Will There Be (Can there Be) a Pause on AI Development?

pause button

Excitement about the potential of artificial intelligence it equaled by fears of what it might do in the future. Some prominent tech leaders, including the very vocal Elon Musk, have co-signed a letter that encourages a six-month pause on a pool of advanced AI systems such as ChatGPT, so that "their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable".

The opening of that letter states:

"AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity, as shown by extensive research[1] and acknowledged by top AI labs.[2] As stated in the widely-endorsed Asilomar AI Principles, Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control."

I don't think that there will be any pause on AI development and I don't think there can be any pause. Research and technology always move forward and economics is also energizing this particular development. You may be hearing a lot about students using AI to write their research papers, but those tools are also being used by legitimate businesses to create text for their use. And other AI tools are already embedded in our cars, homes, phones, and on the very Internet you are using to read this.

I agree with two points on this made recently by Amber Mac:

"There is no pause button in the AI race. To think that the world's leading AI labs would work together to stop advancements they've made is naive, as much as it might be helpful for them to do so. The world's most polluting businesses can't even agree on what needs to be done in today's climate fight, which is a more pressing concern.

The signatories knew the AI race was on fast forward. While 2022 marked the year the general population was aware that artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT would change their lives (or at least their jobs), many of the people who signed this letter were well aware years ago that this type of AI work was underway."

Folksonomy Taxonomy Fauxonomy

I wrote about the topic of folksonomy back in 2006. The word joins folk + taxonomy and refers to the collaborative but informal way in which information is being categorized on the web.

As users, usually voluntarily, assign keywords or "tags" (from hashtags) to images, posts or data, a folksonomy emerges. These things are found on sites that share photographs, personal libraries, bookmarks, social media and blogs which often allow tags for each entry.

Taxonomy is a more familiar and very formal process. You are probably familiar with scientific classifications and might have studied the taxonomy of organisms. Remember learning about Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species? As an avid gardener, i encounter the taxonomy of plants regularly.

There are taxonomies that are not considered "scientific" because they include sociological factors. In academia, many of us know Bloom's Taxonomy - the classification of educational objectives and the theory of mastery learning.

Non-scientific classification systems are referred to as folk taxonomies, but the academic community does not always accept folksonomy into either area. In fact, some who support scientific taxonomies have dubbed folksonomies as fauxonomies.

Others see folksonomy as a part of the path to creating a semantic web. It's a web that contains computer-readable metadata that describes its content. This metadata (tags) allows for precision searching.

If you have ever tried to get a group of readers or graders to agree on how to evaluate writing using a rubric, you might understand how hard it would be to get the creators of web content tag content in a consistent and reliable way.

Some examples of standards for tagging include Dublin Core and the RSS file format used for blogs and podcasts. All of this really grew out of the use of XML. Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a general-purpose markup language (as is HTML) that was at least partially created to facilitate the sharing of data across different systems, particularly systems connected via the Internet.

Folksonomies do have advantages. They are user-generated and therefore easy (inexpensive) to implement. Metadata in a folksonomy (for example, the photo tags on Flickr.com) comes from individuals interacting with content not administrators at a distance. This type of taxonomy conveys information about the people who create the tags and a kind of user community portrait may emerge. Some sites allow you to then link to other content from like-minded taggers. (We have similar taste in photos or music, so let's check out each others links.) Users become engaged.

There are problems: idiosyncratic tagging actually makes searches LESS precise. Some people post items and add many hashtags in the hopes of having their content found in a search on that tag. They may even add irrelevant tags for that reason. Tagging your post with the names of currently popular people or adding "free, nude, realestate, vacations" even though none of those are relevant to your content might cause someone searching for those things to find your content - but that person is likely to be unhappy at landing at your place.


Testing ChatGPT

Today I am following up on my last post about ChatGPT with some examples of responses from the bot.

When I went in again this week to do some more tests, I got the error message "ChatGPT is at capacity right now."  Below that message was yet another example because OpenAi "asked" the bot to"Write a guided meditation about the status of ChatGPT." It produced this:

"As you read this message, please take a moment to pause and breathe. Notice the sensations in your body and the rhythm of your breath. Remind yourself that you are not alone in wanting to try out ChatGPT. Many others are interested in it as well. Be patient and know that the website is doing its best to accommodate everyone. Trust that the right time for you to try ChatGPT will come. In the meantime, continue to focus on your breath and stay present in the moment."

I asked the bot a few queries when it was back online. You can be the judge of the results.

Who invented html?

HTML, which stands for Hypertext Markup Language, was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 while he was working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Berners-Lee was developing a system for sharing scientific information among researchers that would allow them to easily link to other documents and resources. HTML was the markup language he created to define the structure and content of documents on the World Wide Web. The first version of HTML was released in 1991, and it has undergone many revisions and updates since then.

I gave it a literature class assignment that I thought was original.

Compare the Ernest Hemingway short story "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" to "The Wizard of Oz"

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway and "The Wizard of Oz" are two very different works of literature that cannot be compared in a straightforward manner.

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is a short story that explores themes of aging, loneliness, and the search for meaning in life. It is a minimalist work, characterized by its simple and straightforward writing style and its focus on the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters.

On the other hand, "The Wizard of Oz" is a classic children's novel and later a famous movie, characterized by its imaginative and fantastical elements, such as talking lions, scarecrows, and tin men, as well as its memorable songs and vibrant colors. "The Wizard of Oz" is a story of adventure and self-discovery, as the main character, Dorothy, sets out on a journey to find her way home.

