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Eye on AI: ChatGPT and Me

You too can experiment with ChatGPT at

This is post is pretty long, so I’m putting the “See Also” links here:

DriverlessCroc AI fun:
The AI menace that no-one talks about // Hype- Text Transfer Protocol
Unreal City: T. S. Eliot’s Wasteland Jukebox feat. Dall-E [known to be the wisest woman in Europe] (underrated)
In which we meet an AI

Related Issues
Intelligences (I like this one)
Technology (4): General Purpose Technologies
Learning environments: kind, wicked and… fiendish?

Deep literacy: what it takes (language models for humans)
WTF? Technology and you

Other AI demos and opinion
OpenAI Codex; or, why you might not want to go all in on becoming a full-stack developer
Open AI’s DALL-E 2
Sam Altman on Public Sector AI, ownership and incentives
Kate Crawford and Azeem Azhar on AI’s societal impact: positioning technology as servant

And now, on with the show…

Big Compute

OpenAI’s ChatGPT is available for public use. I got bogged down trying to explain it succinctly for those who came in late, then remembered I could just ask ChatGPT to explain what it is:

Could you please* explain succinctly how you work?

I am an artificial intelligence language model trained by OpenAI. I was designed to generate human-like text based on the input I receive. When you ask me a question or provide me with a prompt, I use my understanding of language and the patterns I have learned from the vast amount of text data I was trained on to generate a response. I do not have access to the internet or any external information beyond what I was trained on, so I am unable to browse or search for additional information. I am here to assist you and provide information to the best of my ability based on my training and understanding of language.

*It never hurts to be polite, what with the singularity all.

How is GPT trained?

GPT, or Generative Pre-trained Transformer, is a large language model developed by OpenAI that is trained to generate human-like text.

To train the model, a dataset of text is used to teach the model the patterns and structure of language. The model is then able to use this understanding of language to generate new text that is similar in style and content to the text it was trained on.

The training process for GPT involves feeding the model a large amount of text data and using machine learning algorithms to adjust the model’s parameters so that it can accurately predict the next word in a sequence based on the words that come before it. This process is repeated multiple times until the model reaches a satisfactory level of performance.

GPT is a type of transformer model, which means it is able to process input text and generate output text by learning to attend to different parts of the input and weight their importance when generating the output. This allows the model to generate more coherent and meaningful text compared to earlier language models.

GPT has about 175 billion parameters. It was coy about how much computing power it requires, but Tom Goldstein estimates that the model needs something like 8 Nvidia A100 GPUs (the 80gb model), at about $15,000 each. These can apparently be rented on Amazon for about $3 an hour each, so it’s not as expensive as you’d think to buy the computing power for your very own language generator…

That which is scarce

Tyler Cowen is a keen follower of developments in AI, although I don’t have a good sense of how much he really knows about it. He asks good questions though, like Who gains and loses from the new AI?:

Specific technologies usually help some personality types and hurt others. For instance, the rise of computers, programming, and the internet helped analytical nerds. Today, you might be in high demand as a programmer or run your own start-up and earn riches. But back in the 1960s, you might have been lucky to get a job at NASA and pull in a middle-class income. Earlier, the rise of manufacturing and factory employment helped able-bodied male laborers who had an enthusiasm for physical labor.

One striking feature of the new AI systems is that you have to sit down to use them. Think of ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, and related services as individualized tutors, among their other functions. They can teach you mathematics, history, how to write better and much more. But none of this knowledge is imparted automatically. There is a relative gain for people who are good at sitting down in the chair and staying focused on something. Initiative will become more important as a quality behind success.

The returns to durability of effort are rising as well. If you quit in the middle of executing your AI-aided concrete project, the new AI services will, for you, end up as playthings rather than investments in your future.

The returns to factual knowledge are falling, continuing a trend that started with databases, search engines and Wikipedia. It is no longer so profitable to be a lawyer who knows a large amount of accumulated case law. Instead, the skills of synthesis and persuasion are more critical for success.

ChatGPT excels at producing ordinary, bureaucratic prose, written in an acceptable but non-descript style. In turn, we are likely to better understand how much of our society is organized around that basis, from corporate brochures to regulations to second-tier journalism. The rewards and status will go down for those who produce such writing today, and the rewards for exceptional originality are likely to rise. What exactly can you do to stand out from the froth of the chat bots?

But what can it do?

The last paragraph of Cowen’s summary is a pretty good one. ChatGPT writes amazing text… for a computer. Like, really amazing, better than lots of people can do and certainly faster. But it’s still a bit silly, failing to understand the context (or to check what you meant) before launching into a style best described as “whimsical high-school English assignment”:

Could you write a 250 word blog post in the style of

Sure! Here’s a 250-word blog post in the style of

Driverless Crocodile: The Future of Transportation

At Driverless Crocodile, we’re on a mission to revolutionize the way people get around. With our fleet of autonomous crocodile vehicles, we’re bringing the convenience and efficiency of self-driving technology to the world of transportation.

