Isn't ChatGPT just another way to waste time on the Internet? I may be one of the few Americans who does not have either a Twitter or Facebook account and my only guilty pleasures are a handful of Substack writers. If the Sustackers start to slack off in terms of content, it's easy to say adios and move on to something else.

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There was a contest at Carnegie Mellon back in the 1980s to come up with the best meaningful use of “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”. The winner was along the lines of:

"Through the icy winter, the seeds lie dormant. Before the frost sets in, eager gardeners peruse colorful catalogs promising the fertile glories of the spring. They plant with hope, and through the long winter those colorless green ideas sleep furiously."

It isn't about intention. It's about having a useful model. You can ask what country is south of Burundi and get a good answer without a model, but can you then ask what country is south of that or to its west? How about two countries south, or three? With a model, for example a mental or physical map of Africa, those answers are easy. Without a model, getting a good answer requires someone to have asked the question before and enough conversational ability to track the conversation and supply an antecedent for "that".

The lack of a world model is a major problem. One glaring issue with image generators, for example, is that they have no model of number. If you ask for three eagles, you will likely get three eagles, but if you ask for four or five, you have run into one of those primitive intelligences that cannot count. There's a similar problem with protein folding or reaction prediction. If the space has been densely explored and the question involves simple proximity, the system can give fairy good answers. It falls apart completely in parts unknown or when needing to make an actual inference.

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as a WV Dem, there is a lot to be said about Manchin, and he's just trying to do what Robert Bryd did before him, and what Jennings Randolph did before him. What I think gets lost in the noise is he delivered a lot for Biden and the Dems. He's good, not great - but what the progressives fail to realize the enemy of good is perfect. He's not perfect. Manchin is a more reliable vote than Sinema.

Manchin (and Capito) have brought coal trains full of cash to WV for infrastructure, broadband, etc. Every municipality is happily taking the money, but I feel both of them will be voted out for not being trumpy enough.

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Hi Brad- love your work and writing. When I give ChatGPT the same prompt, it tells me a very similar story, though mine has a magic tree instead of a purple flower. Upon clicking "Regenerate response" I get a new story about a girl named Sofia - this one with a magic pond and the same conclusion. I work in AI in a large professional services organization and previously worked in the derivatives industry. Color me cynical but I smell a rat. It would be all too easy to have a set of Mad-Libs type story templates at the ready, all of which lead to an uplifting conclusion. Upon more trials I get more of the same story with minor variations - always a female protagonist who always comes up flourishing and wise in the end.

So I do not think that the prompt "Tell me a story" invokes some deep language engine that is endowed with intention. Rather I think there is one template for a ~500 word story that has a female protagonist, a mystical element (flower, wizard, pond, jewel, whatever), and an uplifting conclusion. Very nice, but I'm reminded of the ancient Eliza game, mashed up with choose-your-own-adventure formulaic storytelling. And I am reminded of how good humans are at hypothesizing deep patterns and linkages when presented with simple phenomena. All too easy to look at generative AI output like an astrologer would look at the stars. Again color me cynical, but I think we are seeing simple bags of tricks, wrapped in some moderately adroit engineering. If there is any intelligence in this picture, it is in the interpretations readers are making on procedurally-generated text. in my humble opinion of course.

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Every sentence I have so far heard, read, spoken or written about ChatGPT makes more sense to me when I substitute "the collective hive mind of the internet circa 2021, filtered for presentability".

ChatGPT is a very effective tool for summoning the general consensus of its source material and rearranging it (using templates and formats that are inherent in the material), with an element of pre-determined shaping towards various designer-chosen user preference paradigms (the net effect of which seems to be to emphasise bland positivity).

It's a fun way to filter information and the collective insight of whatever subsections of humanity online fed into the training data is, when shaped by whatever set of design choices have gone into its training, probably as good as or better than most of us at generating various kinds of text if you care more about form and general vibeness than actual accuracy. And it often is right, because it benefits from an amped-up wisdom of crowds effect.

I still can't think of many applications that work for me, where it's not just mostly for fun. In the past two weeks I've asked it for ninja stories for my son (repetitive, boring); ideas for keeping the kids amused (not a bad list but not really needed, doubt I'll ever feel the practical need to ask for ideas there); a data strategy for an organisation (to compare with one we'd just written - ChatGPT's was plausible but very bland, no value add there, I changed nothing); an acceptance speech for an award (again, plausible but bland, funny as a joke but not something I'd repeat); names for fictional characters for a story (don't bother); and a list of cute animals to theme a Christmas gif advent calendar (this was helpful! it included animals I would not have thought of!).

I remain unconvinced that this is 'autocomplete for everything', or even for many things, but if I ever want a randomised list of things the early 2021 internet really liked I'll know where to turn.

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