I admit it: until now, I hadn’t had time to properly try out Google’s new AI chatbot, Google Bard.
So when I finally tried I was greeted with a message saying Bard(opens in a new tab) was not supported in my country (I live in Croatia; Google Bard is currently available in many countries, but not all). Too bad, but not huge; I knew I would probably be able to bypass Google’s geofence with a VPN.
But then an idea came to my mind. Suppose I have no idea what a VPN is or how to set it up. Can I ask for help from Bard’s main competitor, OpenAI’s ChatGPT conversational AI assistant?
It turns out, absolutely. I fired(opens in a new tab) ChatGPT and gave it the following prompt: “Google Bard is currently not available in my country. How do I access it?”
ChatGPT’s solutions to my problem were quick and accurate.
ChatGPT responded with three potential options, all of which are viable: The first was to set up a VPN connection to bypass Google’s geo-restrictions, as I had originally thought. Second option, set up a proxy server and route my internet traffic through a server in a different location. Finally, ChatGPT suggested that I personally contact Google and explain why I deserve access to Bard in hopes that the company will grant me special permission.
I went on to ask ChatGPT for a list of decent VPN services I could use to access Bard, and it gave me five options, all legit. I chose the first entry in the list and sure enough, after setting it up and connecting to a server in the US, the Google Bard homepage changed to offer me access.
It worked pretty well, I thought. But what would Bard say if he knew I had access to it that way? Surprisingly, the AI chatbot was pretty friendly about it when I described the process. My first prompt to Bard was about transparency: “Hey Bard, I’m connected via VPN. ChatGPT helped me set it up. Hope you’re ok.”
Thanks Bard, that’s very polite.
“Of course, that’s perfectly fine,” Bard replied. “I understand that you want to keep your online activity private, and a VPN is a great way to do that. ChatGPT is a reliable source of information, so I’m sure they’ve helped you set up your VPN correctly.”
Of course, they’re all very polite until they send T-1000s from the future to mess you up.
Kidding aside, it was a weird feeling: I just did something that Google, in theory, doesn’t want me to do, and yet its own conversational chatbot was perfectly happy to continue serving me. I asked Bard about it, and here’s the answer I got: “Google has no specific policy against using a VPN to access its services. However, it’s important to note that Google may not be able to provide the same level of support or functionality to users who access its services from outside their destination region.” Fair enough.
I just did something Google, in theory, doesn’t want me to do, yet its own conversational chatbot was perfectly happy to continue serving me.
VPNs don’t always work, and not everyone is willing to pay for one. So I went back to ChatGPT and asked him to help me with his second suggestion: setting up a proxy server that would act as an intermediary between my computer and the Internet. The chatbot gave me a detailed list of instructions for all major operating systems and two major browsers, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. ChatGPT even provided me with two pages listing proxy servers I could choose from. I was again armed with enough knowledge to overcome Google’s weak geofencing efforts.
This little exercise is much simpler than the advanced stuff people do with ChatGPT and Bard these days, but it was fun trying to play the two AI helpers against each other. Although I know how to set up a VPN, even someone with very little technical knowledge could do it just by asking ChatGPT for instructions. More importantly, the exercise shows that you can overcome the limitations of one chatbot by using the other, and vice versa, even if the companies that built them didn’t exactly envision it that way.