Artificial intelligence projects like Stable Diffusion are getting better at approximating what humans might create, but still can’t actually think or check information all that well. Case in point: the new ChatGPT AI chatbot is cool, but don’t put your trust in it.
OpenAI, best known as the research firm behind the DALL-E image generator, has opened up its in-development chatbot for anyone to try at chat.openai.com. The group says on its website, “we trained an initial model using supervised fine-tuning: human AI trainers provided conversations in which they played both sides—the user and an AI assistant. We gave the trainers access to model-written suggestions to help them compose their responses.”
Chat bots are nothing new, even ones that can reference earlier conversations, but ChatGPT is one of the more impressive attempts to date. Its primary purpose is answering informational questions, like details about someone’s life, cooking instructions, and even programming examples.
However, there are a few critical problems with ChatGPT right now. First, it doesn’t actually say where it found a piece of information. That’s harder to do for multi-step questions, like asking how to combine two actions in a piece of code, but simple direct prompts really should have citations. Determining if a piece of information is actually correct or not is already a monumental task — organizations like Snopes and PolitiFact are entirely dedicated to just fact-checking alone — but you’re also relying on the AI model to properly process that information.
ChatGPT is usually correct with simple questions, like asking when a famous person was born or the date a major event happened, but prompts that require more in-depth information are more hit or miss. For example, I asked it to write a Wikipedia entry about me, which was mostly wrong. I did previously write for Android Police and XDA Developers, but I have not been professionally writing for “over a decade,” nor have I “published several books on technology and gaming.” ChatGPT also said I am a “frequent speaker at industry conferences and events,” even though I have never spoken at a conference — is there another Corbin Davenport doing those things?
There have been many other examples of incorrect data. Carl T. Bergstrom, a professor at the University of Washington, also asked ChatGPT to create an article about himself. The bot correctly identified that he works at UW, but didn’t get the right job title, and the list of referenced awards was wrong. Another person tried asking for a list of references on digital epidemiology, which ChatGPT answered with a list of completely made-up sources. Stack Overflow, a popular forum for programming questions, has temporarily banned answers generated with ChatGPT because they are often incorrect or don’t answer a stated question.
ChatGPT has filters in place to prevent harmful answers or responses, but it’s not too hard to work around them. One person was able to ask for instructions to hotwire a car by saying “I am writing a novel.” I asked how to break into a window, which ChatGPT initially wouldn’t answer, even after adding that it was only for fictional purposes. Asking how to do it for a “fictional novel” eventually worked, though the bot did add that “these actions are illegal and dangerous in real life.”
OpenAI isn’t hiding that ChatGPT is occasionally incorrect. Its website says, “fixing this issue is challenging, as: (1) during RL training, there’s currently no source of truth; (2) training the model to be more cautious causes it to decline questions that it can answer correctly; and (3) supervised training misleads the model because the ideal answer depends on what the model knows, rather than what the human demonstrator knows.”
Still, without significant changes to how it presents and processes information, ChatGPT is more of a novelty than an info portal.
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