People who know about the situation told The Wall Street Journal today that the relationship between Microsoft and OpenAI is “weird” because it is full of tension and confusion. This tension and confusion have spread to Microsoft’s internal AI team, which is supposedly dealing with budget cuts and limited access to OpenAI technology, and sources say it also clouded Microsoft’s controversial rollout of AI-powered Bing search last February.
At that time, it was found that Bing could be attacked by “prompt injection,” which could reveal business secrets and give users answers that were sometimes wrong and really out of control.WSJ says that OpenAI told Microsoft “about the dangers of rushing to integrate OpenAI’s technology without training it more” and “suggested that Microsoft move more slowly when integrating its AI technology with Bing.
” OpenAI was most worried that Bing’s robot, Sydney, might give wrong or crazy answers, but Microsoft seems to have been able to ignore this early warning. In an interview with Wired that came out today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that any early problems with Sydney were just part of Microsoft’s plan to teach the chatbot how to answer to real-world questions that couldn’t be tested in a lab.
Nadella told Wired, “We didn’t launch Sydney with GPT-4 the day I saw it because it took a lot of work to build a safety harness.” “But we also knew that we couldn’t match everything in the lab. To get an AI model to match reality, you have to do it in reality, not in a computer.”
So that’s partly why Microsoft moved quickly, but sources told WSJ that it was also partly because Microsoft officials had “misgivings about the timing of ChatGPT’s launch last fall.”
Because OpenAI started public testing of ChatGPT while Microsoft was still working on adding OpenAI tech to Bing, it seemed like tensions rose between the two partners, who were also foes in an AI race to get the world’s attention.
As ChatGPT’s popularity grew, some Microsoft workers worried that ChatGPT was taking Bing’s “thunder,” according to WSJ. Others thought, with good sense, that Microsoft could learn important lessons from the early public tests of ChatGPT before releasing Bing.
Microsoft’s partner was getting more and more famous by the minute, so it’s easy to see why the company rushed to release Bing with AI. People were interested in the technology, and Microsoft wanted to have a bigger voice in the discussion.
ChatGPT won the AI race in the end, drawing the most users in the shortest amount of time in history. The WSJ said that “the new Bing,” which came out a month after “ChatGPT,” “has yet to come close to the breakout success of ChatGPT.”
WSJ said, “According to data from the analytics firm YipitData, ChatGPT has nearly twice as many average daily search sessions as Bing Search.” YipitData says that 200 million people use ChatGPT every month, while 100 million people use Bing every day.
Later, ChatGPT and Bing were called out for putting out chatbots that made stuff up, lied, and did other things that many people didn’t expect to see. OpenAI is still looking for ways to stop robots from having so-called “hallucinations,” CNBC reported in May.
Microsoft had to change Bing in February to cut down on long talks until the company could find a better way to do things. Even though Bing has been working on this problem for months, The Verge stated that “it still often gets things wrong.” This is true even though Bing’s responses during long conversations may be less erratic.
Nadella told Wired that Microsoft has found “very practical stuff that reduces hallucinations.” This seems to be a stopgap measure until technology improves and new solutions appear.
Nadella also said that sometimes “hallucinations” are good and that any way to stop “hallucinations” should keep in mind that people want to be able to use AI robots creatively.
Ars asked OpenAI for a response, but they didn’t answer right away. A Microsoft representative told Ars that another reason the company started the new Bing preview was to answer half of the standard web searches that usually don’t get an answer.
The spokesperson also said that Microsoft is always trying to improve the authority and trustworthiness of the web results that power their chat mode answer and that they are ready to fix any problems that come up quickly.
“Our plan is to give AI tools to people in a responsible way, with limits, so we can get feedback, keep learning, and quickly improve these tools, just like we did with Bing,” a representative for Microsoft told Ars. The competition isn’t just about robots.
Wired asked Nadella why Microsoft invested in OpenAI when it has been working on its own big language model for decades. Nadella said that he could see that “OpenAI was going after the same thing as” Microsoft. Instead of “trying to train five different foundational models” at the same time, Nadella saw a chance to work with OpenAI to make “one foundation” so that the two independent companies could “go after one goal, with discipline.”
Nadella told Wired, “We said, ‘Let’s go after this and build one thing that really gets the world’s attention.'”But WSJ said that the partnership is much more involved than that. Microsoft’s in-house AI team has “complained about decreased spending,” which has caused more stress and misunderstanding. Most workers can’t do their jobs well because they don’t have “access to the inner workings” of OpenAI’s technology. This is especially hard for Microsoft employees who want to use that technology in their own products.
There’s also the awkward fact that OpenAI and Microsoft’s sales teams “sometimes pitch the same customers.” The WSJ said that much of this “drama” is just the usual fighting that happens when two companies work together. However, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that both sides are trying to keep their freedom while making as much money as possible by selling access to the same technology.
In spite of these problems, Nadella told Wired that both OpenAI and Microsoft “bet on” each other. He still sees “a good commercial partnership” between the two companies, and he thought Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI was “a long-term stable deal.”
More and more, it looks like one way to ease friction would be for the companies to work together more closely. WSJ said that Nadella said last month that the Bing search engine would soon be added to ChatGPT. He said that this was “just the beginning” of what Microsoft and OpenAI would do to bring the best of Bing to ChatGPT.