Google LaMDA: The Ultimate Chatbot of the 21st Century
We’ve all had our fair share of conversations with chatbots – those AI bots that we see on various websites that have a pre-coded set of options and responses to help you out with your queries and concerns regarding that platform to make things easier for you.
Most of the time, chatbots are useful assets to have on your website. However, anybody who has used one knows that they are far from 100% efficient. They offer only a limited set of responses, beyond which we find them useless. Enter Google LaMDA, the dream chatbot of the 21st century.
For a long time, Google has been trying to create a bot that can handle its own conversations in a natural, human-like manner. Thus followed a revolutionary moment in the history of AI when Google announced LaMDA, a Natural Language Artificial Intelligence system, during its yearly developer conference.
No matter how helpful a traditional bot is, it’s still only a bot, and hence, has limited solutions. Google wanted to change that and so came up with the new Google LaMDA.
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What is Google LaMDA?
Google LaMDA is nothing but a conversational AI bot that is strong enough to handle conversations in a conversational, natural tone, as though it’s a real-life person with life experiences, opinions, and thoughts to give, all of which are unattained by the previous era of chatbots.
LaMDA stands for “Language Model for Dialogue Applications”. This means nothing but a chatbot. The Google LaMDA is built on Transformer – similar to earlier models like BERT and GPT-3.
What makes LaMDA different from every other chatbot you find on commercial/service sites?
If you enter something out of its scope for an existing chatbot, you’ll probably see something along the lines of – “Sorry, I cannot understand what you mean. Would you like to take the conversation forward with one of our representatives?”
LaMDA, on the other hand, is human-like in that it can handle the openness and flow of conversations. Instead of offering help from a representative (which can become quite the task as Google plans to integrate LaMDA with the Google search engine, in which billions of searches are conducted daily), it can give you its own insights and opinions based on various relevant sources on the Internet, unlike traditional chatbots like the one in the previous example.
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How does Google LaMDA Work?
As mentioned above, the ultimate goal of Google LaMDA is to bring chatbots to life by incorporating them with the ability to carry out human-like conversations, so that ordinary searchers like you and I have a much better time on the internet.
Who wouldn’t prefer to gain some info from a fun, cheerful, talkative robot that has its own two cents for you besides resources you can use, as opposed to a search box and an infinite page of search results that might not even have what you need in the first place?
Think about it – How would you Talk to a Close Friend?
You start out with a “Had a great time at the party, Aaron?” or an “Any New Year’s resolution ideas for 2022, Mila?” and then end up so deep in conversation that you might end up on a totally different topic, like arguing over whether mushrooms are fruits or vegetables.
To be honest, you’re not that far from having the same with a chatbot too. That’s right. Google LaMDA is so advanced that it can handle conversations like these just like we do – starting out with one topic, connecting them to others in creative ways or trails of thought, and ending up in a whole other topic.
That’s how revolutionary LaMDA is going to be. A literal internet friend you can have natural conversations with, whether you really want some info, or just have a simple, fun conversation where you can learn something new about the world.
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What Makes LaMDA so Unique?
It’s the ability to detect the sensibleness of a conversation. Most traditional chatbots are not advanced enough to carry conversations on their own, except for a few pre-coded dialogues. LaMDA however, doesn’t rely on a set of dialogues to repeat over and over.
It can detect what words are relevant to the context of a particular conversation, enabling it to make its responses much more specific.
Based on all this, how Exactly does LaMDA Work?
LaMDA’s skills are built on Transformer, an architecture that creates a model that can be trained to read several words from a sentence or paragraph and detect how those words correlate to each other. Then, using its previous understanding of how relevant words come together to form natural conversation, it predicts words that are suitable for the conversation to take it forward and construct sentences using those words.
Google is likely to incorporate LaMDA skills in a variety of its applications, like Google Maps, Google Assistant, Google Play Music, etc. Instead of robotic commands for Google Assistant, you can see yourself asking Google Assistant to remind you of your tasks for the day and it’ll list them out like a helpful intern.
