ChatGPT: No Problem Letting This System Make Decisions, Right?

February 28, 2024

green-dino_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

Even an AI can have a very bad day at work, apparently. ChatGPT recently went off the rails, as Gary Marcus explains in his Substack post, “ChatGPT Has Gone Berserk.” Marcus compiled snippets of AI-generated hogwash after the algorithm lost its virtual mind. Here is a small snippet sampled by data scientist Hamilton Ulmer:

“It’s the frame and the fun. Your text, your token, to the took, to the turn. The thing, it’s a theme, it’s a thread, it’s a thorp. The nek, the nay, the nesh, and the north. A mWhere you’re to, where you’re turn, in the tap, in the troth. The front and the ford, the foin and the lThe article, and the aspect, in the earn, in the enow. …”

This nonsense goes on and on. It is almost poetic, in an absurdist sort of way. But it is not helpful when one is just trying to generate a regex, as Ulmer was. Curious readers can see the post for more examples. Marcus observes:

“In the end, Generative AI is a kind of alchemy. People collect the biggest pile of data they can, and (apparently, if rumors are to be believed) tinker with the kinds of hidden prompts that I discussed a few days ago, hoping that everything will work out right. The reality, though is that these systems have never been stable. Nobody has ever been able to engineer safety guarantees around then. … The need for altogether different technologies that are less opaque, more interpretable, more maintainable, and more debuggable — and hence more tractable—remains paramount. Today’s issue may well be fixed quickly, but I hope it will be seen as the wakeup call that it is.”

Well, one can hope. For artificial intelligence is being given more and more real responsibilities. What happens when smart software runs a hospital and causes some difficult situations? Or a smart aircraft control panel dives into a backyard swimming pool? The hype around generative AI has produced a lot of leaping without looking. Results could be dangerous, of not downright catastrophic.

Cynthia Murrell, February 28, 2024


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