Do The Google AI Claims Grow Like a Pinocchio Body Part?

April 6, 2022

Pathways Language Model (PaLM): Scaling to 540 Billion Parameters for Breakthrough Performance” is a variant of the Google quantum supremacy announcement. Bigger, better, faster, more powerful, able to leap problems with a single tap on the Enter key. The graphic in the Google AI Blog post does grow. Didn’t Carlo Collodi cook up a dummy. The chief feature — other than teaching some how not to lie — was that the marketing was handled by Walt Disney. Like IBM’s humorous announcement that a mainframe could defeat a quantum computer’s ability to crack encryption, a claim pointed at something not invented yet is interesting. Are those marketing people at Google and IBM mentally enervated by swigs of Five Hour Energy?

Like a certain fictional character’s nose and the anigif in the blog post, the claims continue to grow.


I looked at this graphic closely. I noted a few omissions; for example:

  1. A mechanism to report the incidence of outliers or exceptions between the baseline system and the state of the system after iterating over a period of a month
  2. Any reference to bias identification and amelioration. This is Dr. Timnit Gebru territory, and this landscape is one that Google appears to ignore, at least in public. In private negotiations and legal chambers, maybe the Google addresses the baked in biases? Maybe not?
  3. Any reference to the handling of images, content, videos that are related to sexual harassment; for instance, allegations about personnel issues at Google and DeepMind themselves?
  4. Data about the accuracy of the outputs? Are we in 95 percentile territory or close enough for horse shoes and ad matching?

The write up uses a number of buzzwords, some Google jargon, and quite a few links to other Google documents and experts at Microsoft and NVidia. I am convinced. I believe everything I read on the Internet and Google’s blogs.

Three observations:

First, what’s at stake in my opinion is dominance if possible of off the shelf smart methods. Consolidation is the name of the game, and Google wants to beat out Amazon, Microsoft, assorted China backed outfits, and any other challengers who want to go a different direction. Not every company wants to SAIL down a certain flow of methods.

Second, Google is — bless its single revenue stream — embracing Madison Avenue techniques to convince people that it is the Big Dog in smart methods: New, improved, money back guarantee, and free trial sell toothpaste. Why not Google AI?

Third, Google — despite the alleged monopoly position — is struggling with the what’s next? Legal hassles, management practices, competition from nuisance companies like Amazon, competition for technical talent, hard to control costs — These are real issues at the Alphabet Google YouTube construct.

At end of a Silicon Valley day, some in Mountain View see Google as a one trick pony. It seems far fetched, but it looks as if Steve Ballmer may have been spot on with that one-trick pony metaphor. And there is Pinocchio’s nose.

Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2022


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