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DEFCON 1 at Google

Since the launch of chatGPT, it’s been DEFCON 1 at Google HQ. ChatGPT could easily lead to a golden-egg-laying-goose killer for Google: Google’s Search Ads business. Basically, Google has been printing money since their invention of Google Search Ads, and their top-dog position has been unchallenged for ever so long; this may all change now.

The $100 billion product demo failure: Google’s BARD

With the launch of ChatGPT, Google may now be challenged in their core revenue stream, the search ads. This warrants a formal answer in the form of a good rival to chatGPT: say hello to BARD.

What better way to say hello to BARD than using an interactive demo? Things did not go too well with the demo. After the demo, Alphabet's share price fell around 8 pct to $99, wiping around $100 billion off its market cap.

The team at Google probably forgot to appease the Demo Gods. When you are planning a demo, you must appease the Demo Gods, or their wrath will surely strike you down, making you appear to be a total fool in front of your professor, your fellow students, your co-workers, or in the case of Google: the whole world.

The following time-honoured rituals are unsurpassed in their power to appease the Demo Gods and perhaps even to make them smile upon you:

  • Never exercise any capability in your demo that you have not thoroughly tested beforehand. If you have not tested it, it does not work, no matter how careful and clever you thought you were and no matter how simple the code seemed at the time.
  • Rehearse your demo as if you were rehearsing a play.

…. with the rest of the list on how to appease the demo gods here.

Stochastic Parrot

A GIF shared by Google shows Bard answering the question: “What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope can I tell my 9-year-old about?” Bard offers three bullet points in return, including one that states that the telescope “took the very first pictures of a planet outside of our own solar system.”

However, a number of astronomers on Twitter pointed out that this is incorrect and that the first image of an exoplanet was taken in 2004 — as stated here on NASA’s website.

Discoveries from James Webb Telescope fascinate 9-yr-olds!

Bard’s very first answer contained a factual flub: Image: Google

Rather than querying a database of proven facts to answer questions, they are trained on huge text corpora and analyze patterns to determine which word follows the next in any given sentence. In other words, they are probabilistic, not deterministic — a trait that has led one prominent AI professor to label them “bullshit generators.” or, in an academic explaining term ‘stochastic parrot’, or; 'well-guessing parrot' in normal English.

The bloom is of this rose

Google has 175,000+ capable and well-compensated employees. The company had been leading the world’s search business for more than 20 years and is now showing signs of suffering from a number of corporate ailments. These ailments seem very familiar to ‘older companies’ where employees tend to get very little done quarter over quarter, year over year.

Like mice, they are trapped in a maze of approvals, launch processes, legal reviews, performance reviews, exec reviews, documents, meetings, bug reports, triage, OKRs, H1 plans followed by H2 plans, all-hands summits, and inevitable reorgs.

The mice are regularly fed their “cheese” (promotions, bonuses, fancy food, fancier perks), and despite many wanting to experience personal satisfaction and impact from their work, the system trains them to quell these inappropriate desires and learn what it actually means to be “Googley” — just don’t rock the boat.

As Deepak Malhotra put it in his excellent business fable, at some point the problem is no longer that the mouse is in a maze. The problem is that “the maze is in the mouse”.

Google started suffering from four core cultural problems. They are all the natural consequences of having a money-printing machine called “Ads” that has kept growing relentlessly every year, hiding all other sins.

(1) no mission, (2) no urgency, (3) delusions of exceptionalism, (4) mismanagement.

Conclusion

While things are not looking bleak yet for Google, earnings and revenue are fine: Google’s 2022-Q4 consolidated revenues are up 1% year over year (to $76 billion), and for the full year of 2022: $283 billion, up 10%.

In the mid and long term, Google’s unchallenged status in the search business seems to come to an end. This means ‘us mere mortal consumers’ may finally have something to choose again! which would be a net positive for all!

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