Did Google’s ‘AI-First’ Strategy Fail to Keep Pace with the Rapid AI Boom?

Meta Title: Google’s AI Strategy: Falling Behind in Rapid AI Boom?
Meta Description: Explore how Google’s ‘AI-first’ approach faces challenges from OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft’s collaboration, and ethical dilemmas, impacting its AI leadership.

Google Goes All-In On AI

Back in 2016, the head of Google (Sundar Pichai) made a huge announcement – he said Google was going to rebuild itself around artificial intelligence (AI). AI would now be Google’s top priority across all its work and projects. This was Google’s big new strategy to use its massive size and brilliant minds to rapidly make AI technology much smarter and more powerful. In this article, we will look at whether this strategy paid well or if Google fell behind in the fast-paced area of AI development.

The Rise of ChatGPT and the AI Race

But then, in late 2022, ChatGPT—a product of a little startup named OpenAI—was published, sparking an instant global craze. An artificial intelligence system called ChatGPT can produce writing on nearly any subject you want it to, from stories to computer code instructions, that is startlingly human-like.

Even though Google had previously demonstrated LaMDA, a powerful artificial intelligence language model, ChatGPT quickly went viral and caught everyone’s attention. Remarkably, the foundation of ChatGPT was constructed with the exact same basic technology—called transformers—that had been developed by Google scientists years prior and documented in a well-known publication.

Microsoft’s Partnership with OpenAI

To make matters worse for Google, their longtime rival Microsoft teamed up with OpenAI in a major way. Microsoft invested a mind-boggling $10 billion into the startup. Then they integrated advanced ChatGPT-like AI directly into their Bing search engine and other products.

When revealing their new Bing AI, the head of Microsoft (Satya Nadella) excitedly declared “a new day” for the search had arrived and “the race starts today” as his company will constantly release AI upgrades. This challenge to Google’s longtime dominance of internet search came just one day after Google rushed to release its own AI chatbot called Bard which uses a smaller version of its LaMDA system.

Navigating the AI Ethics Landscape

One reason Google has moved cautiously is because of several times in the past when it got in major trouble over ethics issues related to its AI work. In 2018, Google employees protested so fiercely that the company had to abandon an AI project for the military intended to improve drone strike targeting accuracy.

Later that year, when Google unveiled an AI assistant designed to carry out naturally human-sounding conversations over the phone, it was slammed for being deceptive and lacking transparency about being an artificial intelligence.

The Talent Drain and Brain Drain

Another huge challenge for Google has been an exodus of top AI researchers and engineers leaving the company. One of those who departed, Aidan Gomez, helped pioneer the transformer technology that became so important. He explained that at a large company like Google, there’s very limited freedom to innovate and rapidly develop new cutting-edge AI product ideas – so many team members have quit to start their own competing AI companies instead.

In total, 6 out of the 8 authors of Google’s famous transformer paper have now left Google, either starting rivals or joining others like OpenAI. A former Google executive flatly stated the company became lazy, which allowed startups to surge ahead.

The Search for AI Supremacy

While Google remains an industry giant with over 190,000 employees and lots of money, emboldened AI rivals now smell an opportunity to defeat the perceived weaknesses and inertia of such a massive corporation.

A CEO like Emad Mostaque at AI company Stability AI stated, “Eventually Google will try brute-forcing their way into dominating this field…But I don’t want to directly take them on in areas they’re already really good at.” He criticized Google’s “institutional inertia” that enabled others to seize the AI spotlight first.

A former Google scientist agreed the company had understandable reasons for protectively keeping their latest AI under tight control instead of opening it up. But his new goal is “democratizing” and releasing cutting-edge AI for the world to use.

Can Google Recover Its Lead?

To regain its footing as the AI leader, Google will need to carefully balance prioritizing ethical and responsible AI development while still maintaining a competitive ability to survive against rivals.

In addressing the ChatGPT tsunami, CEO Sundar Pichai stated Google will start tolerating more risk to rapidly unleash new AI systems and innovations. However, the CEO of OpenAI responded “We’ll continually decrease risk” as AI systems become extremely powerful and impactful.

Pichai rejected the idea that Google had fallen victim to the “Innovator’s Dilemma” where past success causes a failure to adopt important new technologies and innovations. He insisted: “You’ll see us be bold, release product updates quickly, listen to feedback, and keep improving to re-establish our lead in search.”

The Future of AI

Google’s big plan to focus on artificial intelligence back in 2016 looked good then, but things have changed. The sudden success of ChatGPT has made people doubt if Google can stay ahead in AI. Now, all the big tech companies are racing to make better AI systems. Google needs to change fast to keep up. It has to take risks, solve ethical problems, keep its best AI experts, and create new amazing AI products. Even though Google has faced some problems lately, it still has a lot of resources and smart people. How Google handles this moment will decide how fast AI becomes a part of our lives and how we use it.


Google aimed to make artificial intelligence (AI) its top priority in 2016, but recent events suggest it’s struggling to keep up. Competitors like OpenAI, with their ChatGPT technology, and Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI, are challenging Google’s dominance. Ethical concerns and past controversies have made Google cautious about AI development. 

Additionally, Google is losing top AI talent and facing criticism for moving too slowly. Despite these challenges, Google has the resources and expertise to regain its position in AI, but it needs to adapt quickly to the changing landscape and address ethical considerations.