AI remains priority number one.
Ride or (D)AI
An internal memo at Google leaked by The Verge reveals the company's plans for the new year, and perhaps its biggest takeaway may not surprise you: that the Silicon Valley titan is still going all in on AI. The news comes as questions are raised — sometimes by its own employees — over whether Google's bullheaded commitment to the tech is harming the company.
Per the companywide "objective key results" for the new year shared on Thursday, delivering the "world's most advanced, safe, and responsible AI" is Google's number one priority, according to the leak.
That will come with "tough choices," Google CEO Sundar Pichai warned in a memo the day prior, including "reorganizing" and "eliminating roles." In other words, Google is set to continue the massive layoffs the company has been carrying out since last year that have seen over 12,000 jobs removed, perhaps just one of several possible consequences of its AI push.
As those jobs fall by the wayside, AI has taken center stage. In October, Google finalized a whopping $2 billion investment into the OpenAI competitor Anthropic. This year, it's doubling down on its AI chatbot Bard, with plans to integrate the AI into Android smartphones. It also promises that its own AI model, Gemini, will be more powerful than OpenAI's GPT-4.
Some fear that these endeavors, however, are coming at the expense of some of the company's core ventures, not to mention the thousands of employees now out of a job. One Google software engineer, Diane Theriault, recently made headlines after lambasting the poor decision-making by the company's leadership and criticizing their focus on AI.
"Right now, all of these boring, glassy-eyed leaders are trying to point in a vague direction (AI) while at the same time killing their golden goose," Theriault wrote on LinkedIn.
Included in the company's rolling layoffs were workers in Google's ad sales unit, which generated $168 billion in revenue in 2022. Google now wants to automate more of those marketing jobs with AI, The Information reported — a major gamble to take on its biggest moneymaker.
Search and Destroy
Amid the scrutiny over Google's AI focus, it's also impossible to ignore how the proliferation of the very technology it wants to push has exposed the deteriorating functionality of its search engine.
The rise of generative AI has made SEO spam feel near inescapable, with AI-faked webpages and images filtering more and more into regular search results. For the average person that depends on Google search — not to mention pretty much every website that lives or dies on how it ranks in search results — the online experience is getting more frustrating by the day.
Given these troubling trends, you'd think that addressing the internet's crumbling infrastructure under Google's de facto stewardship would be a higher priority for the company. Alas, like every other tech firm, it's been swept up by the AI hype.
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