Google AI chatbot Bard sends shares plummeting after it gives wrong answer | Google
Google’s debut of a new AI-powered search bot got off to a bumpy start after it shared inaccurate information in a promotional video, shaking investor confidence.
Google parent Alphabet lost $100 billion in market value on Wednesday, raising concerns that it is losing ground to rival Microsoft. Alphabet shares, down as much as 9% in regular trading, were flat after hours. Microsoft shares rose about 3% before gains were flat. They were also flat in aftermarket trading.
Google’s woes began after Reuters reported an error in its ad for chatbot Bard, which debuted on Monday.
Alphabet posted a short gif video of Bard in action via Twitter, promising that it would help simplify complicated topics, but it instead delivered an imprecise answer.
In the ad, Bard is given the assignment: “What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can I tell my 9-year-old?” Bard responds with a number of answers, including one suggesting that the JWST was used to take the very first pictures of a planet outside Earth’s solar system, or exoplanets. However, the first pictures of exoplanets were taken in 2004 by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), as confirmed by Nasa.
At the time of writing, the Bard ad has been viewed over a million times on Twitter.
Bard’s mistake was discovered just before an offering by Google that also failed to dazzle investors.
“This underscores the importance of a rigorous testing process, something we’re kicking off this week with our Trusted Tester Program,” a Google spokesperson said. “We will combine external feedback with our own internal testing to make sure Bard’s answers meet a high standard for quality, safety and grounding in real information.”
In contrast, OpenAI, a startup backed by Microsoft with about $10 billion, introduced software in November that wowed consumers and became a fixture in Silicon Valley circles for its surprisingly accurate and well-written responses to simple commands.
Google’s live presentation Wednesday morning did not include details of how and when it would integrate Bard into its core search functionality. A day earlier, Microsoft held an event in which it announced that it had already released to the public a version of its Bing search with ChatGPT functions integrated.
Gil Luria, senior software analyst at DA Davidson, said: “While Google has been a leader in AI innovation for the past few years, they seemed to have fallen asleep implementing this technology in their search product.
“Google has been scrambling to catch up on search over the last few weeks and that caused the announcement to be rushed yesterday (Tuesday) and the embarrassment of posting an incorrect answer during their demo.”
Alphabet is coming off a disappointing fourth quarter as advertisers cut spending.
The search and advertising giant is moving quickly to keep pace with OpenAI and competitors, reportedly bringing in founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to accelerate its efforts.
“People are starting to question whether Microsoft is going to be a formidable competitor against Google’s really bread-and-butter business,” said King Lip, chief strategist at Baker Avenue Wealth Management, which owns Alphabet and Microsoft shares.
However, Lip cautioned that concerns about Alphabet may be overblown, saying, “I still think Bing is far, far away from Google’s search capabilities.”
The new ChatGPT software has excited tech firms after tens of thousands of job cuts in recent weeks and executive promises to pull back on so-called moonshot projects. AI has become a fixation for tech executives who mentioned it as much as six times more often on recent earnings calls than in previous quarters, Reuters found.
The appeal of AI-powered search is that it can spit out results in plain language, rather than in a list of links, which can make browsing faster and more efficient. It remains unclear what impact this might have on targeted advertising, the backbone of search engines like Google.
Chatbot AI systems also pose risks to corporations due to inherent biases in their algorithms that can skew results, sexualize images or even plagiarize, as consumers testing the service have discovered. For example, Microsoft released a chatbot on Twitter in 2016 that quickly began generating racist content before it was shut down. And an AI used by news site CNET has been found to produce factually incorrect or plagiarized stories.