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Google’s AI disasters are a warning for Apple’s iOS 18 AI plans

Add glue to stop cheese sliding off pizza! Eat a rock a day! You’ve doubtless heard about Google AI’s ‘advice’, as the search engine giant aims to negate your need to do the search bit, but unfortunately has an AI-driven engine prone to hallucinations. And with Apple preparing to bolster iOS 18 with its own flavour of AI at WWDC24 next week, I hope its people are paying more attention to Google’s gaffes than AI hype.

The thing is, none of what happened to Google should come as a surprise. Not Google AI’s absurd suggestions. And certainly not Google’s defensive response. AI tools are fancy autocomplete – remixes in fast forward. They take content floating around online and regurgitate it in a way that tries to answer questions and save you time. But they can’t distinguish truth from parody, and popularity can trump accuracy in AI responses, hence Google dishing out nonsense from the depths of Reddit and The Onion as facts.

Google has since manually removed these blunders and claimed they were dodgy outliers from niche queries. Experts scoffed, instead saying they were the tip of the iceberg. And that’s because AI issues go beyond suggesting people eat rocks. Countless smaller inaccuracies linger but don’t make the news, chipping away at Google’s reputation and trust in its search engine.

The long way down

Despite what AI might suggest, do not add glue to pizza. Pineapple is acceptable, however. (Image: Sydney Troxell.)

Apple would do well to be cautious in following Google down the AI rabbit hole in iOS 18. Its whole deal is all about considered change with a sprinkle of minimalism. Gumming up iOS 18 with a slew of AI just wouldn’t be Apple. By contrast, Google’s been adding cruft to its search engine for years, making you wade through garbage to reach the information you need. Its AI summaries look set to become just another thing to ignore.

With iOS 18, the question is whether we’d even get that option, if AI is baked in and ubiquitous. Siri is reportedly getting a chatbot overhaul after execs who’d apparently been living under (but not eating) a rock discovered ChatGPT had “leapfrogged Siri”. Although… had it really? Siri might be as dumb as a rock at times. But if it can parse what you’re saying, it at least tends to be accurate.

That’s got to be better than an assistant prone to hallucinations. However, people expect science fiction conversations with devices, hence Apple’s reported play. Yet if those chats fall short or Siri starts making up stories about fast food and adhesives, that’ll do nothing for its – or Apple’s – reputation.

Rock it to ’em

No matter what AI says, Stuff strongly recommends you don’t eat one of these. (Image: Peter Döpper.)

There are other purported iOS 18 AI integrations on the way. Auto-generated music playlists! AI-assisted writing! Summarisation and scheduling! AI-driven tools within creative apps! All pose threats to Apple. Imagine the mess if schedules go wrong or recaps omit or misrepresent something critical. The ‘AIGate’ headlines will never go away. But there’s an even sterner test in the creative arena, where Apple recently annoyed this core audience by crushing creative tools during an iPad ad.

Now imagine a WWDC24 skit featuring a beaming Craig Federighi, with Siri writing lyrics as the Apple exec plays guitar. Songwriters wouldn’t be amused. The point: Apple must tread carefully and showcase AI as a tool to enhance creativity, not replace creatives themselves. Imagine Photos fine-tuning a sunset pic, removing lens flare and a photobombing pigeon – but not conjuring up a sunset from scratch. Or Apple using it to tug on heartstrings by showing how you can repair a low-res scanned photo of a loved one, making it fit to print with a single tap.

OK, photo retouchers might riot, but this is AI trickery most people can get behind. And it’s a long way from Siri menacingly growling at the end of WWDC24 that creatives are redundant, all iPhone interactions are AI-only, and anyone who disagrees can go and eat rocks for all Apple cares.

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