self-reported performance. In every category, OpenAI outperformed Google's tools, which also fell short of human accuracy in rating content. However, Google has a vision for how to make their tools better.

Google has listed copyright, privacy, and antitrust as the technology's top risks. The company believes actions such as filtering responses to exclude copyrighted material and blocking AI from receiving personally identifiable information are necessary to mitigate these risks. For the chatbot search demo that Google plans to host this year, getting the facts right, keeping it safe, and getting rid of misinformation is a priority.

According to the presentation, for other future services and products, the company has a lower bar and will try to curb the problems associated with hatred and toxicity, danger and misinformation, rather than prevent them. The company intends, for example, to block certain words to avoid hate speech and will try to minimize other potential issues.

Recently, Google has been the target of numerous government investigations and lawsuits accusing it of anti-competitive business practices, including increased AI restrictions due to growing concerns about misinformation, harmful content, bias and copyright.

At the same time, Alphabet is cutting staff. On Friday, the company said it would cut about 12,000 employees amid fears of an economic slowdown. The cuts are necessary to “ensure that our people and roles are aligned with our highest priorities as a company,” Pichai wrote in a note to employees.