Tech News : Google Bard’s $100 Billion Bungle

15th February 2023

$100 billion/£82.7bn is reported to have been wiped off the value shares in Google’s parent company Alphabet following a rather public error made by Bard, Google’s new answer to ChatGPT.

Bard 

Originally called ‘Apprentice Bard,’ Bard is Google’s conversational AI service which uses Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), Google’s family of conversational neural language models. Bard is the Google equivalent of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot.

What Went Wrong? 

The much-anticipated Bard has already been rolled out to “trusted users” and scheduled for public release in “the coming weeks.” However, an advert for Bard which featured a promotional tweet contained a demonstration question which Bard had answered wrongly. As part of the answer to the question “What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can I tell my nine-year-old about?”, Bard said “JWST took the very first pictures of a planet outside of our own solar system.” 

This was quickly identified as being an incorrect answer because the first pictures of these ‘exoplanets’ were actually taken by the Very Large Telescope in 2004.

$100 billion/£82.7bn Wiped Off 

The knock in confidence caused by the mistake led to shares in Google’s parent company Alphabet sliding by up to 9 per cent in regular trading. This equated to $100 billion/£82.7bn being knocked off the company’s market value by the end of last Wednesday.

Highlights The Importance Of Testing 

A Google spokesperson commented on the somewhat painful and embarrassing mistake for the company by saying that it “highlights the importance of a rigorous testing process” and pointed to the fact that Bard is currently in the hands of its “Trusted Tester program”. The spokesperson added that it would combine external feedback with its own testing to make sure Bard’s responses were up to scratch in future.

The Race Is On 

The release and the popularity of ChatGPT has not just been followed by the impending release of Bard (following testing), but there is also news that Microsoft’s revamped Bing search engine will be using large language model technology, and that Google looks likely to incorporate Bard’s technology in its search engine. All these developments are evidence that the AI chatbot race is well and truly on. Also, it looks likely that the addition of powerful chatbots to search engines will change the format of search engine results. For example, by incorporating AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard, instead of just delivering pages of web links in answer to search engine queries, users may be given one definitive answer, thereby making searches quicker with easier to digest answers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

OpenAI’s ChatGPT may have gained a substantial head start in the market with this type of advanced chatbot, nevertheless it was inevitable that Google would very soon be hot on its heels with its own version. One of the factors that affects the quality of answers from chatbots, however, is training. Whereas, in addition to its initial training, ChatGPT has been trained by millions of people since its release as a free version in November, Bard still appears to have some way to go. The wrong answer being used as part of a high profile advertising campaign is reminiscent of other high profile tech launch blunders like Tesla’s Cybertruck demo event where its bullet and sledgehammers-proof windows were easily smashed. The damage for Google with Bard, however, translated into a share slide and, no doubt, a little damage to market-confidence in Bard’s ability compared to ChatGPT. Bard is still undergoing testing, so it remains to be seen how it performs when it’s fully released for all of us to try.