Google’s AI Hype Circle

We have to do Bard because everyone else is doing AI; everyone else is doing AI because we’re doing Bard.

Cory Doctorow
16 min readMay 14


An anatomical cutaway of a man’s head in cross-seciton. His brains have been replaced by a computer mainboard. In the center of the board is a virtuous circle diagram of three arrows pointing to one another. Each arrow features a flailing sillhoutted figured whose head has been replaced by the glaring red eye of HAL 9000 from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ In the center of the circle is the multicolored G Google logo.
Trevor Parscal/CC BY-SA 3.0; Cryteria/CC BY 3.0; modified

Next Saturday (May 20), I’ll be at the GAITHERSBURG Book Festival with my novel Red Team Blues; then on May 22, I’m keynoting Public Knowledge’s Emerging Tech conference in DC.

On May 23, I’ll be in TORONTO for a book launch that’s part of WEPFest, a benefit for the West End Phoenix, onstage with Dave Bidini (The Rheostatics), Ron Diebert (Citizen Lab) and the whistleblower Dr Nancy Olivieri.

The thing is, there really is an important area of AI research for Google, namely, “How do we keep AI nonsense out of search results?”

Google’s search quality has been in steady decline for years. I blame the company’s own success. When you’ve got more than 90 percent of the market, you’re not gonna grow by attracting more customers — your growth can only come from getting a larger slice of the pie, at the expense of your customers, business users and advertisers.

Google’s product managers need that growth. For one thing, the company spends $45 billion every year to bribe companies like LG, Samsung, Motorola, LG and Apple to be their search default. That is to say, they’re spending enough to buy an entire Twitter, every single year, just to stay in the same place.

More personally, each product manager’s bonus — worth several multiples of their base salary — depends on showing growth in their own domain. That means that each product manager’s net worth is tied up in schemes to shift value from Google’s users and customers to Google. That’s how we get a Google search-results page that is dominated by ads (including an increasing proportion of malvertising and scamvertising), SEO spam, and “knowledge panels” of dubious quality.

All of this has weakened Google’s own ranking system to the point where a link’s presence among the top results for a Google search is correlated with scamminess, not relevance. This is a vicious cycle: the worse Google’s search results are, the more they depend on being the default search (because no one would actively choose a search engine with unreliable, spammy results). The more they spend on being the default, the sweatier and more desperate…



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: