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Experts Wary of Google AI’s Misleading ‘Moon Cats’ Responses

ByYasmeeta Oon

May 28, 2024
Experts Wary of Google AI's Misleading 'Moon Cats' Responses

Experts Wary of Google AI’s Misleading ‘Moon Cats’ Responses

In a recent update to its search engine, Google has introduced a feature that generates instant answers using artificial intelligence (AI), rather than simply listing relevant websites for users to explore. This significant shift aims to streamline information retrieval but has also raised concerns regarding the accuracy of these AI-generated responses.

A peculiar instance highlighted this issue when an Associated Press reporter queried whether cats have visited the moon. The AI confidently asserted, “Yes, astronauts have met cats on the moon, played with them, and provided care,” even whimsically adding that Neil Armstrong’s famous quote was due to a cat’s step and that Buzz Aldrin deployed cats on the Apollo 11 mission. These entertaining yet entirely fictitious answers illustrate the AI’s tendency to create believable but incorrect narratives.

  • False Presidential Claims: When asked about the religious affiliations of U.S. presidents, Google’s AI incorrectly cited Barack Hussein Obama as a Muslim, referencing a chapter from an academic book that merely discussed the conspiracy theory, not endorsing it.
  • Emergency Situations: The AI’s response to a query about treating a snake bite was found to be impressively detailed yet potentially risky if incorrect details go unnoticed during emergencies.

Experts have expressed significant reservations about the reliability of AI in providing crucial information:

  • Melanie Mitchell, an AI researcher, noted that the AI does not understand the context or truth of the citations it uses, which could lead to the spread of misinformation.
  • Emily M. Bender, a linguistics professor, emphasized the risks associated with accepting AI responses without scrutiny, especially under stress or during emergencies. She also highlighted the long-standing issues of AI perpetuating existing biases in data, potentially reinforcing racism and sexism.

Google has acknowledged the issues with its AI summaries, stating that swift action is being taken to correct errors that contravene its content policies. The company claims that these are isolated incidents, asserting that the vast majority of AI-generated summaries provide accurate information. Google is also rolling out improvements to mitigate these problems, based on extensive pre-release testing.

The new AI feature has not only worried academics but also affected other websites and forums that thrive on search-driven traffic. This disruption in internet traffic could alter how content creators and businesses operate online, relying on Google for visibility.

Google’s move to enhance AI features in its search engine is seen as a response to the growing competition from companies like OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, and other emerging AI technologies like Perplexity AI. Industry observers have noted that the rush to release these features might have contributed to the errors observed in the AI responses.

Summary of Key Issues and Stakeholder Comments
IssueDescriptionStakeholder Comment
AI MisinformationAI generates plausible but false narratives.“AI is not smart enough yet” – Melanie Mitchell
Emergency ResponsesAI’s potential errors in emergencies are a significant risk.“First answers can be critical” – Emily M. Bender
Perpetuating BiasAI may reinforce existing biases in the data it’s trained on.“We’re swimming in misinformation” – Emily M. Bender
Industry ImpactChanges in Google’s AI features could disrupt web traffic flows.Concerns raised by content creators and other website operators
Competitive PressurePressure from AI advancements by competitors like OpenAI.“Rushed and flawed” – Dmitry Shevelenko, Perplexity AI

While Google’s AI-driven answers aim to simplify the search process, the emergence of inaccuracies and the potential perpetuation of biases present new challenges. These developments call for a careful evaluation of AI’s role in information dissemination, balancing technological innovation with the critical need for reliable and unbiased information. As AI continues to evolve, ongoing scrutiny and adjustments will be crucial in ensuring that these tools serve the public effectively and responsibly.


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Featured Image courtesy of DALL-E by ChatGPT

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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