ChatGPT and Other Chat Bots Are a ‘Code Red’ for Google Search

As the technology advances, industry experts believe, Google must decide whether it will overhaul its search engine and make a full-fledged chat bot the face of its flagship service.

Google has been reluctant to share its technology broadly because, like ChatGPT and similar systems, it can generate false, toxic and biased information. LaMDA is available to only a limited number of people through an experimental app, AI Test Kitchen.

Google sees this as a struggle to deploy its advanced A.I. without harming users or society, according to a memo viewed by The Times. In one recent meeting, a manager acknowledged that smaller companies had fewer concerns about releasing these tools, but said Google must wade into the fray or the industry could move on without it, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Times.

Other companies have a similar problem. Five years ago, Microsoft released a chat bot, called Tay, that spewed racist, xenophobic and otherwise filthy language and was forced to immediately remove it from the internet — never to return. In recent weeks, Meta took down a newer chat bot for many of the same reasons.

Executives said in the recorded meeting that Google intended to release the technology that drove its chat bot as a cloud computing service for outside businesses, and that it might incorporate the technology into simple customer support tasks. It will maintain its trust and safety standards for official products, but it will also release prototypes that do not meet those standards.

It may limit those prototypes to 500,000 users and warn them that the technology could produce false or offensive statements. Since its release on the last day of November, ChatGPT — which can produce similarly toxic material — has been used by over a million people.

“A cool demo of a conversational system that people can interact with over a few rounds, and it feels mind-blowing? That is a good step, but it is not the thing that will really transform society,” Zoubin Ghahramani, who oversees the A.I. lab Google Brain, said in an interview with The Times last month, before ChatGPT was released. “It is not something that people can use reliably on a daily basis.”

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