How Bing vs. Google became AI Super Bowl-level loss

Last week, Google and Microsoft went head-to-head with their respective generative AI launches, hoping to dazzle audiences with the possibilities of web search. But the highly-anticipated matchup didn’t quite match up to expectations, and Microsoft, along with OpenAI, emerged as the clear PR victor. In this blog post, we’ll explore what happened, the implications of chatbot hallucinations, and why Google and Microsoft received such different receptions.

At the beginning of last week, the hype around generative AI seemed to hit Super Bowl-level intensity. But rather than the Philadelphia Eagles facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was Google’s Bard competing against Microsoft’s Bing in a pair of generative AI launch debuts. Unfortunately, Microsoft, along with OpenAI, whose ChatGPT-like model powers the new Bing, clearly won the PR victory. Google, on the other hand, delivered a more muted performance that included an error in an ad touting Bard’s talents — powered by LaMDA — that cost the company over $100 billion in stock value.

So why did Google and Microsoft receive such different receptions? Both Google’s and Microsoft/OpenAI’s chatbots hallucinate, and large language models (LLMs), like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s LaMDA, undoubtedly have the power to change how we search for and find information. Yet, Microsoft’s launch was hailed, while Google’s was panned.

AI critic Gary Marcus, in a blog post last week, said he would always remember February 8, 2023, as the day in which a chatbot-induced hallucination cost Alphabet $100 billion. But he also remembered it as the week in which Microsoft introduced an ostensibly similar technology, with ostensibly similar problems, to an entirely different response.

So what’s the takeaway here? Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president at Google and head of Google Search, warned about chatbot hallucinations in an interview published last Saturday. Google is still conducting user testing on Bard and has not yet indicated when the app could go public. If a reliable AI chatbot for search is to be expected and encouraged, larger questions around AI chatbot reliability will need to be addressed.

After a week of Super Bowl-level AI hype, it’s time for some non-hallucinating, straight-up facts. For that, maybe it’s time to just old-school Google it.

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