Google Bard makes factual error about the James Webb Space Telescope

Occurred: February 2023

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Google's Bard chatbot wrongly claimed the James Webb Space Telescope was used to take the first pictures of exoplanets, calling into question its accuracy and reliability, and damaging Google's reputation. 

Bard was anounced by Google CEO Sandar Pillai on February 2023 using a promotional video showing which satellite first took pictures of a planet outside the Earth's solar system. But the information in the promotional video was inaccurate, according to Reuters.

Given the prompt: 'What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can I tell my 9-year old about?', Bart suggested the JWST was used to take the first pictures of a planet outside the Earth's solar system, or exoplanets. The first pictures of exoplanets were actually taken by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 2004.

The JWST mistake and OpenAI's perceived lead in large language models and generative chatbots, specifically ChatGPT, reinforced views that Google was moving too slowly. Google owner Alphabet's stock price fell USD 100 billion in market value within hours. 

According to a Bloomberg report quoted by The Verge, Google employees asked to test the system had criticised it as 'worse than useless' and 'a pathological liar'. 


Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer:  Alphabet/Google
Country: USA
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Generate text
Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning; Reinforcement learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability
Transparency: Governance