Google’s Race For AI Dominance Against Microsoft Still On, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai Suggests
“I want people to know that we made them dance,” said Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella in a recent interview, when discussing his company’s success in beating Google to the punch on artificial intelligence.
Earlier this year, Microsoft released a generative AI chatbot based on ChatGPT as a part of its Bing search engine. Google was forced to rush out an untested version of its own search engine chat companion, Bard.
“In cricket, there’s a saying that you let the bat do the talking,” said Pichai in an interview with Wired’s Steven Levy. Besides serving as a snappy reference to the national sport of both Indian-born executives, the saying explains Pichai’s vision for the role that AI could have in his company’s future.
“It really won’t matter in the next five to 10 years,” said Pichai, who sees a silver lining in competitors releasing earlier versions of generative AI to the public: he believes Google can do even more after people have seen and understood how AI technology works.
In April, Pichai ordered Google’s two separate artificial intelligence divisions to merge, creating one super-powerful partnership between two of the world’s most advanced AI labs, Deep Mind and Google Brain.
“They were focused on different problems, but there was a lot more collaboration than people knew,” he said. Some commentators, however, read the merger as a panic-fueled measure to speed up the development of AI against rising competition from Microsoft and other companies like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), which has been pushing hard on AI in its cloud services since April.
Late last month, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian announced that Google is also planning to expand its AI offering within cloud services. For this, the company’s collaboration with Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) as the foremost producer of the high-profile chips needed for large language model training is key. Pichai said he’s optimistic about the long-lasting relationship between the two companies.
Amazon’s Alexa also stands as a competitor in Google’s race to extend its web dominance into the conversational AI field. Google recently “supercharged” Google Assistant (which is Android’s version of Apple’s Siri) with generative AI capabilities.
Pichai says that since becoming Google’s CEO in 2015, “it was clear that deep neural networks were going to profoundly change everything.”
That’s the reason Alphabet is now internally considered to be an AI-first company, with large-language models receiving the largest chunk of the R&D budget.
Pichai says he and his company are firm supporters of government regulation for AI. The dangers that rapid AI penetration poses for society are so large that the White House has been consistently pushing for regulation, with President Joe Biden recently saying that “we’ve got to move fast here.”
Pichai said “AI is one of the most profound technologies we will ever work on. There are short-term risks, midterm risks and long-term risks.”
In the short-term, so-called “hallucination” of large-language models, by which conversational AI will make up data to satisfy a user’s query, can be some of the most troublesome challenges.
“So right now, responsibility is about testing it for safety and ensuring it doesn’t harm privacy and introduce bias,” he said.
For the medium-term, the impact of AI in the workforce becomes a more urgent matter. The impact of AI in the labor market could have vast consequences on the global economy, and that’s another place where regulation can help to achieve a soft landing.
In the long-term, the worries for AI are whether the building machines that are smarter than us poses an existential threat to humanity and whether more advanced models will be aligned with human values.
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