Google’s ‘Wake’ AI Image Chatbot Still Not Perfect, Critics Blame CEO Sundar Pichai

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The Google Gemini chatbot’s “whack” AI image generator hasn’t been fixed more than a month after its disastrous rollout — and some critics claim it’s the latest sign that troubled CEO Sundar Pichai should be out of a job.

The search giant disabled Gemini’s ability to image humans in late February after it produced strange historical images of Black Vikings and “diverse” Nazi-era German soldiers.

At the time, Google DeepMind CEO Damis Hassabis said the feature would “go online very soon in the next couple of weeks”.

As of Sunday, Google’s AI image generator was still offline, with users saying the company “expects this feature to return soon.” A Google spokesperson declined to comment when asked for a timetable for its full recovery.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has led the company since 2015. Reuters

It’s a rare, embarrassing retreat for the Silicon Valley juggernaut. In a possible sign of trouble for Pichai, Google founder Sergey Brin admitted that the tech company had “definitely messed up” and “upset a lot of people” in rare public comments since the Gemini fiasco.

Pichai, 51 — who described the chatbot’s behavior as “completely unacceptable” in a memo to employees — has enjoyed remarkable freedom during his eight-and-a-half-year tenure as CEO. He has a close relationship with Byrne and fellow co-founder Larry Page, who retain voting control over every aspect of the business.

Even so, a former senior Google employee told The Post that Pichai’s job must be “incredibly risky,” given the mistakes that have happened on his watch.

“It’s all the classic signs of a badly run company, except that Larry and Sergey control it like a family business,” said the former employee, who left Google last year. “Sunder can live forever as CEO until Larry and Sergey care enough to make a change.”

The heat is on as Google reportedly tries to integrate paid AI features into its cash-cow search engine despite widespread skepticism about Gemini’s quality. Any further problems could derail talks with Apple to integrate Gemini into iPhones, while Microsoft-backed OpenAI and archivals such as Meta are going full steam ahead with their own plans. .

A mild assessment of Google’s AI performance has been reflected in the company’s stock price. The stock’s 8% gain in the first quarter lagged behind the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite.

Google has disabled Gemini’s ability to create images of humans. Google

Google declined to comment.

Pichai’s critics include the influential “Stratechery” blogger Ben Thomson, who argued the Gemini chatbot’s “ridiculous” responses — including its refusal to say whether Elon Musk or Hitler were worse — showed that Pichai had allowed rogue employees to disrupt company culture and threaten Google’s business.

Thompson said Google’s current turmoil is reminiscent of Microsoft’s decline in the final days of Steve Ballmer’s tenure as CEO, when the company clung to its struggling Windows platform. Microsoft later returned to growth after a leadership change, when Satya Nadella refocused the company as a services provider.

“The company’s goal should not be to tell users what to think, but to help them make important decisions, as Page once promised,” Thompson wrote after the AI ​​image debacle. “This means, first and foremost, drawing on the power of Google and its ability to help employees carry out their political agenda, and returning decision-making to the people who Want to actually make a good product.”

Some critics charge that Pichai has lost control of the company’s culture. The Washington Post via Getty Images

“This, by extension, has to remove the people who let the former fight among themselves, including CEO Sundar Pichai,” Thompson added.

More broadly, Google — which also botched the launch of its first chatbot “Bard” at a widely mocked demo event in Paris last year — has once again given fresh fodder to those critics. Jin believes the highly paid Pichai may be the wrong person to supervise. The AI ​​race, where the company already shows signs of falling behind Microsoft and OpenAI.

Critics point to other signs of disunity within Google’s sprawling empire — including ongoing layoffs that have fueled an internal morale crisis, snarky responses to the company’s earnings calls and a lack of product innovation.

Google’s recent failure “only raises more heightened questions about whether this is the right management team to lead Google into this next era,” said Bernstein analyst Mark Schmolick.

Shmolik expanded on his point in an email to The Post, saying Google’s more pessimistic investors are watching closely for signs of weakness as the company fights to join the AI ​​race.

“If you believe we’re in a time of war, the recent series of public missteps probably won’t fill you with confidence that you can win this war,” Shmolik said.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s leadership is under scrutiny. Reuters

During a recent episode of the popular “All In” tech podcast, co-host and former Google executive David Friedberg noted that many investors have been left “deeply disappointed and angry” by fears that The company is falling behind rivals on the AI ​​front.

“Most investors I’ve talked to aren’t upset about the ‘whack’ DEI search engine,” Friedberg said earlier this month. “They are angry at the fact that such a mistake has been made and that it indicates that Google may not be able to compete effectively and is not organized to compete effectively in AI – only consumer competition. From the point of view of

A native of Chennai, India, Pichai first joined Google in 2004. He became CEO of Google in 2015 when Brin and Page restructured the company under the name Alphabet.

Under Pichai’s leadership, Google has enjoyed massive growth, with its shares up more than 300% since he took over the gig. The company’s recent results have been solid, with revenue and earnings growing every quarter through 2023 and Google Cloud turning a profit last year.

Still, critics claim that the sheer size of Google’s formidable empire — which includes more than 90% of the online search market — helped shield Pichai and other members of the company’s leadership team from criticism. Is.

Google Gemini had a disastrous rollout in February. Future publication via Getty Images

Despite its AI mistakes and accusations that the quality of Google search has been degraded by spam, the company generated more than $300 billion in revenue in fiscal 2023 alone.

“The reality is that Google gets away with moderation in a million under-the-radar ways because they’re a monopoly and don’t face serious competition,” said one tech policy insider who spoke on the matter. He requested not to reveal his name. “This is a rare moment where that mediocrity exploded publicly.”

Other critics of Google, such as Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, say the giant company has become too bloated for any one person to effectively manage — and that it falls under antitrust laws. should be given.

“The scope of the political challenges alone that his company faces is enormous and would require more than a 40-hour work week,” Horr said. “I think it would probably be better if the person in charge of Gmail and search advertising wasn’t also the person overseeing creative AI.”

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