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Google CEO Tells Employees That 80,000 of Them Helped Test Bard A.I., Warns ‘Things Will Go Wrong'

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  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in a memo on Tuesday that user feedback will be critical to its chatbot success.
  • 80,000 employees participated in testing Bard, Pichai wrote.
  • Pichai also noted that "things will go wrong," but wrote, “user feedback is critical to improving the product and the underlying technology."

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai told employees that the success of its newly launched Bard A.I. program now hinges on public testing.

“As more people start to use Bard and test its capabilities, they'll surprise us. Things will go wrong," Pichai wrote in an internal email to employees Tuesday viewed by CNBC. "But the user feedback is critical to improving the product and the underlying technology."

The message to employees comes as Google launched Bard as "an experiment" Tuesday morning, after months of anticipation. The product, which is built on Google's LaMDA, or Language Model for Dialogue Applications, can offer chatty responses to complicated or open-ended questions, such as "give me ideas on how to introduce my daughter to fly fishing."

Alphabet shares were up almost 4% in mid-day trading following the announcement.

In many disclaimers in the product, the company warns that Bard may make mistakes or “give inaccurate or inappropriate responses.” 

The latest internal messaging comes as the company tries to keep apace with the quickly evolving advancements in generative AI technology over the last several months — especially Microsoft-backed OpenAI and its ChatGPT technology.

Employees and investors criticized Google after Bard’s initial announcement in January, which appeared rushed to compete with Microsoft’s just-announced Bing integration of ChatGPT. In a recent all-hands meeting, employees' top-rated questions included confusion around the purpose of Bard. At that meeting, executives defended Bard as an experiment and tried to make distinctions between the chatbot and its core search product.

Pichai's Tuesday email also said 80,000 Google employees contributed to testing Bard, responding to Pichai's all-hands-on-deck call to action last month, which included a plea for workers to re-write the chatbot's bad answers.

Pichai's Tuesday note also said the company is trying to test responsibly and invited 10,000 trusted testers “from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.”

Pichai also said employees "should be proud of this work and the years of tech breakthroughs that led us here, including our 2017 Transformer research and foundational models such as PalM and BERT." He added: "Even after all this progress, we're still in the early stages of a long Al journey."

"For now, I'm excited to see how Bard sparks more creativity and curiosity in the people who use it," he said, adding he looks forward to sharing "the breadth of our progress in AI" at Google's annual developer conference in May.

Here's the full memo:

Hi, Googlers

Last week was an important week in Al with our announcements around Cloud, Developer, and Workspace. There's even more to come this week as we begin to expand access to Bard, which we first announced in February.

Starting today, people in the US and the UK can sign up at bard.google.com. This is just a first step, and we'll continue to roll it out to more countries and languages over time.

I'm grateful to the Bard team who has probably spent more time with Bard than anything or anyone else over the past few weeks. Also hugely appreciative of the 80,000 Googlers who have helped test it in the company-wide dogfood. We should be proud of this work and the years of tech breakthroughs that led us here, including our 2017 Transformer research and foundational models such as PalM and BERT.

Even after all this progress, we're still in the early stages of a long Al journey. As more people start to use Bard and test its capabilities, they'll surprise us. Things will go wrong. But the user feedback is critical to improving the product and the underlying technology.

We've taken a responsible approach to development, including inviting 10,000 trusted testers from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and we'll continue to welcome all the feedback that's about to come our way. We will learn from it and keep iterating and improving.

For now, I'm excited to see how Bard sparks more creativity and curiosity in the people who use it. And I look forward to sharing the full breadth of our progress in Al to help people, businesses and communities as we approach I/O in May.

—Sundar

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