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Google’s AI Work Driven by Competitive Fear, Ex-Employee Claims

Scott Jenson says Google is feeling pressure as it plays catch up to OpenAI in the artificial intelligence industry.


Scott Jenson, a former senior UX designer at Google, has raised concerns about the company's approach to artificial intelligence. According to Jenson, Google's AI projects are propelled by a sense of urgency and fear of lagging behind competitors. This revelation came through a LinkedIn post, where Jenson described the company's AI efforts as being motivated by “stone cold panic.”

Limited Scope of Projects

Jenson clarified that his perspective comes from his experience with specific, limited projects at Google. He emphasized that his observations are not from a senior leadership position but from his frustration with the broader industry's approach to AI. His comments reflect a sentiment that the AI initiatives he worked on were not driven by user needs but by a fear of being outpaced by rivals.

This isn't the first time Google has reacted out of fear, Jenson noted. He drew parallels to the company's launch of Google+ in 2011, which was a response to the rise of Facebook. Despite significant investment, Google+ struggled with low engagement and was eventually shut down in 2019. Jenson's remarks suggest that Google's current AI strategy is similarly reactionary.

Jenson also pointed out that Google is not alone in this behavior. He mentioned that , too, is attempting to create an AI lock-in with its digital assistant, Siri. He suggested that both companies are driven by the fear of being overtaken by more innovative competitors.

Broader Industry Context

The comments come at a time when AI development is a focal point for many leading technology firms, including Microsoft, , and Facebook. These companies are heavily investing in and development to maintain their competitive edge. Google's AI research division, Google Brain, and its acquisition of DeepMind highlight its long-standing commitment to AI.

The intense competition in the is pushing companies to accelerate their AI initiatives. This pressure to innovate is leading to a rapid pace of development and deployment. Despite Google's significant advancements in AI, Jenson's comments indicate that the company is acutely aware of the need to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible with AI.

We have already seen how Google was caught off guard in February 2023 when Microsoft introduced Bing Chat. In collaboration with , Microsoft took an early lead in AI search with Bing Chat, which has since become Copilot. Google responded with Bard a month later, but the launch was a mess as the chatbot was not ready and employees were feeling rushed. has since become Gemini

OpenAI's Competitive Edge

Adding to the competitive pressure, companies like OpenAI have been making significant strides in AI development. OpenAI's recent product announcements have often upstaged Google's efforts, highlighting the dynamic and fast-paced nature of the AI industry. For instance, OpenAI's text-to-video model, Sora, was unveiled just hours after Google introduced its new AI model, Gemini 1.5.

Apple is also feeling the heat, as evidenced by its software chiefs spending weeks testing before deciding to upgrade Siri. The Cupertino-based company is reportedly nearing a deal with OpenAI to integrate ChatGPT into the next version of iOS, further illustrating the competitive landscape in AI.

Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke has been writing about all things tech for more than five years. He is following Microsoft closely to bring you the latest news about Windows, Office, Azure, Skype, HoloLens and all the rest of their products.

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