Tuesday, October 12, 2021

GPT-3: Who should be in charge?

Finally a computer game worth playing. Problem is, it’s still off-limits to the public. It’s called GPT-3, and Meghan O’Gieblyn writes it up in N+1.

GPT-3 is a language system model that has ingested most of the English-language Internet and through deep learning draws on the collected data to generate plausible human texts. In other words, it’s AI that can write strikingly humanish texts in any chosen genre. The results are (sorry, but the adjective is inevitable) surreal.

So far GPT-3 can mimic human writing at the level of sentence and paragraph. With prompts, it can mimic styles. This means, for instance, that GPT-3, fed an English translation of Proust, could rewrite it as a cowboy western. Which is maybe the first thing I’d get it to do.

It would be endless fun creating projects for this Beast. And probably soon I’d think of ways to get in trouble. 

O’Gieblyn’s article touches on a lot, though for me the psychoanalytical models weigh a bit too heavily in her big picture. Still, it’s hard to blame her. The psyche according to Freud and Co. really does offer an obvious referent for posing many of the questions this Beast’s presence provokes.

When the name Borges appeared in her piece, “The Library of Babel”, I thought “Yes, too bad he’s no longer with us.” He’d be the one to put in charge of managing GPT-3 prompts and R&D and publications going forward. And he’d resist the predictable psychoanalytic mire. 

In any case (and I know people are already thinking along these lines) the next task should be to get the Beast to recognize and then be able to mimic narrative categories: hero, plot, suspense, climax, etc. One might start with, say, the morphology of the folk tale as laid out by Propp and followers, and build from there. GPT-4, then -5.

It’s evident that just as deep fakes pose potential problems at the level of imagery, this kind of linguistic AI poses problems at the level of text. I’m thinking here more of the social and political realm than of issues like copyright. It is, after all, a Beast that is beginning to awake in these technologies. We have no reason, besides, to trust the Silicon Valley titans now forging them. 

Which is why, finally, they should just put poets and writers in charge. 

Read O’Gieblyn’s piece.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

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