The Status of LaMDA
LaMDA is still in the making. It is yet to be launched officially for use. However, it’s not going to be long before it crosses the development and testing stage and gets ready for launch.
However, Google is keeping the masses updated with various developments. For example, they conducted a demonstration where LaMDA spoke as pluto and a paper plane in different conversations. LaMDA could easily imitate either one, even expressing disappointment in Pluto’s voice over not being labelled as a planet.
The CEO of Google also expressed his own fascination with LaMDA after his son had a conversation with LaMDA (imitating Pluto), where LaMDA, unlike traditional bots, spoke based on the concepts internalized from its training data. Where traditional bots would need to be pre-coded with these dialogues, LaMDA talked of the coldness of space as well as the New Horizons spacecraft despite not being specifically programmed to do so. It kept the dialogues open-ended and didn’t revert back to a point in the conversation, unlike traditional bots. The conversation always moved forward.
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Issues with LaMDA
Pichai also noted that LaMDA can also give nonsensical responses, like Pluto doing flips or playing fetch with a moon. In addition, there are several potential dangers with the product regarding the accuracy of the information, upholding of fairness, as well as breaches of privacy.
However, Google put a lot of effort to ensure LaMDA operates fairly, accurately, and respectfully with respect to privacy. Pichai has stated that from concept all the way to design, Google is making sure it is developed consistently with AI principles. They still firmly believe that LaMDA has the potential to make information much more accessible to the masses than is presently possible.
Pichai also noted the need to better incorporate more natural conversation tactics into Google Assistant as well as Google Workspace. In the meanwhile, Google is still looking for ways to cater LaMDA to enterprise customers.
Even so, LaMDA is familiar only with text and has not yet ventured into video, audio or images. The solution to this, according to Google is a multimodal model, to combine text, image, video, and audio into the mix.
The Versatility of Google LaMDA
According to Google, they’ve always made it a goal to make the web more accessible and usable for the common man. To help get a better understanding of search intent, they invented machine learning techniques and several other related discoveries that can potentially help organize the billions of web pages and accounts all over the internet and make it much simpler to navigate.
LaMDA is one such discovery that is a revolutionary milestone in the Herculean task of organizing the ocean of information on the web. It is exceptionally adaptable to the topic of conversation and can switch from one form of conversation to another without manual interference.
LaMDA is versatile.
You could start a conversation with LaMDA on the topic of flight fares to Europe, and then see the conversation flow to other topics like the history of Europe, and then to the First World War, or to the various other trains of thought that lie open to that conversation – all this without any manual stimulation from your part, or anyone else’s for that matter.
This versatility is what allows LaMDA to stay open-ended in its conversations. As mentioned earlier, LaMDA has the unique ability to take conversations forward, from one topic to another, in a natural, flowy, way-of-talk manner.
None of this has been achieved so far by existing chatbots, that are pre-coded to follow specific routes of dialogues to which their knowledge is limited. LaMDA, on the other hand, can go on and on endlessly, keeping you entertained for as long as you desire.
LaMDA has 4 unique skills that enable it to function in an advanced fashion. LaMDA is:
- Interesting, and
In the earlier example where LaMDA impersonated Pluto, you might have noticed some of these traits. If you haven’t let’s take a look below:
In the test conference, LaMDA was asked what they’d see if they visited Pluto. Instead of saying a dark sky above and an icy ground as you’d expect from programmed bots, LaMDA gave a detailed reply. It mentioned Charon’s massive canyon, icebergs, geysers, as well as caters. Instead of giving a vague answer like most, it made sure that the answer is specific to the question.
LaMDA (as Pluto) was also asked whether it had any guests. To this, it replied that it had some, notably the New Horizons spacecraft that NASA launched in 2006 (and reached Pluto and its moons in the summer of 2015). Although an answer like “Yes, the New Horizons Spacecraft.” would have sufficed, it went on to describe who had launched it as well as when. This goes to show how LaMDA pays attention to facts and details in conversation.
However, LaMDA can still get facts wrong, which is one of the reasons why it is still in the developmental stage. However, upon release, factuality will be one of the most unique skills of LaMDA.
