This month marks Google's 25th anniversary and the cloud giant is just beginning to see what the next wave of technology is capable of and how quickly it can improve.
In a blog, Google CEO Sundar Pichai reflects on the past 25 years and looks at what's ahead for the world's third-largest public cloud provider. Artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI are a big part of Google's present and future.
"Google has been investing in AI since almost the beginning," he said. "We were one of the first to use machine learning (ML) in our products, starting in the early 2000s, for spelling corrections, improving the quality of ads, and showing suggestions and recommendations."
Then, in the early 2010s, there was "real excitement" around deep neural network, Pichai said.
"In 2012, a few of us went along to a demo in a meeting room near Charlie's, our main campus cafe," he said. ‘I remember watching in awe as the research team showed us the progress they'd made with image recognition, driven by breakthroughs in neural networks. It was the first moment I thought to myself this is really going to change everything. I had a similar feeling when I saw the groundbreaking, interdisciplinary research happening at DeepMind, focused on understanding the nature of intelligence. This progress deeply influenced my thinking, when I became CEO in 2015, that Google should pivot to be an AI-first company."
Cloud Giant Reimagining Core Products with Generative AI
Now, generative AI is helping Google reimagine its core products in "exciting" ways, from its new Search Generative Experience (SGE), to "Help Me Write" in Gmail, Pichai said. And earlier this year, it launched Bard, an early experiment that lets people collaborate with generative AI.
"As we look ahead, I've been reflecting on the commitment from our original founder's letter in 2004 'to develop services that improve the lives of as many people as possible — to do things that matter,'" he said. "With AI, we have the opportunity to do things that matter on an even larger scale."
One million people are already using generative AI in Google Workspace to write and create, Pichai said. Flood forecasting now covers places where more than 460 million people live. A million researchers have used the AlphaFold database, which covers 200 million predictions of protein structures, helping with advances to cut plastic pollution, tackle antibiotic resistance, fight malaria and more. And Google has demonstrated how AI can help the airline industry to decrease contrails from planes, an important tool for fighting climate change.
"Still, there is so much more ahead," he said. "Over time, AI will be the biggest technological shift we see in our lifetimes. It's bigger than the shift from desktop computing to mobile, and it may be bigger than the internet itself. It's a fundamental rewiring of technology and an incredible accelerant of human ingenuity. Making AI more helpful for everyone, and deploying it responsibly, is the most important way we'll deliver on our mission for the next 10 years and beyond."
Google's search for answers will drive "extraordinary" technology progress over the next 25 years, Pichai said.