The Google CEO isn’t worried about falling behind on AI

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Wired that Google is in no rush to catch up with OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images (R); Thomas Truschel/Getty Images (L)

  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai is in no rush to catch up with OpenAI, he told Wired.
  • Releasing Google’s AI products before launching ChatGPT “wouldn’t have worked the same way,” he said.
  • Pichai’s thoughts on AI come months after the CEO declared a “code red” for Google’s search engine.

Since OpenAI launched ChatGPT, its chatbot AI chatbot, last November, big tech companies like Microsoft have released their own generative AI tools to cash in on the AI ​​hype. But Google is in no rush to catch up — at least not yet.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an interview that he was excited when ChatGPT came out because it showed that people were “ready to understand and play with the technology.”

But even though Google has been making strides to become an “AI-first company” since 2016, Pichai said he thought Google’s AI technology “needs to mature a bit more before we put it into our products.”

“In some ways, it was an exciting moment for me, because we’re building that underlying technology and deploying it in our products,” Pichai told Wired in an interview published Monday. “But we’re still very conscious of where we need to be. The arc of technology is long and I’m very comfortable with where we are.”

Asked if Google “should have launched something like GPT before OpenAI”, Pichai said that doing so would not make much of a difference to Google’s bottom line in the long run.

“It’s not entirely clear to me that it might even have worked,” Pichai said in response to a question from Wired. “The truth is, we could do more after people saw how it worked. In the next five to 10 years, it won’t matter.”

Google did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment ahead of publication.

Pichai’s recent comments about AI seem to have allayed his concerns that Google may be lagging behind in its AI efforts. In December 2022 – a few weeks after ChatGPT came out – the CEO declared a “code red” for the company out of fear that OpenAI’s chatbot would one day replace Google’s search engine.

Since then, Pichai has been spearheading Google’s efforts to launch its own generative AI tools. By December, the CEO had redirected several groups within the company to refocus their efforts on addressing the threat ChatGPT posed to the search engine business.

In March, Google released its own AI chatbot to select users, which it called Bard, although its initial demonstration in February was seen as a flop when Bard incorrectly answered a question about the James Webb Space Telescope.

In contrast, Google employees called Bard’s launch “rushed” and “botched,” and even John Hennessy, president of Google’s parent company Alphabet, said the chatbot “isn’t really ready for production yet.”

Since the disastrous demo, Google has announced a slate of new AI products. In May, Google launched a service called “Duet AI for Workspace,” where generative AI features are integrated into Google Docs, Sheets, Gmail and other existing products that the company says can boost creativity and productivity.

As of late August, Duet AI is now available for anyone to use.

Despite Google’s new AI efforts, Pichai told Wired that integrating generative AI into its search engine — which generates an estimated $208 million in ad dollars, or 81% of Alphabet’s total revenue in 2021 — is the company’s main focus in its AI strategy. But only time will tell whether Google’s core business will survive.

“Connecting users to what’s on the web is important to us, and we’re working hard to make sure it continues to do well,” Pichai said.

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