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Google’s Bard Spins Some Tales About IBM Power Systems and AIX

I assume none of you live under a rock, so you’ve most likely heard about people’s experiences toying around with ChatGPT and other AI solutions. I decided to get in on the fun, so recently I put Google’s bot—it’s called Bard—through its paces.

I wanted to see what Bard knows about IBM Power Systems and AIX. Let’s just say the answers I received were underwhelming.

POWER9 Chips

My first query was a simple one: Can you still get POWER9 chips? The response:

“Yes, you can still get POWER9 chips. IBM is still manufacturing and selling POWER9 chips, and there are a number of other companies that make POWER9-based servers. Some of the companies that sell POWER9 chips include: IBM, Raptor Computing Systems, Suzhou Powercore Technology, Tyan, SGI, Lenovo.”

This isn’t entirely accurate. I know about systems from Raptor, and I’ve occasionally come across articles that reference Suzhou working with modified Power chips in China. Tyan did produce a POWER8 system, but I’m not aware of anything from SGI, which went bankrupt and was bought out in 2009.

I decided I should be more specific. I asked which Lenovo systems use POWER9 chips. Here’s Bard:

“Lenovo offers a variety of systems that use POWER9 chips, including:
ThinkSystem SR650
ThinkSystem SR950
ThinkSystem DX360 M5
ThinkSystem DX750 M5
ThinkSystem SD650
ThinkSystem SD750
ThinkSystem TH240
ThinkSystem TH440
ThinkSystem TH540”

Me again. You likely know, as I do, that ThinkSystems are rack servers that run Intel processors. But plenty of folks, some of whom may even oversee your IT department, wouldn’t know the difference. Taking this information at face value could lead to some very uninformed decisions.

AIX vs. Linux

So, I took a different approach and made my queries more general. I asked about the advantages of AIX over Linux. The response:

“AIX has several advantages over Linux, including:

  • Stability: AIX is known for its stability and reliability. It has been around for over 30 years and is used by some of the world’s largest companies.
  • Performance: AIX is a high-performance operating system that can be used for a variety of demanding workloads.
  • Security: AIX is a secure operating system that is regularly updated with security patches.
  • Support: AIX is supported by IBM, which has a large network of support professionals.
  • Compatibility: AIX is compatible with a wide range of hardware and software.

“However, AIX is also more expensive than Linux. It is also not as widely available as Linux. Ultimately, the best operating system for you will depend on your specific needs and requirements. If you need a stable, reliable and secure operating system for demanding workloads, then AIX is a good option. If you are looking for a more affordable and widely available operating system, then Linux is a good option.”

A lot of that sounds reasonable. But the part about AIX being compatible with a wide range of hardware and software? Not so much.

OSes on IBM Power

I persisted. I asked what operating systems run on IBM Power. Bard answered:

“The IBM Power servers can run a variety of operating systems, including:

  • AIX: AIX is a Unix-based operating system developed by IBM. It is known for its stability, reliability and performance.
  • Linux: Linux is a Unix-like operating system that is open source and free to use. It is a popular choice for servers and other high-performance computing applications.
  • IBM i: IBM i is a proprietary operating system that is designed for business applications. It is known for its stability and security.
  • z/OS: z/OS is a mainframe operating system that is developed and marketed by IBM. It is known for its scalability and reliability.

“Other operating systems: There are a number of other operating systems that can be run on IBM Power servers, including Solaris, HP-UX, and FreeBSD.”

Again, this was fine until the mentions of z/OS, Solaris, etc.

Key Takeaways

By this point, I’d seen enough. For anyone who’s worked with Power Systems and AIX, the errors I encountered are easy to recognize, but of course there are plenty of instances where I actually need answers. I guess the lesson is don’t accept anything at face value. Sure, I probably could have better phrased my questions. And I expect that AI tools will, in the near future, rapidly progress in their efficiency. But whether we’re querying a traditional search engine or an AI system, we still need to fact check our results.

While many, many AI think pieces have been posted just in the past few months, I like the perspective offered by the author John Scalzi. He recently conducted his own experiment with Bard.

“I asked Bard, Google’s AI, the name my upcoming novel, and also (as a test, because I haven’t publicly announced the title), the title of the novel after that. Bard correctly noted the name of the next novel (Starter Villain) and correctly noted I hadn’t publicly named the novel after that. But then, unprompted, it confabulated the following:

“Here are some details about Starter Villain:

  • The book is set in a world where villains are a legitimate career path.
  • The main character, Jason, is a young man who dreams of becoming a villain.
  • Jason enrolls in a villainy academy, where he learns the skills he needs to be a successful villain.
  • Jason’s classmates include a group of misfits and outcasts, who he quickly befriends.
  • Jason and his friends must face off against a powerful villain, who is determined to destroy them.”

“None of the above is even remotely true. I mean, it sounds like a fun YA book! But that’s not the book I wrote.

“Why does Bard think this is what my book’s about? Got me. It’s not like the details of Starter Villain aren’t out there at this point; reviews are starting to come in and we have a “back cover” book synopsis on every online retailer out there.”

Scalzi concludes: “Today, I think there will be a whole generation of people, particularly my age and older, so used to the idea that Google and other search engines pull up ‘correct’ information—an idea promoted by Google and other search engine owners, to be sure—that they won’t even question whether the information they’re being offered up has any relation to the truth.

“AI will make the internet even less truthful than it is today. It is already doing it.”

Lest you think that Scalzi was being hyperbolic at the end, a law firm was recently found to have conducted research using ChatGPT that referenced non-existent example legal cases.

Maintaining a healthy skepticism was a good idea at the dawn of the public internet. If anything, it’s even more important now.

Nigel Griffiths: An AIX Content Machine

Here’s the latest from Nigel’s AIXpert blog. You’ll also find a link to his ever-expanding trove of YouTube videos.