What you need to know
- Google launched its AI chatbot Bard in public preview this week.
- The chatbot incorrectly said it had already been shut down.
- The obvious error is due to Bard sourcing information from the web.
- Issues like this are common with AI that relies on Large Language Models, including Bard and the new Bing powered by ChatGPT.
Google launched Bard in public preview yesterday. The chatbot will compete with the new Bing that's powered by ChatGPT. Bard uses a lightweight optimized version of Google's LaMDA and is being presented as a productivity tool that can spark creativity, not a replacement for Google search.
With the tool now available to some testers, people have played around with Bard. Unfortunately for the AI tool, it claimed that it has already been discontinued. That's obviously not the case, but it's an entertaining and interesting error.
Before this story gets blown out of proportion, Google has been forthright that Bard will include factual errors. That is the nature of AI that sources information from the web. Bing runs into similar issues. Both Microsoft and Google will refine the process of obtaining information over time, but issues like this will appear occasionally. Additionally, Bard is in preview, so it's near the beginning of its public-facing journey.
With the caveat that this is a funny error, not a major indictment of Bard or AI, here's a rundown of what the chatbot said.
Twitter user and UX writer Juan Buis asked Bard "how long will it take before google bard will be shut down?" The chatbot responded, saying:
"Google Bard is already shut down. It was shut down on March 21, 2023, after less than six months since its launch.
Google cited the lack of adoption as the reason for the shutdown and expressed their commitment to continuing to explore ways to use AI to enhance creative expression."
The source of the information was a comment made in jest in the comment section of Hacker News. That post joked that Google would shut down Bard in one year, likely referring to the tech giant having a reputation for closing down its services. Bard missed the context and the comedic nature of the post and shared it as fact.
Buis asked Bard why the service had been shut down, and it gave a list of potential reasons:
i asked bard for more reasons why google decided to shut it down pic.twitter.com/2FvF7Az6oeMarch 21, 2023
Update: March 22, 2023 at 7:25 AM ET
Bing Chat has now found several articles, including this one, referring to the shutdown of Google Bard. The AI tool has not understood the context of these pieces. Microsoft's chatbot now incorrectly claims that Bard was shut down on March 21, 2023.
Tom Warren, senior editor at The Verge, discovered Bing incorrectly asserting that Bard has been shut down.
and here's the Bing chatbot telling everyone Google Bard has already been shut down. It references a news report about Google Bard incorrectly saying it was being shutdown. We now have AI helping feed other AI bullshit 🥴 pic.twitter.com/hEiq2bPvyPMarch 22, 2023
Windows Central take
While it's fun to pick on tech giants at times, I don't view the response shared by Bard as a major issue. The chatbot just launched in public preview, so Google will need time to refine how the tool sources information. Large Language Models (LLMs) are powerful technology, but they need controls and rules in place. Real-world testing is required because everyday users will try things that developers will not.
Google and Microsoft are going to push each other in the AI space for years to come. Some hiccups along the way aren't going to stop AI from improving. If anything, mistakes highlight issues that need fixing and ultimately result in better tech.
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.