But what sets us apart from other self-driving companies? For starters, our vehicles are amphibious, meaning they can travel both on land and in water. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for transportation, as our crocodiles can easily navigate through flooded streets, shallow rivers, and even coastal areas.

In addition to their versatility, our crocodiles are also designed with safety in mind. They are equipped with a range of sensors and advanced AI algorithms that allow them to detect and avoid obstacles, pedestrians, and other vehicles. Plus, with their tough exterior and powerful jaws, they can protect passengers from potential threats on the road.

But it’s not just about practicality – our crocodiles are also a lot of fun! With their unique design and playful personality, riding in a Driverless Crocodile is an experience unlike any other.

So if you’re ready to join the future of transportation, give Driverless Crocodile a try. Whether you’re commuting to work, running errands, or just looking for a fun and exciting way to get around, our crocodile vehicles have got you covered.

… or “mediocre junior high-school debate piece”:

What would happen if hamsters ruled the world?

It is difficult to say exactly what would happen if hamsters ruled the world, as they are small animals with limited capabilities compared to humans. However, it is likely that they would be unable to effectively govern and run a complex society like ours, as they do not have the intelligence, language, or physical abilities necessary to do so. Hamsters are also not capable of creating or using advanced technology, so it is unlikely that they would be able to maintain or improve upon the infrastructure and systems that are essential for human society to function.

It is also important to consider the ethical implications of such a scenario. Hamsters are not capable of understanding or consenting to being ruled, so it would be fundamentally unjust for them to be put in a position of power over other beings.

Overall, it is best to leave governance and decision-making to those who are capable of understanding and considering the needs and interests of all members of society, rather than allowing any one species to dominate others.

What does it know?

GPT’s advice about policy issues is superficial and generic. The model has lots of (networked) information but doesn’t have actual knowledge of the context:

How would you describe literacy levels in Indonesia, and what would be a good way to boost them?

According to data from the World Bank, the literacy rate in Indonesia was around 95% in 2020. This means that a relatively high percentage of the population is able to read and write. However, there may still be some disparities in literacy rates among different segments of the population, such as rural versus urban areas or certain ethnic or socio-economic groups.

There are several ways that the government and other organizations in Indonesia could work to boost literacy levels even further. Some potential strategies might include:

  • Improving access to education: This could involve building more schools or providing more resources to schools in underserved areas, as well as providing financial assistance to families to help them send their children to school.
  • Providing more teacher training and support: Ensuring that teachers have the necessary skills and resources to effectively teach reading and writing can be critical to improving literacy rates.
  • Promoting literacy outside of formal education: This could involve offering adult literacy programs or providing access to books and other reading materials in public spaces or through libraries.
  • Encouraging reading at an early age: Research has shown that children who are exposed to reading at an early age are more likely to become proficient readers. Providing access to age-appropriate books and encouraging parents to read with their children can help lay the foundation for later literacy success.
  • Using technology to facilitate learning: Using technology, such as tablets or computers, can be a effective way to engage students and enhance their learning experience. Using technology can also help to bridge the gap between students in rural and urban areas and provide access to educational materials and resources.

Tell me a story

ChatGPT most impressed me in areas where context didn’t really matter – because it could be created:

Write a 500 word opening to a teenage science fiction novel featuring highly intelligent rats and set on an alleyway in Jakarta. Describe the alleyway and people in detail.

The alleyway in Jakarta was a chaotic, crowded place, with vendors selling everything from spicy noodles to knockoff designer handbags. It was a place where people from all walks of life came to haggle, gossip, and escape the oppressive heat of the city.

But for Riko, the alleyway was home. She had lived there with her family since she was a baby, squeezed into a cramped, dingy room above the noodle stand. Riko wasn’t exactly sure how old she was – her parents had never bothered to register her birth – but she knew she was still just a teenager.

Despite the challenges of living in the alleyway, Riko loved it. She loved the energy and the noise and the constant bustle of people. And most of all, she loved the rats.

Riko had always been fascinated by the rats that scurried through the alleyway, darting in and out of the stalls and shops. She had always known they were intelligent creatures, but she had never imagined just how intelligent they really were.

One day, as Riko was helping her mother prepare the ingredients for the noodle stand, she noticed something strange. A group of rats had gathered around a piece of trash, and they seemed to be communicating with each other in some way. Riko watched in amazement as the rats worked together to move the trash, using their tiny paws and teeth like little hands.

Intrigued, Riko decided to do some research. She spent her days studying the rats, observing their behavior and trying to figure out how they communicated. She even started talking to them, using a mixture of clicks and whistles that she had learned from a book on animal behavior.

