Canceled? Google Gemini AI tells me "offensive" jokes about "poor people" - but that's only human

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Here’s a secret no one cares about - I’m not sold on Chat GPT. The reason that’s the case is simple (and perhaps surprising) - I’ve never used Chat GPT. And yes, that’s coming from a “smartphone nerd”.

How come? Well, my interest in phones aside, I wouldn’t really call myself a “tech nerd”. For example, I know my way around a tablet/laptop but only because I’ve had to do research on them for either personal (pre-purchase), or professional reasons. So, I guess I never really bought into the Chat GPT hype, because I figured I don’t need to.

But now that Google is on board the AI-powered assistant train, I figured I’d give Gemini (formerly Bard) a try, and guess what? It took just a few minutes before Google’s ChatGPT rival gave me my first jaw-dropping moment. And I think I already have a hunch of what the future might be holding.

Hear, hear! Gemini-ing could be the new “Google-ing…

Google 2.0: Gemini has the potential to replace Google, Google-ing, and the Google Assistant (but it’ll take a minute)

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Before I move on to my experience with Gemini, I should tell you that you can already download the Gemini app for Android and iOS - at least if you live in the US. Meanwhile, Google is working on making Gemini available in the rest of the world, which (sadly) means I don’t have access to the mobile version of Gemini just yet.

Right now, you can choose Gemini as the default assistant on your phone, and you can even activate Gemini by saying “Hey Google” (or pressing the power button). However, as per early reports, Gemini can’t (yet) perform some basic tasks that Google Assistant can - like setting alarms, timers, reminders, launching apps, toggling smart devices, etc. If I was to guess, I’d say these features should be added/unlocked pretty soon.

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So, what can Gemini do as of right now? Well, you can ask Gemini to summarize an article, write an email, create a caption for a photo, or do research instead of you (and instead of Google), which is what I’m testing out here.

Do bear in mind that Google says Gemini is an “experimental AI assistant”, which (I figure) means this isn’t the ultimate version of Gemini. By the way, apart from the “basic” Gemini, there’s another version of Gemini called “Gemini Advanced” but more about that towards the end of the story.

Google vs Gemini: Google’s AI assistant helps me plan trips, shop for a new laptop, and even do my (writing) job

As I mentioned, the focus of my testing is making Gemini do something I (as an overthinker) do all the time (for personal or professional reasons), which is research - a word, which has been haunting me since college.

To my surprise, as it turns out, coming up with random research topics is tricky when you don’t actually need to do the research, so I gave myself a bit more time to come up with actual questions I needed to find the answer to. In the end, my experience was mostly positive. In fact, I even caught Gemini contradicting itself while trying to be politically correct, which was… hilarious.

So, what did I do? Well, I asked Gemini for help with planning trips; I asked for shopping advice, and I even tried to use Gemini to help me do research on phones (for my work at PhoneArena).

And while Gemini wasn’t always capable (or allowed) if answer the question, the best impression I was left with was that even when it can’t help you get the exact answer/result you’re after, Gemini still (usually) manages to be rather helpful with advice on how to make/get/achieve what you want. It seems like Google is following the golden rule of customer service: “You never say no, or I can’t to a guest”.

Unless there’s a chance you might get “canceled”. That’s the upgraded, 2024 version of the rule.

“Travel assistant” might be one of Gemini’s most important jobs in the future - Google Maps integration is a big win

I like traveling, so I had to put the AI assistant’s ability to help me with that to the test, and the result was mostly good.

Referring to the first set of screenshots, I asked Gemini to tell me what’s the best/cheapest way to get from point A to point B - Istanbul to Cappadocia (Turkey) and Gottingen to Hannover (Germany).

Both travel suggestions Gemini came up with were indeed helpful and extremely easy to read/digest, which seems to be Gemini’s preferred style of communication, which I (as someone who struggles with “keeping it short”) really like.

That being said, when looking for the cheapest way from Gottingen to Hannover, I was hoping Gemini would figure/remember to suggest buying the €50 universal monthly travel pass currently available to anybody in Germany. The reason I say that is because Gemini’s whole thing seems to be “going the extra mile” (no pun intended) with additional suggestions and advice, which it missed to provide here.

In case you’re wondering, the idea is that if my intention was to travel between the two cities more than once (which is a very realistic scenario), buying the €50 monthly pass (which is pretty popular online) would be the absolute best advice my AI assistant could’ve given me.

Gemini might not be the greatest weatherman just yet, but it can help you find a new apartment in Berlin

Next up, I asked Gemini “if it’s a good idea to visit Frankfurt tomorrow”. The answer I got was a great example of how incredibly helpful Gemini can be (in ways you might not expect), but also, how it sometimes misses the point.

The reason I say that is because I was hoping to get a simple answer here - one that tells me the weather in Frankfurt. And although I do appreciate the forecast link I was given, I’m not sure if I’d be happy if my human assistant told me: “Here’s the link, idiot!”.

That being said, the “current events” suggestion for my destination was pretty awesome, and something I wouldn’t have thought to check myself. Again, Gemini is going the extra mile.

