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Google scrambles to manually remove weird AI answers in search

Google scrambles to manually remove weird AI answers in search


Social media has been abuzz with examples of Google's new AI Overview product making bizarre statements, such as telling people to put glue on pizza or encouraging them to eat stones. This confusing development has meant that every time various memes are posted, Google is scrambling to manually disable AI Overview for certain searches, which has resulted in users seeing many memes disappear shortly after they are posted on the social network.

It's an odd situation: Google has been testing AI Overviews for a year, before releasing the feature in beta as Search Generative Experience in May 2023, and CEO Sundar Pichai said the company has processed more than 1 billion queries in that time.

But Pichai also said that hardware, engineering and technology innovations have helped Google reduce the cost of delivering AI-powered answers by 80% over the same period. It seems like those optimizations may have been made too early, before the technology was ready.

Companies that were once known for being cutting-edge and shipping high-quality products are now known for making low-quality products that become memes, one of the AI ​​company founders, who asked not to be named, told The Verge.

Google continues to maintain that its AI Summary product primarily provides high-quality information to users. In an email to The Verge, Google spokesperson Meghann Farnsworth said that many of the examples we saw were unusual queries, and we also saw examples that were doctored or couldn't be reproduced. Farnsworth also confirmed that the company acted quickly to remove AI Summary for certain queries where appropriate under its content policies, and that it is using these examples to develop broader improvements to the system, some of which have already begun rolling out.

Gary Marcus, an AI expert and professor emeritus of neuroscience at New York University, told The Verge that many AI companies sell the dream of improving the accuracy of their technology from 80 percent to 100 percent. According to Marcus, achieving the first 80 percent is relatively easy because it requires approximating large amounts of human data, but the last 20 percent is very difficult. In fact, Marcus thinks that the last 20 percent may be the hardest.

To actually determine this, you need some degree of reasoning: Is this plausible? Is this source legitimate? You have to do the sort of thing a human fact-checker would do, but that might actually require artificial general intelligence, Marcus said. And Marcus and Metas AI chief Yann LeCun agree that the large-scale language models that power current AI systems, such as Google's Gemini and OpenAI's GPT-4, won't produce AGI.

Look, it's tough for Google. Bing was big on AI before Google, quoting Satya Nadella's famous “we made them dance” line. OpenAI is reportedly developing its own search engine, and the fledgling AI search startup is already worth $1 billion. And a younger generation of users who want only the best experience are switching to TikTok. Google is clearly feeling the competitive pressure, and it's that pressure that makes its AI releases so messy. Marcus points out that in 2022, Meta released an AI system called Galactica, but it had to be taken down shortly after launch. One reason for this was that it told people to eat glass. Sounds familiar.

Google has big plans for AI, but today's capabilities are just a scratch in the pile of features the company announced last week. There are big ambitions here: multi-stage reasoning for complex queries, the ability to generate AI-curated result pages, video search in Google Lens, and more. But for now, the company's reputation rests on getting the basics right, which isn't looking great.

[These models] “They essentially have no ability to check the validity of their own work, and that has a negative impact on the industry,” Marcus said.




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