Back At Google Again, Cofounder Sergey Brin Just Filed His First Code Request In Years
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google
Corbis via Getty Images Largely absent from day-to-day operations since 2019, a code request filed Jan. 24 appears to be its first in years.
As the AI tech battle escalates between Silicon Valley companies, Google co-founder Sergey Brin is regaining control of the software code, after years of being away on a daily basis.
On Jan. 24, Brin appeared to file his first code access request in years, according to screenshots viewed by Forbes. Two sources said the request was related to LaMDA, Google’s natural language chatbot, a project originally announced in 2021 but which has recently gained increased attention as Google tries to fend off rival OpenAI, which launched the popular ChatGPT bot in November.
Brin filed a “CL,” short for “changelist,” to access the data that forms LaMDA, said a person who saw the request. It was a two-line change in a configuration file to add his username to the code, this person said. Several dozen engineers approved the LGTM request, short for “I’m fine with it”. Some of the approvals came from workers outside that team, apparently just wanting to be able to say they had given code review approval to the company co-founder, the person added.
Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The move was a small technical change, but underscores how seriously the company takes the looming threat from OpenAI and other competitors. Brin and co-founder Larry Page have been largely absent from the company since 2019, when Page handed over the reins to Sundar Pichai to become CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. But Pichai recently called on the company’s founders to review the company’s AI strategy and help formulate a response to ChatGPT, according to The New York Times. Brin’s tinkering highlights the level of involvement of the co-founders.
The company reportedly considered the situation so urgent that Pichai declared a “code red”, jostling the work of several groups within the company to present a countermeasure. Google is expected to unveil a slew of new AI products later this year.
Brin’s code request also received snark from Googlers. In response, one person commented “Fix Google first”. Another person wrote, “At least talk to us,” a reference to how far apart the co-founders have been over the past few years. Some people have linked posts from Google’s internal memes forum. Some of the memes showed old people fighting, a source told Forbes.
When Pichai announced the biggest round of layoffs from Google in company history last month – eliminating the jobs of some 12,000 employees, or 6% of the workforce – he did so in the goal of refocusing the company on artificial intelligence. “We have a substantial opportunity ahead of us with AI in our products and we are ready to approach it boldly and responsibly,” he wrote in an email to employees.