A Language Calculator

📅 2022-12-09

🏷 AI, Tech

Like many others I've been playing around with ChatGPT, the OpenAI GPT-3 chat bot. With people now having open access, it's been causing quite a stir.

I asked it about Doomsday Engine (my Doom port), thinking surely that is too niche a topic for it to know about. But it promptly gave a brief description of the project and named me as the author, using my real name. 😯 Of course, all this is public information gathered from wikis and whatnot, but it still feels weird to be part of an AI data model, as opposed to a relatively simple and straightforward search engine index. With all the other examples of ChatGPT out there, the model must be mindbogglingly vast to include this, too.

Conditioned by Google et al., a blank input field like this on a web page immediately leads one to basic questions and answers style of communication, but one shouldn’t treat ChatGPT like it's a search engine. The web has plenty of those and they do a fine job with quickly looking up information. The true strength of this AI is in synthesizing novel text based on natural language prompting. It’s plenty of fun having the AI make up a story that you can influence, in back-and-forth brainstorming style, while the story develops. Or tell it to make a rhyming song of what was discussed previously, or write the outline of a movie trilogy about it.

The AI model basically "knows" a little bit about everything on the internet, and can generate perfectly formed and coherent long-form text out of _all_ of it in seconds — a feat that no human can match. (Some) humans can still achieve greater results when it comes to the absolute quality of the output as a piece of literature, but it's remarkable that we've reached this far — the computing power required for natural language processing is now within reach of modern technology. Compare this to, say, Google's Assistant or (hah) Apple's Siri! Truly next-level stuff.

I find the tech awe-inspiring. Even in its current immature state, it’s already powerful enough that it clearly will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. GPT-3 has been out for a few years already and the work hasn't stopped there. When it comes to the potential future impacts, I find myself more optimistic than the doomsayers, though. Pocket calculators and computers helped push science forward, and this is a similar step forward in authoring and processing text. Language is always fuzzy and imprecise, but this tool handles much of the busywork of having to manually craft it. The artisans’ talent loses value, but all gain access to it.

Such is the march of technological progress.

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