The team also asked LaMDA (again, as Pluto) if there’s anything it wished that people knew about Pluto. To this, LaMDA responded that it wished that people knew that it isn’t just another random ice-ball in space. That it wished that people knew that it is actually a beautiful planet.
Although Pluto’s status as a planet was altered to “dwarf planet” in August 2006, the concept of an AI chatbot stimulating resentment with that fact is simply amazing.
It is highly interesting to note this display of emotion in Google LaMDA. A chatbot, of course, does not have the capacity to feel anything. However, emotion can be stimulated in it thanks to the advanced manufacturing of LaMDA.
Finally, LaMDA is highly sensible as is evident from the conversation with the team during the test conference. When LaMDA expressed its disappointment with its current state of not being seen as a planet and insisting that it is indeed, a beautiful planet, one of the team members stated that they do, indeed, find Pluto to be a beautiful planet. To this, instead of merely saying something like a “Thank you!”, LaMDA said that it was glad to hear that and that it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, that people often refer to it as a dwarf planet.
Note hear that even after the team said what Pluto would have liked to hear, it still came back on to further explain as to why it wished people knew better about Pluto. This is similar to how we would go on to vent when somebody asks us what’s wrong. We wouldn’t stop at the why. We would also answer the how, when, where, what, etc to let all the stress and resentment out.
Thus, LaMDA can be called sensible.
Since LaMDA is imitating Pluto as a person, it makes sense to talk from Pluto’s point of view, but as a person. Hence, it’s obvious that LaMDA pays attention to making sure that its words and ideas are sensible and relevant to the conversation. (This feature is still debatable, but LaMDA is getting better by the day).
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Despite all its potential for use, LaMDA must adhere to Google AI principles to save it from misuse. In the 2021 landscape of scammers, hackers, and internet crimes, a highly manipulatable chatbot like Google LaMDA can also be used as a bane as opposed to a boon. LaMDA could fall prey to tons of misleading information all over the internet. It could accidentally pick up on religious biases or gender biases and could potentially spread hate speech around the world if left unmonitored.
In addition, there are several ethical and privacy-related concerns to LaMDA. Google has to find ways to work around all these potentially harmful results and ensure that it sticks to ethics.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the limitations to LaMDA?
LaMDA can still make mistakes in conversation and make false statements. It has not yet mastered the skillset (specificity, factuality, interestingness, and sensibility). It can still make nonsensical statements, it still needs better conversation tactics, and above all, it can use only text so far.
2. What are the potential threats that LaMDA has?
LaMDA is still vulnerable to the hoards of misinformation all over the internet. It may accidentally internalize biases such as racism or sexism, imitate hate speech against minorities, or spread misinformation. It may also face ethical issues as well as issues regarding privacy. Google is still working on solving all of these issues.
3. What are the potential uses of LaMDA?
LaMDA can be used to create a virtual assistant for Google Workspace, navigate Google’s search engine, enhance conversations, translate live, etc.
Clearly, Google LaMDA is a revolutionary conversational chatbot that has the capacity to change the landscape of the Internet. LaMDA can make the Internet more accessible, easier to understand, and easier to use, thanks to its friendly, human nature.
Although it has not yet been released for commercial purposes, it is incredibly fascinating based merely on the demos themselves. There are, of course, major issues such as privacy and ethics that pose potential threats, but Google pays extreme caution against the misuse of LaMDA and so, it is still a bright future ahead for the chatbot.
How human-like is LaMDA, we’ll need to see for ourselves on the release date. But despite all its scope, the question still stands as to whether LaMDA can change topics by itself. Could LaMDA actively steer entire conversations to different subjects as a real human being can or is it yet a task to be achieved by the impressive chatbot? We’ll have to wait and see.
Can we expect future chatbots after Google LaMDA to be more aware of the world around us, as being able to grasp the big picture of the human world so as to conduct conversations on the same page as us human beings? Such a discovery would be truly incredible and the scope of its use for mankind would be unimaginable.