To her surprise, the rats seemed to understand her. They would respond to her calls, coming closer or running away depending on the tone of her voice. Riko couldn’t believe it – she had stumbled upon a whole new form of intelligence, right there in the alleyway.

As Riko’s research progressed, she began to notice other strange things happening in the alleyway. The rats seemed to be getting smarter and more coordinated, working together in ways that seemed almost human. And they weren’t the only ones – other animals in the alleyway, from the cats to the birds, seemed to be behaving differently too.

Riko knew she had to tell someone about her discoveries, but who would believe her? She was just a poor teenager living in an alleyway, with no education or connections. But Riko was determined to share her findings with the world, no matter what.

As she worked on her research, Riko began to realize that the rats were just the tip of the iceberg. There was a whole world of intelligent animals out there, waiting to be discovered. And she was determined to be the one to uncover their secrets.

And here’s a different response to the same prompt:

Write a 500 word opening to a teenage science fiction novel featuring highly intelligent rats and set on an alleyway in Jakarta. Describe the alleyway and people in detail.

The alleyway was cramped and narrow, squeezed between the towering apartment buildings on either side. The concrete walls were stained with grime and graffiti, and the air was thick with the smell of garbage and exhaust fumes. It was the kind of place that most people avoided, but for Rat and his friends, it was home.

Rat was a highly intelligent rat, a member of a species that had evolved to be smarter and more adaptable than their human counterparts. They lived in the shadows of the city, scavenging for scraps and avoiding detection. But Rat was different. He had a curiosity and a thirst for knowledge that set him apart from the rest of his kind.

He and his friends had built their own makeshift laboratory in the alleyway, cobbling together equipment from whatever they could find. They spent their days conducting experiments and making discoveries, always pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible.

Today, they were working on a new project – a device that would allow them to communicate with the humans that lived above them. It was a risky venture, but Rat was determined to bridge the gap between their two worlds.

As he tinkered with the wires and circuits, he heard a commotion at the end of the alley. A group of boys were approaching, their voices raised in anger. Rat’s heart raced as he quickly tried to hide their equipment.

The boys were part of a gang that controlled the neighborhood, and they weren’t known for their kindness. They bullied and extorted anyone who crossed them, and Rat knew that they wouldn’t hesitate to harm him and his friends.

He turned to his friends, his eyes wide with fear. “We have to get out of here,” he whispered.

They quickly gathered their things and fled, their hearts pounding as they raced down the alleyway. They didn’t stop until they were safe in their secret hideout, deep in the tunnels beneath the city.

Breathless and shaken, they huddled together, trying to catch their breath. Rat couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that had settled over him. He knew that they couldn’t stay hidden forever. They needed a plan, and they needed it fast.

As he sat there, lost in thought, an idea began to take shape in his mind. It was risky, and it would require all of their courage and ingenuity. But it just might be their only chance.

He turned to his friends, his eyes alight with determination. “I have an idea,” he said. “We’re going to fight back.”

Language Models

Lastly, ChatGPT impressed me with its ability to write in Indonesian too. Here’s a little example (the Indonesian is mostly good):

Write a 150 word story about a child and their pet rat in Bahasa Indonesia, using only words of two syllables or fewer.

Anak itu bernama Ratu. Dia sangat suka tikusnya yang bernama Kiki. Kiki adalah tikus yang sangat pintar dan manis. Ratu selalu membawanya kemana saja dia pergi.

Suatu hari, Ratu dan Kiki sedang bermain di taman. Tiba-tiba, seekor anjing kecil datang dan mulai mengejarnya. Ratu panik dan terbangun. Dia tidak tahu harus berbuat apa.

Tapi Kiki tidak takut. Ia berlari ke anjing itu dan menggigit kakinya. Anjing itu menjerit kesakitan dan lari pergi. Ratu terkejut tapi sangat bahagia. Ia tahu Kiki sangat mencintainya.

Ratu dan Kiki kembali bermain di taman dengan senang hati. Mereka bahagia bersama-sama. Ratu tahu dia akan selalu merawat Kiki dengan baik. Kiki adalah teman terbaiknya.

The child was called Ratu. She loved her pet rat called Kiki. Kiki was a really smart, sweet rat. Ratu took her everwhere.

One day, Ratu and Kiki were playing in the park. Suddenly a little dog came and started to chase them. Ratu panicked and stood still. She didn’t know what to do.

But Kiki wasn’t scared. She ran to the dog and bit its foot. The dog yelped in pain and ran away. Ratu was surprised but very happy. She knew Kiki really loved her.

Ratu and Kiki went back to playing happily in the garden. They were happy together. Ratu knew she would always look after Kiki. Kiki was her best friend.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...