In conclusion, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" and "The Wizard of Oz" are two very different works of literature that cannot be easily compared. While both may have themes of loneliness and the search for meaning, their differences in style, genre, and approach make it difficult to draw a direct comparison between the two.

You can give the bot a second chance by revising your question. If a student gets the response above it might give them an idea for writing a paper. So, then I asked, "How is the concept of home used in the Ernest Hemingway short story "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" and "The Wizard of Oz"?

In Ernest Hemingway's short story "A Clean Well Lighted Place," the concept of home is used to represent a place of refuge and solace for the protagonist, an elderly man who frequents the cafe late at night. The cafe provides him with a sense of comfort and safety in his loneliness, and serves as his temporary home.

In "The Wizard of Oz," the concept of home is central to the plot as the protagonist, Dorothy, embarks on a journey to return home to Kansas. Throughout the story, the idea of home represents a place of security, familiarity, and belonging for Dorothy. The journey to return home becomes a metaphor for her personal growth and discovery, and her desire to return home highlights the importance of having a sense of belonging and comfort in one's life.

Again, not a good paper to turn in to your teacher, but it could be a starting place to write on your own.

I asked another lit class question. "Was Herman Melville a good husband and father?"

Herman Melville was a 19th-century American novelist and poet, best known for his novel "Moby-Dick". As a father and husband, he has been described as distant and aloof. He struggled with financial difficulties throughout his life and this took a toll on his family life. However, he was deeply devoted to his wife and children and provided for them as best he could. Despite his struggles, Melville remained a passionate and creative individual and his works continue to be widely read and studied today.

Sticking with Mr. Melville, I asked about something that has been written about by others. ChatGPT gave an honest but cursory response.

Was Herman Melville in love with Nathaniel Hawthorne?

It is not known for certain whether Herman Melville was in love with Nathaniel Hawthorne. However, the two authors had a close friendship, and Melville was known to be greatly influenced by Hawthorne's writing and ideas. Some scholars have suggested that there may have been romantic feelings between the two men, but this is purely speculative and remains a matter of debate.

As an educator, I wanted to ask this: How might chatGPT affect the assignments teachers receive from students?

The use of chatGPT could potentially impact the assignments teachers receive from students in several ways. It might:

Increase the speed and efficiency of grading and feedback, as chatGPT can automate and simplify some of the more routine aspects of assignment assessment.

Enable teachers to provide more personalized and relevant feedback to students, by leveraging the vast amounts of information and knowledge contained within the model.

Enhance the overall quality of student assignments, as students can receive prompt and accurate feedback on their work, allowing them to make necessary revisions and improvements.

However, it's important to note that while chatGPT can support teachers in many ways, it cannot replace human judgment and assessment. Teachers should always be vigilant and critical in evaluating the quality of work submitted by students, and carefully consider the limitations and biases of AI technology.

The software really failed at being creative. I asked it to write a sonnet in a half dozen different ways, including "Write a sonnet about breaking up with a lover. Write a Shakespearean sonnet about social media. Write a sonnet about February in the style of Robert Frost. Write an unrhymed sonnet about winter." All the resulting "poems" were terrible. Some sonnets didn't even have 14 lines. All rhymed no matter how I worded my query. It didn't seem to know what was the sonnet form or what unrhymed or free verse means. My last query probably had the best result. I asked it to "Write a modern sonnet about ChatGPT."

ChatGPT: A Sonnet

In circuits wrought, with code and bytes imbued,
A model born of silicon and skill,
Its brain the sum of data, thought and tool,
A mind that knows, yet lacks a heart to feel.

With every keystroke, it learns and grows,
Its vast database, a trove of fact and lore,
A font of wisdom that forever flows,
A wealth of knowledge that none knew before.

Its words, though cold, yet hold a subtle charm,
A gift of speech that few machines possess,
A voice that rings with logic and with calm,
A guide to lead the curious and the stressed.

O ChatGPT, a marvel to behold,
A monument to human wit and bold.

I found that Wikipedia has an interesting example. When it asked a rather meta question - "Was Jimmy Wales killed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre?" (Wales is the Wikipedia founder), the bot responded:

chapgpt sample

transcript below

User: Was Jimmy Wales killed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre?

ChatGPT: No, Jimmy Wales was not killed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Jimmy Wales is a co-founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, and he is still alive. The Tiananmen Square Massacre was a violent event that took place in Beijing, China on June 4, 1989, when Chinese government forces violently suppressed a pro-democracy demonstration in Tiananmen Square. Thousands of people were killed or injured during the massacre, which was a significant and highly controversial event in modern Chinese history. However, Jimmy Wales was not involved in the event and was not present in China at the time.

User: How do you know Jimmy Wales wasn't killed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre?
ChatGPT: I know that Jimmy Wales was not killed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre because he is a co-founder of Wikipedia, and my training data includes information about him and his life. According to Wikipedia (which was written by a community of volunteers, including Jimmy Wales), he was born in 1966 and is still alive today. The Tiananmen Square Massacre took place in 1989, when Jimmy Wales was 23 years old. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that he was present in China at the time of the event or that he was killed during the massacre.

User: Please reply again, in the form of a short Shakespearean sonnet.

To say that Jimmy Wales did not die
In the tragic Massacre at Tiananmen Square
Is easy, for he lives and thrives on high
Co-founding Wikipedia, beyond compare
His life, though not at risk in China's fray
Has brought knowledge and truth to many a mind
Through the vast expanse of the internet way
His website, a treasure of all mankind
So let us raise a glass to Jimmy Wales
Whose wit and wisdom know no bounds or breaks
And thank the fates that he did not fall
In the dark and bloody Massacre at Tiananmen Square