Chatting with GPT

The hype around AI is insane right now. Unless you’re living under a rock, you must have heard some of it. It’s displaying emergent behaviors! It’s become sentient! Bomb the data centers now or it will destroy all life on Earth!

It’s insane… is it?

No, it’s not sentient or intelligent

I remember trying ELIZA when I was a kid and pretty much ignoring AI after that because it was so dumb.

Fast forward to 2023 and we have AI systems creating text, music, pictures and videos, predicting new drugs and writing computer code. It cannot be ignored anymore. I first started using DALL-E and Stable Diffusion for jokes, but with GPT-4 things got serious.

GPT-4 is very impressive, but it’s not sentient, it has no internal life or sensations, and I don’t know how someone can be confused about that. Chatting with it feels robotic, with formulaic answers and unnecessary repetition. Sometimes it gets confused about what you’re referring to. At some point, it confidently told me that Lord of the Rings was written by Gandalf. No human would make this kind of mistakes (they call it “hallucinations”) because we have understanding.

GPT-4 doesn’t really understand what it’s talking about. The smartness it displays is the smartness encoded in the vast amount of human knowledge used for its training. In the end, GPT-4 feels for me like interacting with a sophisticated database using what I’ll call Speech Query Language (pun intended).

The lack of understanding is also why it sucks at reasoning and math.

But it’s good enough

Chatting with GPT is genuinely entertaining, and now I use it often to start some research, instead of wading through pages of SEO garbage.

While the AI systems of today might not produce the best writing or the most original pictures, they’re good enough for a huge number of cases. Even ELIZA back then was able to convince some people that it was intelligent, sometimes with tragic results.

The image that illustrates this post is AI generated, of course. I no longer see the need to make one myself or pay someone else to do it. People are already losing their jobs because of this. Even doctors are starting to freak out.

The societal effects could be devastating. Humans always had their physical or their intellectual labor to trade with, there is nothing to offer beyond that. AI could make humans permanently useless to the economy, completely beholden to the machines or the owners of the machines.

You don’t need to imagine it: there are places in the world—today—where human labor is almost worthless to the powers that be. Spoiler: it’s not pretty.

And it will only get better

Billions of dollars are being poured into AI right now with the goal of achieving Artificial General Intelligence.

There might be some bumps in the road. Perhaps the current models are not enough to reach AGI and we will enter another AI winter. Maybe we will run into physical or energy limitations. Currently AI is very power hungry. In contrast, the human brain is astonishingly efficient, consuming around 12 watts.

Or a nation might decide to start World War III just to stop others from creating an Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI). An ASI is a super weapon. It might be able to tell you, step by step, how to build a Star Destroyer and achieve world domination, if the laws of physics allow it.

But if physicalism is true, computers will replicate the human mind, it’s only a question of time.

I am skeptical that AGI will turn us all into paperclips, any half-smart AGI should realize how pointless that is. If that happens, it will be because someone directed it to. And that is the most terrifying part about AI: the humans controlling it. People are already using it to cause terror and it’s easy to see how it’s the perfect tool for oppression.

In any case, a thinking computer is no longer a complement to a human, it’s a replacement. Able to think faster, without interruption, with unlimited and perfect memory. It will change humanity forever.

After AGI, all bets are off.

Published by Orlando Ramírez

Software Engineer. Munich, Germany.

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