According to Baidu CEO Robin Li, the company’s latest chatbot, Ernie 4.0, is on par with OpenAI’s GPT-4. His statement also has a political dimension.
After all, the US and China are in an AI race: Both nations promise great economic and military benefits from the use of AI. This has culminated in the US banning the export of AI chips to China.
For Baidu and China, a chatbot on par with the world’s most capable language model, GPT-4, would be a major achievement. Li unveiled the latest version, Ernie 4.0, at a Baidu event called “Prompt the World” in Beijing.
Ernie is no longer inferior to GPT-4 in any task, said Li, who had the chatbot generate a book and promotional materials, among other tasks, in a demo. Baidu launched the beta version of Ernie 4.0 in September, and according to Dr. Haifeng Wang, Baidu’s technical director, the overall performance of Ernie 4.0 has improved by nearly 30 percent since then.
Understand, generate, reason, remember
According to Li, Ernie the bot has four basic capabilities: It can “understand” and provide answers to complex and even disorganized human queries, including interpreting hidden messages.
In addition, based on simple text and image input, Ernie can generate a variety of content such as text, images and videos within minutes.
Li also demonstrated Ernie’s ability to reason by having the bot solve complex geometric problems, and its ability to “remember” and gradually integrate input by writing a short story that regularly added new information.
China and Baidu on the hunt for language model crown
Li also showed how Ernie 4.0 will be integrated into various Baidu products to enhance their functionality. These include Baidu Search, Baidu GBI, Infoflow, Baidu Wenku, Baidu Drive, and Baidu Maps. By integrating Ernie 4.0, Baidu aims to increase productivity while encouraging creativity, leading to diverse user interactions, the company said.
According to Reuters, the presentation was met with caution as analysts were likely hoping for more innovation compared to Ernie 3.5. Baidu shares fell 1.32 percent on the morning of the presentation.
Earlier this year, Baidu announced that version 3.5 of its Ernie chatbot had outperformed other models such as GPT 3.5 and GPT-4 in benchmarks, particularly in Chinese. Baidu cited a China Science Daily review.
In September, Li announced that more than 70 large language models with more than one billion parameters had been released in China. Baidu joins other Chinese companies such as SenseTime and AI startups Baichuan Intelligent Technology, Zhipu AI and MiniMax that have launched AI chatbots with regulatory approval.
Chinese LLMs have come under fire for alleged heavy censorship. Chinese regulators see ChatGPT-like systems as running the risk of losing control of the narrative. For example, Ernie does not discuss the Chinese president or Tiananmen Square.