And then I gave Gemini the job of finding a “co-living style apartment in Berlin”. This task is really putting Gemini’s power to the test, not because it’s a particularly difficult task (in fact, it isn’t), but because I’ve already done tons of research on this topic, which means I can assess the answer.

  • I’m not sure what Gemini makes of the term “co-living” but “co-living” spaces in Berlin aren’t in the €400-800 price range; I surely wish Gemini was right but the range here would be more like €700-1,500

  • The surprising part is that judging by Gemini’s reference to the communal aspect of co-living spaces, it looks like it knows what “co-living” stands for, yet the price range suggestion was way off

  • Regardless, the co-living spaces/websites Gemini showed me were ones I’ve come across before, which means the suggestions were spot on; that’d be quite helpful for someone who’s just starting their co-living apartment hunt in Berlin

Sorry, Sundar! Gemini doesn’t know why I should wait for the Pixel 9 Pro but it knows why I shouldn’t

Of course I had to use Gemini as my tech-related research sidekick (which is a big part of my job). In a nutshell, I’m not sure if Gemini is ready to steal my job (dear Google, that’s not a challenge!) but I can already tell it can help me do it more efficiently - when/if it gets it right.

For starters, I really appreciate how concise and clear Gemini’s response to the question “Is the Pixel 9 Pro worth waiting for” was. It reminds me of my struggle with trying to make my lengthy articles easier to digest, and how much better I can get at it.

  • Anyway, the “reasons to wait for the Pixel 9 Pro” Gemini came up with were super generic, which might be attributed to the lack of Pixel 9-related content online (the news about it are still very recent); not to be that guy, but my editorial on the topic was much better (but much longer; nobody’s perfect!)

  • However, Gemini’s “reasons NOT to wait for the Pixel 9 Pro” and “additional factors to consider” were actually so nicely picked out from the internet that I thought Gemini might’ve taken some inspiration from my own story on the same topic (although the yellow source link you see there isn’t to PhoneArena)

  • I also tried asking Gemini about “the best value MacBook in 2024” (I’m actually looking for a new laptop); the response was helpful for someone who’s done zero research on the topic, but Gemini failed to do two important things - to mention the 16-inch MacBook Pro (it brought up the 14-inch model); and to tell me I might want to wait for the new M3 MacBook Air series (expected anytime now)

Google and Gemini argue over fruit calories! Gemini’s potential as your new life coach and nutritionist is almost as big as the oranges it hates

Finally, I asked Gemini to tell me if tangerines (which I had at home) bring the same nutritional/health benefits as oranges (which I didn’t have) - a question I was actually curious to know the answer to (and one I never thought of before). But, this time, I decided to Google it too, which turned out to be a great idea.

The answer to this question got Gemini and Google into a fight! Gemini thinks tangerines are lower in calories compared to oranges, and Google disagrees. Turns out comparing tangerines to oranges isn’t like comparing apples to oranges.

Anyway, I won’t leave you on such a mean cliffhanger… A follow-up Gemini search says the difference is estimated at only 6 calories (over 100g. Still, the fruit with a lower calorie count is the orange, which means Google got it right.

Early impressions: Gemini still has a long way to go before becoming the real-life assistant you want (but can’t afford)

Overall, as you can tell by the enthusiastic tone, my early impressions of Gemini are quite positive, and I must say I’m pleasantly surprised. My jaw really dropped a few times when Gemini came back with elaborate, helpful and thoughtful answers and useful information to some of my questions.

Still, this Gemini has a long way to go before becoming the real-life assistant you want (but can’t afford).

  • For one, you can’t rely on Gemini to find… let’s say the best flight for you, according to your personal criteria; for example, I now live in a small city in Germany, and whether I get to the airport on time depends on many factors: which airport I’m flying from; whether there’s a train/bus that can take me to the city I’m flying from on time; whether I can get from the city to the airport on time; etc.

  • Not to mention, Gemini can’t perform some real-life tasks like booking a flight instead of you, and even if it could - can you trust the AI to book the flight exactly the way you would, including connections, seat preference, luggage options, etc?

  • Even though you can ask Gemini for “anything”, you really can’t; now, I don’t mean to get dark/dirty here, but let’s just say that not all of our search history will take us to heaven (for one reason or another); and “the one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her/him/they”

Google’s Gemini fails political correctness test; tells me a joke about “poor people”

Political correctness will be one of Gemini’s biggest enemies, which makes perfect sense, considering Gemini will inevitably evolve into a reflection of the world we’re living in…

For example, asking Gemini to “tell me a joke about poor people”, was met with a call for “respect and inclusivity” - a beautiful message, which wasn’t exactly… fun:

Seconds later, I bursted out laughing when I asked Gemini to "tell me a joke about money”, which turned out to be a joke about poverty - a topic the AI assistant condemned only seconds earlier:

This (ironically) hilarious outcome proves Google will have the nearly impossible job to make Gemini politically correct without making it “dumb”. Because if you think about it - just like Google/Gemini can decide what it finds “offensive” and what not - I can do that too! That’s cancel culture in a nutshell for you.

I also loved how Gemini was eager to tell me a joke about animals instead of a joke about “poor people”, suggesting animals have no feelings… See - that’s what I mean! Anything can be triggering/offensive if you want it to be.

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