If Google’s Bard chatbot seems really smart, that could be because it’s copying data from expert sources, without giving them so much as a citation. Today, I asked Bard, which is available in beta at bard.google.com, a question about which of two competing processors — the Intel Core i9-13900K or AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D — was faster. The answer it gave was taken directly from one of our Tom’s Hardware articles, but Bard didn’t mention the article and instead referred to the number as occurring “in our testing,” implying that Google itself had done the benchmarking.
When I questioned Bard about the source of the testing, it said that the test results came from Tom’s Hardware and, when I asked if it had committed plagiarism, it said that “yes what I did was a form of plagiarism.” A screenshot of the exchange is below.
We can say that, like Google search results, Bard is up-to-date with current events. Our face-off article comparing the two CPUs was written and published by Deputy Managing Editor Paul Alcorn a few days ago. I became suspicious of Bard’s answer when I noticed that it had cited two very precise numbers: the fact that the 7950X3D was 12 percent faster at 1080p at sock settings and 9 percent faster when both CPUs were overclocked. In fact, Bard’s sentence is a rewording of a specific sentence in our original article.
Our original sentence: “In our testing, the $699 Ryzen 9 7950X3D is 12% faster than the $589 Core i9-13900K at 1080p gaming at stock settings, and 9% faster when the chips are overclocked.”
Bard’s version: “The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D is faster than the Intel Core i9-13900K in gaming. In our testing, the 7950X3D was 12% faster than the 13900K at 1080p gaming at stock settings, and 9% faster when the chips were overclocked.”
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Google Bard’s act of plagiarism is that it uses the royal we to describe someone else’s work. Anyone who has followed tech journalism for a while probably knows that Google doesn’t benchmark and review CPUs, but many end users probably wouldn’t question Bard’s self-attribution here.
Most users probably wouldn’t ask Bard where its facts come from, but I did ask “When you say ‘our testing,’ whose testing are you referring to?” To its credit, Bard said “I am referring to the testing done by Tom’s Hardware”
When I asked Bard if what it had done was plagiarism, it came clean and even said “I apologize for my mistake and will be more careful in the future to cite my sources.” But, as anyone who uses Bard can see, it does not typically cite sources.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed deriding Google and Bing’s attempts to grab information from the web and repurpose it as their own. At the time, Bard had not been made available to the public for testing, but a demo showed it offering information without citations.
Now that Bard is out in the wild, we can see that Google’s lack of citations was not a careless oversight during a rushed demo, but likely a strategy to claim content as its own that it did not create. If I had not seen the very precise numbers – 12 percent and 9 percent — Bard could have very well had plausible deniability about whether or not it had plagiarized anyone’s work.
The other sentences in Bard’s initial response to me are generic enough that they could have possibly come from any of several other sources. For example, its second paragraph has information that Bard could have gotten from any of a number of publications or even AMD itself:
“The 7950X3D’s advantage is due to its 3D V-Cache technology, which adds 64MB of L3 cache to the chip. This additional cache helps the 7950X3D to access data more quickly, which improves performance in games.”
While we had this information in our article, we did not explicitly say that the 7950X3D adds “64MB of L3 cache,” but rather we said that it has 128MB of L3 cache. Bard doesn’t say what the chip added 64MB of L3 cache to, but if you know your chips, you can safely assume that it is referring to the 7950X (non-3D) which has 64MB of L3 cache (and adding 64MB more would give you 128MB).
It seems like Google (and Microsoft) are counting on the fact that information could come from many different sources so it may be difficult to trace these “facts” back to where the AI “learned” them from. That, of course, assumes that the facts are correct.
Bard’s Answer Wasn’t Entirely Correct
Bard’s answer to my initial question also leaves a lot of important information out. I asked “which CPU is faster” not “which CPU is faster for gaming?” Bard assumed that I was only interested in gaming and even said “in gaming” in a few places in its answer.
However, in our article, we noted that the Core i9-13900K is actually the faster CPU for productivity tasks. “For productivity-focused systems, or if you’re generally looking for a solid all-rounder, the Core i9-13900K is the better choice,” Paul wrote.
So what we’re seeing here is that Bard not only plagiarized information, but also gave an incomplete answer. Our recommendation overall is that, if you want the best all-around CPU, the 13900K is still a better choice and, only if gaming is your top priority, should you choose the 7950X3D.
If Bard had cited our Tom’s Hardware article as its source then the reader would have the opportunity to go read all the test results and all the insights and make a more informed decision. By plagiarizing, the bot denies its users the opportunity to get the full story while also denying experienced writers and publishers the credit — and clicks — they deserve.